As a fashion buyer at one of New York’s most glamorous department stores, Dana McGarry is a tastemaker, her keen instinct for fashion trends and innovative ideas coupled with a razor sharp business sense. But like the elegant and conservative store that employs her, Dana is caught between two eras—between being liked and standing her ground, between playing by the rules and being a maverick. Dana is sensitive and beautiful, but what you see is not what you get. Behind the cool and attractive facade, Dana is both driven by her need to control yet impeded by her expectation of perfectionism. As she competes to replace women at the top of their game, she is challenged by jealous colleagues. And when a wealthy love interest wants to open doors and support her ambition, she embraces Coco Chanel’s mantra of “never wanting to weigh more heavily on a man than a bird.” As the women’s movement paves the way, Dana finds a path to the career she wants at the expense of happiness that was not meant to be.
Steward captures the nuances of 70s life in New York City and provides the perfect backdrop for an independent woman determined to make her mark. What Might Have Been is a story that transcends any period.
While I have read books covering various industries like hotels, automobiles, hospitals, and even films – fashion is certainly a first for me. A novel that is set in the fabric and fashion world of New York City and in one of my favourite decades – the ’70s – there wasn’t any reason I would turn down this one! And might I add that Lynn Steward has a pretty impressive way of writing her Dana McGarry series. Gorging on What Might Have Been for the last two days, I’m quite tempted to go back and read the #1 in Dana McGarry series – A Very Good Life.
New York City is the epitome of fashion with names that we revere all around the world. I have been to the Fifth Avenue and Manhattan’s high end stores and it has left me awestruck with the amount of hard work that goes behind all the glitz and glamour. With the help of cutting edge technology, using fabrics and designing them has become easier in this millennium. But how did it all work in the 1970’s? How did women working in fashion make their way through an outright competitive industry? Dana McGarry and her journey gives an insight into that era and I think it has been captured beautifully by Lynn Steward who has worked as a buyer.
Now, did I know how a buyer worked for a departmental store? Obviously not. And Lynn Steward describes these nitty-gritties about a store very well through her protagonist Dana McGarry. Not only her career in fashion and a stupendous ambition to fulfil her dreams, we get a glimpse of Dana’s life post her divorce too. There’s a parallel plot involving Dana’s husband Brett McGarry, which I didn’t find too interesting though. It probably has to do about my non-understanding of Corporate Law and their details. She finds solace in the soothing words of a Jesuit priest while her visit to London. And a dose of romance blooming from her office in the form of Mark Senger. I liked the supporting characters in Dana’s life too – Andrew, Johnny and Phoebe. Friendship has been portrayed beautifully in a tumultuous era that was changing the world.
What happens to Dana next? Does she leave her job at B. Altman departmental store and join Johnny’s family business? Does she continue having a great romance and future with Mark Senger? Does Brett leave her alone and move on with his girlfriend Janice? These are the questions that would lead you to reading rest of the novel and following Dana in her pursuit of life.
Recommended for readers of my generation who would love to for a book set in ’70s.
My Rating: 4/5
About the Author:
Lynn Steward, a veteran of the New York fashion industry and a buyer on the team that started the women’s department at Brooks Brothers, created the Dana McGarry series, set at a transformational time in the 1970s world of fashion and in the lives of multigenerational women. What Might Have Been is the second volume in the series. A Very Good Life, Steward’s debut novel, was published in March 2014.
Language: English, Genre: Fiction/Women
Author(s): Lynn Steward
Publisher: Lynn Steward Publishing, Year Published: May 2015
Binding: Kindle, Edition: First, Pages: 386