Millions of Americans work full time, year round, for poverty-level wages. In 1998, Barbara Ehrenreich decided to join them. She was inspired in part by the rhetoric surrounding welfare reform, which promised that a job -- any job -- can be the ticket to a better life. But how does anyone survive, let alone prosper, on $6 an hour? To find out, Ehrenreich left her home, took the cheapest lodgings she could find, and accepted whatever jobs she was offered. Moving from Florida to Maine to Minnesota, she worked as a waitress, a hotel maid, a cleaning woman, a nursing-home aide, and a Wal-Mart sales clerk. She lived in trailer parks and crumbling residential motels. Very quickly, she discovered that no job is truly "unskilled," that even the lowliest occupations require exhausting mental and muscular effort. She also learned that one job is not enough; you need at least two if you int to live indoors.
Nickel and Dimed reveals low-rent America in all its tenacity, anxiety, and surprising generosity -- a land of Big Boxes, fast food, and a thousand desperate stratagems for survival. Read it for the smoldering clarity of Ehrenreich's perspective and for a rare view of how "prosperity" looks from the bottom. You will never see anything -- from a motel bathroom to a restaurant meal -- in quite the same way again.
Jean Brash is beautiful, intelligent and in her prime. Owner of The Just Land, the best and most successful brothel in Victorian Edinburgh, she's seen the highs and lows of society and been on both sides of the law, much to the frustration of her sparring partner, Inspector James McLevy. And Jean has a mind to do some sleuthing of her own ...
It's Spring and Jean Brash is raring to go. A theatre company arrives in Leith to perform King Lear. A ruthless robbery is planned, a gruesome murder committed, both of which set off unwanted events and unearth long buried connections from Jean's past.
Even more lethally, her own lost family life explodes in the present, as a wild young actress who trails violence and death behind her, involves Jean in a dangerous complex game that threatens to destroy the very root of her identity and everything Jean has fought to achieve.
Jean Brash is my favourite character and David Ashton's writing is as delicious, elegant and compelling as she is' Siobhan Redmond (Jean Brash in BBC Radio 4's McLevy series)