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Review: Hartley Lin’s Young Frances is an assured look at a fretfully uncertain life

Young Frances, by Hartley Lin

AdHouse Books, 144 pages, $24.95

What it’s about: Buttoned-down millennial Frances Scarland is a low-level clerk at a Toronto law firm where everyone’s job is in daily peril. Her impulsive best friend is moving to Hollywood, and her hulking guru of a boss seems to be grooming her either for advancement or failure. Lin’s long-awaited debut is a remarkably assured look at a fretfully uncertain life.

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What you see here: Workplace power dynamics impinge on Frances’s life even as she descends into the subway. On nearly every page, Lin conjures up lovingly detailed scenes from the city that aren’t so much drawn as they are preserved for posterity.

Read if you like: Frances at one point reads Alice Munro’s Dear Life; her actress friend Vickie declaims from David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross. Lin’s book combines the playwright’s knack for fast talk and his scrutiny of cutthroat office culture, along with Munro’s multifaceted character work and lapidary technique.

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