Named as one of the best novels of 1994 by Andrew Riemer in The Independent Monthly, Jetlag is a look back at the 1980s, the decade of greed, emerging globalization, and seemingly limitless possibilities. It is the story of Laurie Michaels, an ambitious woman of 26 who believes that the obstacles of being a woman in a man’s world can be overcome by competence and hard work. Giving up her job as a business journalist in Hong Kong to join Orion Management Systems, a multinational computer-based project management company, she embraces her new role with enthusiasm and optimism, including her relationship with one of the company’s managers, with whom she meets up frequently in airports and hotels all over the world.
Laurie enjoys watching the rapid development of cities and industry in North-east and South-east Asia, where the company is helping construct power plants, fabrication yards, skyscrapers and subways. She enjoys, too, being involved in projects in the Middle East, Europe and Scandinavia. Increasingly, however, she becomes aware that her role in the company might not be what she thinks it is, and that the information she is gathering is for purposes she does not understand until very near the end — an understanding that shatters her faith in the company, business ethics, her lover, and who she is.
Jetlag was first published by Serpent’s Tail, London, in 1994. Reissued by Guardian Press, 2012.
Praise for Jetlag
Jetlag “depicts a woman’s place in the macho machiavellian world of 1980s expansionism”. — The Times Literary Supplement
“Nayman’s novel is a subtle study of one woman’s attempt to maintain her integrity during the ethical mayhem of the business world in the 1980s.” — Penelope Nelson, The Weekend Australian
“(A) clever, compassionate allegory of the 1980s, when things seemed perfect but, like Laurie’s life, were slowly rotting away from the inside.” — Con Carnell, The Jewish Chronicle, London
“Beautifully written — economical, funny, poignant and sharp.” — Zoe Fairbairns
“This is the novel I’ve been waiting for. Jetlag. With head and heart both fully engaged, it poses questions which are still mostly avoided in women’s fiction. How does the corporate world really treat ambitious young women? What are the costs to women and men of living in a business pressure cooker that scorns the emotions? . . . This is the novel that should make an international reputation for its author, Michele Nayman, an itchy-footed Australian. It can be enjoyed simply as a rattling, good working girl’s adventure: the surface layer of high-powered executive meetings and a love affair conducted in snazzy hotel and airport lounges is thoroughly enjoyable — frayed nerve ends, misplaced time zones and all. But beneath that fast, acquisitive surface, a psychological probe is going on. It’s not glib, it’s not comfortable. But the difficulties Laurie encounters in her struggle not just to get ahead in business, but to make sense of the world and herself, will strike chords with many readers.” — Kate Veitch, New Woman
“Laurie in Jetlag catapults around the world with little sense of belonging to any place. Nayman communicates very well the brittle world of computer business, boardroom politics and cynical career-building in which Laurie tries to establish herself. For all her acumen and ability, Laurie becomes aware that she is but a useful adjunct in the company and that she is out-classed in the power game that Orion Constellation plays. This process is convincingly depicted in the novel. Nayman writes slickly and authoritatively.” — Veronica Sen, The Canberra Times
“Laurie Michaels experiences the female pitfalls of executive stress, added to the spiritual malaise of living out of suitcases, belonging to neither country, nor self, nor mate. The company that she works for is as dubious as her relationship with Steven, one of its managers; the jet lag is more than physical. Nayman’s ability to juggle a large but fleeting cast of characters, while maintaining our interest in Laurie’s sometimes melancholy observations, deserves high praise but, oh, what a painful existence.” — Amanda Wilson, The Age, Melbourne
“Jetlag is a look back at the ’80s from the ’90s point of view. It examines the era when women were into padded jackets, power dressing and beating men at their own game. Through her main character, Laurie, Nayman takes a hard look at what it means to be a woman in a man’s world and the price she has to pay for making it there. Thought-provoking and very relevant now, when women are still struggling to find their own identity.” — GQ Magazine, Singapore.
“On one level Jetlag is an engrossing story of romance and big business. On another it is a sharp-eyed look at the realities of the 1980s, whose conspicuous consumption and glorified greed seemed permanently entrenched as though they’d never end but were, like Jetlag’s Orion Management Systems, morally bankrupt.” — Vivienne Ulman, The Australian Jewish News
“Jetlag is a lively, straightforward tale laced with some effective character sketches and informed by a well-judged moral sense. Nayman is particularly good at catching the breathless pace of her characters’ lives as they flit from jet to jet, from hotel to hotel. Jetlag is, as they say, a good read.” — Andrew Riemer, The Sydney Morning Herald
“The social minutiae and rituals of the international business community are well-noted, the males spreading their glorious plumage and preening self-indulgently, their in-jokes lightly denigrating women as a matter of course. . . . The problems of finding a place to belong in this male battle for a foothold wipe (Laurie’s) identity clean like a slate . . . until, finally, she is forced to question her ethics and loyalties and confront her reasons for being there.” — Sophie Goldsworthy, Everywoman