26 Jun 2012
Review: "The Best of Everything" by Rona Jaffe
Some books retain their freshness decade after decade, never losing their relevance. "The Best of Everything" by Rona Jaffe is one of those books. It is truly special. Published in 1958, it was written during the 1950s when women wore smart skirt suits to the office and only worked to fill the time until they could get married. Preferably to a man with a good enough job to fund a house with double-garage and school fees for two children. Last year, apparently, the book got a bit of a renaissance because it was featured on Mad Men - however, I found it thanks to you wonderful people in the blogosphere!
Every day young women flood out of the subway stations in central New York making their way to the city's offices. One of them is Caroline, a young graduate from a good college, who discovers that she has ambitions and slowly starts to work her way up in the world of publishing. While working for a publishing company in the glamourous Rockefeller Center, she meets the obsessive actress Gregg who becomes her flatmate, the beautiful April who is as terrible with men as she is with personal finance and the successful single mother Barbara, divorced at the tender age of 21.
As chapter after chapter weaves their stories together into one story, I felt like these girls became my friends. Their world absorbed me completely and as they experienced bad romances, difficulties in their careers and worry about families and futures, I became more and more enthralled to the story. When the last page turned, it felt completely wrong. I just did not want to let go. I craved knowledge of what happened next and the last few days, I have been thinking about all of them, especially about Caroline and Barbara.
It is a story of looking for love and finding instead sex, friendship or rejection. Of trying to figure out whether to pursue a career or while away the hours until a walk to the altar. It is absolutely fascinating and many of the observations are as relevant today as they were then. Like the lecherous senior executive who will grab any female thigh when he's had a bit too much to drinks or the girl who brings even her bridal underwear to work in order to get the approval and envy of her colleagues. It resonates with me as a modern office girl and I found the office politics very familiar, just as the trouble that these girls experience with prioritising family, work and boyfriends is just like the stuff that my friends and I talk about today.
The beauty of this book is in its relevance, in the way that all girls will recognize something of themselves in these girls even though the books was written over fifty years ago. Also it is beautifully written with every girl's voice being distinct and characteristic.
Read it if: You enjoyed "The Rules of Civility" by Amor Towles" or "Valley of the Dolls" by Jacqueline Susann. You prefer a good book to a re-run episode of Sex & The City.