Customer Reviews


69 Reviews
5 star:
 (26)
4 star:
 (25)
3 star:
 (7)
2 star:
 (6)
1 star:
 (5)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good novel - great social history
Originally published in 1958, this tells the stories of four young women in New York in the early 1950s. All of them are desperate to fall in love and get married - and none of them really thinks beyond that goal. Even Caroline, the college graduate who loves being an editor, would give it up in a moment if only her dream man would propose...

I really enjoyed...
Published on 12 Jun. 2011 by Roman Clodia

versus
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 'An exciting life, even if very difficult, is better than a dull one, even if it changes you forever'
'You see them every morning at a quarter to nine, rushing out of the maw of the subway tunnel, filing out of grand Central Station, crossing Lexington and Park and Madison and Fifth avenues, the hundreds and hundreds of girls.'

Rona Jaffe's opening lines introduce us to the the hordes of women who entered the working world in the 1950's (her novel starts in...
Published on 17 Aug. 2011 by Purpleheart


‹ Previous | 1 27 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good novel - great social history, 12 Jun. 2011
By 
Roman Clodia (London) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Best of Everything (Paperback)
Originally published in 1958, this tells the stories of four young women in New York in the early 1950s. All of them are desperate to fall in love and get married - and none of them really thinks beyond that goal. Even Caroline, the college graduate who loves being an editor, would give it up in a moment if only her dream man would propose...

I really enjoyed this book: the characters are appealing, despite the very limited horizons of the time; and the writing is fluent and assured. But I think I enjoyed this even more as an authentic slice of social history not, like Mad Men, with a knowing backward glance from our own time, but written in the midst of the era.

This is a time which feels very distant and yet is still eminently recognisable: women work in a typing pool while they plan their weddings, everyone drinks scotch or martinis, there are no girls nights out and if you don't have a date you stay in and watch TV - and men pay for absolutely everything.

Although there is something sad about our heroines who are needy, desperate, nearly always disappointed, yet Jaffe keeps them sympathetic - even the neurotic, stalker-like Gregg.

Although not as self-consciously political and angry as Marilyn French's The Women's Room this reminded me of that book and also, a little oddly, Valley of the Dolls but without the same level of Hollywood sensationalism.

For a reminder of how our lives have changed and the at least partial collapsing of gender-defined lives, this is a great read.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wednesday 2nd January 1952; 8.45am; New York City, 21 Jun. 2011
This review is from: The Best of Everything (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
"You see them every morning at a quarter to nine, rushing out of the maw of the subway tunnel, filing out of Grand Central Station, crossing Lexington and Park and Madison and Fifth avenues, the hundreds and hundreds of girls. Some of them look eager and some look resentful, and some look as if they haven't left their beds yet. Some of them have been up since six-thirty in the morning, the ones who commute from Brooklyn and Yonkers and new Jersey and Statten Island and Connecticut. They carry the morning newspapers and overstuffed handbags. Some of them are wearing pink or chartreuse fuzzy overcoats and five year-old ankle strap shoes and have their hair up in pin curls under kerchiefs. Some of them are wearing chic black suits and kid gloves and carrying their lunches in violet-sprigged Bonwit Teller bags. None of them has enough money."

One of those woman heading out of Grand Central Station, on a cold foggy morning, was Caroline Bender. Her college boyfriend, the man she had expected to marry, had left her, and so her new job was to be more than the economic necessity she had anticipated. It would be the focus of her life until she found her feet again.

Caroline was starting work as a secretary, in the typing pool of Fabian Publications. The Best of Everything is her story, and the story of four other women she meets at work.

Mary Agnes is the woman who knows just what is going on at Fabians, though she doesn't expect to be there for long. She is making detailed wedding plans, and looking forward to the future when she will be a housewife and a mother. April came to the city from a small town with dreams of becoming an actress, but she struggled and so she took a job in the typing pool and dreamed of love and marriage instead. Gregg is an actress too, and she has had some success, but she has to take on office work to tide her over while she looks for more opportunities. And Barbara is a young divorcee, focused on working hard and doing whatever she must to hold on to her job and support her child.

I was pulled into all of their lives, and those women provoked so many responses. Pride in Caroline as she moved up towards an editor's position. Happiness for Mary Agnes as she shone at the wedding she had dreamed of for so long. Worry for April, as she so often saw love and a happy ending that wasn't there. Fear for Gregg as her love became obsession. And such admiration for Barbara as she worked so hard for her child's future.

There's much, much more than that, but I can't set out the whole plot.

Rona Jaffe paints wonderful,richly detailed pictures of these women and their world. I saw so many places, met so many people, and I watched the seasons change and the years pass.

All of the details rang true.

There is a great deal of dialogue, and the conversations are so varied and so real that they are a joy to read.

I can forgive a novel from the 1950s that spoke clearly and honestly about many subjects that weren't generally spoken about then - subjects like sexual harassment, abortion, unequal pay and opportunities - many things. A few under-developed characters among so many. The odd cliché.

But I can't quite forgive the Best of Everything for rather too much emphasis on love and marriage as the ultimate goal, and for having all five leading ladies either sailing into the sunset or undone by love. Or for making its one older career woman a harridan.

I loved the happy endings, I accepted the unhappy endings, but I just would have liked to see one woman stepping towards an independent future, becoming a successful professional, treating her staff and colleagues well ...

But that's not to say that I didn't race through the chapters or that I didn't love it - I did!

It's a wonderful period-piece and a very readable book.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 'An exciting life, even if very difficult, is better than a dull one, even if it changes you forever', 17 Aug. 2011
By 
Purpleheart (UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Best of Everything (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
'You see them every morning at a quarter to nine, rushing out of the maw of the subway tunnel, filing out of grand Central Station, crossing Lexington and Park and Madison and Fifth avenues, the hundreds and hundreds of girls.'

Rona Jaffe's opening lines introduce us to the the hordes of women who entered the working world in the 1950's (her novel starts in 1952) and how 'none of them has enough money.' If that is that is the opening wide shot, it then focuses in on twenty year old Caroline Bender as she starts her job as a secretary in Fabian Publication in Manhatten. She is one of four girls whose life is tracked in the 436 pages of this novel. This allows Jaffe to chart her cautionary tales - what happens to love affairs that go wrong in different ways? what happens if you focus on your career at the expense of love? what happens if you fall in love with a married man? This is where the novel feels formulaic and I think it could have been stronger if we remained with Caroline's point of view throughout.

In her introduction Jaffe explains how she spotted the opportunity to write an updated Kitty Foyle through a chance meeting with a publisher. She effectively wrote it to order. Her title is from a job ad in the New York Times 'You deserve the best of everything. The best job, the best surroundings, the best pay, the best contacts.' I agree that it's a 1950's version of Sex and the City Sex And The City: Seasons 1 - 6 Complete Box Set [DVD], with less humour and where the four women represent different facets of a woman's personality. I can understand its huge success at a time when women had little that described the life they were leading.

Look Mad Men it isn't, despite the publisher's hype and some of the comments on here, and I wavered between 3 and 4 stars for my rating. The best bits about it are the period feel of New York and the insights into the workplace at that time. There are also some genuinely moving moments - for example when Caroline meets her old fiance, who had dumped her and married another woman. I agree with those who described it as dated and it needed more editing as the writing is uneven of the length of the novel - but enjoyed it nevertheless.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable historic novel - Mad Men world revisited, 24 April 2011
By 
Angus Jenkinson "angusjenkinson" (Cambridgeshire, England) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Best of Everything (Paperback)
Rona Jaffe's original 1958 novel charts a world before the 60s upended society, before the pill, before feminism took hold, but not before sex and sexual politics. Now relaunched to take advantage of its placing in an early Mad Men episode, when Don Draper admires the book, it has a Mills and Boon feel (all the clichés of handsome virile men and sensual women), but it also (unwittingly) documents a departed society, when beatniks and rock and roll were the exception to a life in which (many, most) women married to be looked after and men provided (as well as, it would seem, groped). So, it counts as a good historical novel as well as romcom.

The heroine is Caroline Bender, a graduate of Radcliffe College. She does not follow her mother's matrimonial advice advice ('Don't let boys touch you'), nor her career advice ('Join the Radcliffe Club'). Instead, she gets a job in the trendy world of publishing. along with her three colleagues, where they hazard a world of roving eyes, search for a mate and the good life (rather graphically described for 1958), follow career aspirations, and navigate office politics.

It's an entertaining read, not just as a narrative but as a picture of how the world was then perceived. For this you also need the 2011 edition, which is published with many of the original reviews - they paint a further picture of reaction to what was then a rather a controversial novel.

Enjoyable
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fab book! Love Mad Men? Love this book!, 12 May 2011
By 
elsie purdon "reads too much" (dorset uk) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: The Best of Everything (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I love this book.
I first read it back in the 70's and loved it then too. I had forgotten about it until I was watching early episodes of Mad Men. I knew that I was reminded of a book, but what was it? The answer was provided in a flashback sequence in the fourth series when we see Don reading the book.
I am sure that the writer of Mad Men must have been informed by the novel and so was paying homage. A neat thank you.
There are four main characters, all women......kind of a "Sex And The City" for the 50's. (That is decade not age group!).
Barbara is a single mum living with her mother after the early break up of her marriage. Caroline was jilted while engaged, she puts her energies instead into a new job which begins to blossom into a career.
Greggs is madly in love, too much so, she has kind of lost herself.
April has come to New York naive and innocent and gets caught up with the excitement of the big city.
The four women all work at a publishing company in New York, which is how they all come to know each other.
They are all sympathetic characters. While the stories are very 1950's the women are not so different from all young women. There is much to identify with even if life is very different now for women.
This novel is a great social document. The way the men relate to the women shows how much we can be glad those ways are left in the past.
The 50's are the beginnings of the changes that led to feminism. But this is not a history book, this is a great novel. Its enjoyable and absorbing to read. Its a classic.
Rona Jaffe says that she wrote the novel as a cautionary tale, yet after the book was published she had women come to tell her how the book had inspired them to change their lives, move to New York and work in publishing. Because whatever does happen the women in this novel are leading an exciting life at a time when women were expected to just get married. That is certainly very different to how life is now.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best of Everything, 23 July 2011
By 
S Riaz "S Riaz" (England) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 10 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Best of Everything (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Rona Jaffe was a struggling writer in New York in the 1950's, working for a small publishing company and rising from a clerk to associate editor. She was told by a famous Hollywood director that he was looking for a modern "Kitty Foyle" - a novel about a working girl in New York and made into a movie with Ginger Rogers in 1940. Rona Jaffe felt she was the perfect person to write that novel and this is it, first published in 1958 and still relevant to women today. Jaffe wrote about the world and the women she knew and that comes across very strongly as the characters she created ring true.

The story begins with all the working girls pouring out of the subway station to get to their office, among them Caroline Bender. She is twenty years old and it is the first day of her job at Fabian Publications. It is January, 1952, and Caroline, who had been planning her marriage to Eddie, was now a single working girl as he had broken off the engagement. She is broken hearted, but determined to do well and finds she is ambitious and keen to do well. Through Caroline, we meet other girls and learn about their hopes, dreams and their ultimate ambition - to be married.

There is April Morrison, an aspiring actress and dancer, who finds the rich, petulant playboy Dexter Key, at an office party. Gregg Adams, another actress, who falls heavily for the theatre produce David Wilder Savage. Mary Agnes Russo, the office gossip, busy planning her marriage and 'happy ever after', and Barbara Lemont, who is divorced with a young daughter. The book follows them through the happy times and the tragic, while we hope things come right and work out in the end. The girls may have different values from today, with marriage as the goal they all secretly with for, but they still share many of the concerns of women today - dealing with sexual harassment, not earning as much as men in the same positions, struggling with careers, motherhood and relationships. A really enjoyable book and very well written.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great retro read, 13 Jun. 2011
By 
Claretta (London, England) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: The Best of Everything (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I disagree with those who say this was only reprinted because it was mentioned in passing in Mad Men - it's a great read even for those who aren't Don Draper fans. You can see why it was snapped up by Hollywood, because it's superficially very reminiscent of 50s films like Three Coins in the Fountain and How to Marry a Millionaire. The Best of Everything, however, is a much darker story. It exposes the seamy side of young women's working lives and for most modern readers I think the casual and relentless sexual harassment endured by the heroines will be the most shocking part. They are repeatedly groped and slobbered over by the men who employ them and are powerless to do anything about it.

The book moves at a fast clip and is constantly engaging, even when you want to slap Caroline, Gregg or April; I found it interesting that Barbara, who is by far the most realistic and level-headed of the women, and shows the most dignity in her dealings with men, is given the happiest ending, along with Mary Agnes, whose wedding is described in hilarious detail.

Although dated, this is a great read - and any woman who reads it will be thoroughly glad that she didn't work in a 1950s office.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best books I've read in a decade, 27 Aug. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Best of Everything (Paperback)
I'm a guy, I didn't watch Sex in the City and got bored with Madmen, but this book is charming from the start, easy to read and although set in the 1950's, the book is relevant to today.

The book style is dated with loads of back-story and narrative, but it is within these backstories that insights lie to the characters, and those insights are relvant to all generations.

Even though I'm a guy, I wish I had read this book when I was in my 20's. I would have understood women so much better and made better marriage decisions. I want my daughter to read it. If I had a grandson, this book would been part of his education!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A glimpse into the past, 25 July 2012
By 
Basement Cat (UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: The Best of Everything (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a wonderful book, which really gives the reader an insight into the lives and careers of young women in New York in the early 1950's. I love to read books which were written in a previous era and then rediscovered, as you can really learn a lot about the period and social attitudes of the time.
The book mailnly follows four women who work for a publishers in New York, although other characters take centre stage from time to time. Rona Jaffe has created well-rounded, memorable characters that have made me wish that I knew what happened to them after the end of the story. I liked them all, and could sympathise with them when their lives sometimes seemed to spiral out of control. It's hard now to imagine how much of a woman's happiness and future prospects depended on finding a man to marry, and I could sympathise with the fear that these women felt when their relationships seemed destined to fail. There seemed to be some bitterness about this situation from some of the characters, as though they all knew that this was a social game which had to be played out, with the men taking control, although there were a few exceptions. This was an era when women gave up work as soon as they were married, and most of then were happy to do this. Out of all the women, only Caroline wanted to carry on working after finding herself a man. She also seemed to be the character who would be most likely to break away from the social contraints of her parents and her class, but you can see that it would not be easy for her, as several times she nearly gets sucked back into her old life.
There was a moment in the middle when it seemed as though the story was dragging a bit, but the end is very good, with a couple of surprises thrown in that I really wasn't expecting.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 1950's Sex and the City - you'll be surprised!, 20 July 2011
By 
This review is from: The Best of Everything (Paperback)
I loved this book and am glad I picked it up on a whim.

It made me realise that not much has changed for single girls in the big city - even in the 'conservative' Fifties women multi-dated, had sex out of wedlock with all its consequences, suffered sleazy bosses, had to rely on their wits to get ahead and got their hearts broken.

I almost wondered why I'd bothered writing my own book, as the exact same issues have been important to girls throughout the last century as well as being still relevant today. Rona is a truly outstanding author with doubtlessly a lot of relevant experience of her own to have written this book at the age of 26. Every sentence rings true, and not much feels truly 'dated'.
On the contrary, I was amazed how little things have changed in people's experience of relationships through the ages.
Women still want commitment, and men frequently don't but pretend they do to get a pretty girl in the sack.
I believe for many women it's not the ultimate goal to sleep with as many guys as possible, but at least in the Fifties it was the done thing to get married eventually - unless you backed the wrong horse as some of the ladies in this book do. Most women will be able to identify with at least one of the characters, and it is almost as raunchy as Sex and the City.

I found all of the girls had elements that rang true for myself, and I most identified with April who gets her heart broken and then goes on a dating spree with more unsuitable guys. When I realised the author died in 2005 (the year I started writing) I was sad, because it would have been so interesting to have a discussion about how things have (not) changed for women in the worlds of work and dating.

A fantastic read, which I couldn't put down.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 27 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

The Best of Everything
The Best of Everything by Rona Jaffe (Paperback - 5 May 2011)
£8.99
In stock
Add to basket Add to wishlist
Only search this product's reviews