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The Best of Everything (Penguin Modern Classics) Paperback – 5 May 2011

3.9 out of 5 stars 72 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (5 May 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141196319
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141196312
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (72 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 26,012 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

This stirring, evocative novel tells it exactly as it was (Fay Weldon)

Not since One Day have I stayed up so late reading a book, but Rona Jaffe's The Best of Everything has me gripped...So much more than chick-lit (Laura Craik The Evening Standard)

The emotional lives of these women are beautifully drawn...It is, I think, the perfect summer read: juicy, involving and classy. Even as you smile at the thought that smoking was once considered a skill, and white cotton gloves a wardrobe basic, it will also make you feel nostalgic for your own past, for those feverish days when fear and elation were pretty much the same thing (Rachel Cooke The Observer)

One of Don's first bed companions in series one of Mad Men is not another woman, but The Best of Everything, this 1958 novel by Rona Jaffe...It is a world of typing pools and tie-wearing at all times; of whiskey drinking and womanising; a world in which secretaries grope their way towards feminism with difficulty and bosses grope their secretaries with with ease...As Draper himself might say: fascinating (The Times)

Decades before Sex and the City, Jaffe recorded the minutiae of women's lives and broke powerful taboos. (Joan Smith The Independent)

I absolutely LOVED this ...what a great novel (Elizabeth Noble)

Most career girls, past or present, will respond with the shock of authenticity (The Saturday Review)

The book is a fantastically entertaining and witty read, following the lives of three young women, Caroline, Gregg, and April working on the New York publishing scene as they search for love while trying to succeed in the metropolis ... the book's portrait of young women at a vibrant stage in their life, their excitement, fun, struggles and friendships in the city, is accurate and timeless. A fabulous summer novel best consumed poolside with a cigarette and martini (Lucy Greene City A.M.)

About the Author

Rona Jaffe (1931-2005) was born in Brooklyn, New York, and grew up in the affluent Upper East Side of Manhattan. Jaffe wrote her first book, The Best of Everything, while working as an associate editor at Fawcett Publications in the 1950s. Published in 1958, it was later made into a movie, starring Joan Crawford. Jaffe subsequently published six additional novels during her career. She died in 2005 in London.


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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( 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.
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Comment 17 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: 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
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By elsie purdon TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 12 May 2011
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( 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.
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By Claretta VINE VOICE on 13 Jun. 2011
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( 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.
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