The Best of Everything
Rona Jaffe’s frank, scandalous and thrilling 1958 novel, The Best of Everything follows a group of young women as they negotiate office romances, workplace politics, broken engagements, tiny apartments, lecherous bosses, heartbreak and lasting friendship, published in Penguin Modern Classics.
New York, 1952: Four young women have come to the city: to find love, to build their careers and to savour the indefinable optimism of the times. Caroline is the college graduate, determined to escape the typing pool and become an editor. April is the beautiful country girl with a penchant for disastrous romances. Aspiring actress Gregg is tangled in a dangerous love affair with a playwright; and divorcee Barbara writes about lipsticks by day and cares alone for her daughter by night. Famously bedtime reading for Mad Men’s Don Draper, The Best of Everything portrays the lives and passions of these ambitious young women with intelligence, affection, and prose as sharp as a paper cut.
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. During the 1960s she wrote cultural pieces for Cosmopolitan magazine. Jaffe wrote sixteen novels during her career, including the controversial Mazes and Monsters (1981), adapted into a film starring Tom Hanks.
If you enjoyed The Best of Everything, you might like John Dos Passos’ Manhattan Transfer, also available in Penguin Modern Classics.
‘It harks back to a saner time when choosing progress and modernity was as straightforward as ordering dinner – “Two Scotches with water on the side, and two steaks”‘
Julie Burchill, author of Ambition
‘Decades before Sex and the City, Jaffe recorded the minutiae of women’s lives and broke powerful taboos’
Joan Smith, Independent
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. * Most career girls, past or present, will respond with the shock of authenticity * The Saturday Review * I absolutely LOVED this ...what a great novel -- Elizabeth Noble Decades before Sex and the City, Jaffe recorded the minutiae of women's lives and broke powerful taboos. -- Joan Smith * The Independent * 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 * 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 * 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 * This stirring, evocative novel tells it exactly as it was * Fay Weldon *
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