2 Jul 2014

THE BEST OF EVERYTHING.

THE BEST OF EVERYTHING by RONA JAFFE.

SOURCE: A Reading Group read.

THE BOOK {According to the back cover}: 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 divorcée Barbara writes about lipsticks by day and cares alone for her daughter by night.

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

FIRST SENTENCE {Chapter 1}:You see them every morning at 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. 

MEMORABLE MOMENT {Page 127}:Love, Barbara thought, is a four-letter word, but most of the boys I meet seem to have it confused with another four-letter word that people don't mention in polite company.

MY THOUGHTS: First published in 1958, call me cynical but I can't help but wonder how much the decision to re-issue the book was based on the novels front cover 'claim to fame' that it was seen being read by one of the characters on the highly popular television series, Mad Men.

Seemingly thought of as scandalous and racy at a time when I'm informed the issues featured simply weren't spoken of much less written about I thought this a novel very much of its time.

A story of a group of women new to New York. Whilst I thought the 'romance' of 1950's America - the wearing of white cotton gloves in summer (black leather in winter), the drinking of scotch in smoky bars, the falling in love with an older/rich man - alluring I ultimately thought this a depressing read in that the message seemed to be that the only real security for these women was to please a man (no matter what the physical or mental cost) in order to snare him into marriage.

Full of one dimension characters, the women ultimately lame, the men whether they be pathetic or an an-out-and-out villain (for there was nothing in between) essentially cads. Though I hesitate to use the word I'm afraid I found all the unnecessary imagery and endless musings boring, the jumping around between the different threads in the story confusing.

The most disappointing thing though was that the story was told in such a matter of fact, emotionless way that the whole thing seemed flat and monotonous. 



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14 comments:

Drew Terry said...

Of another time Tracy I think

Lindsay said...

Oh no! I bought this one just last week in a charity shop as I'd really enjoyed The Engagements and was told I'd enjoy this too if so. I've been really looking forward to it, really sad to see you didn't rate it Tracy. Thanks as always for being honest in your review.

Kelly said...

Definitely a different era and probably a good example that it wasn't necessarily the "good old days", especially for women. Rona Jaffe is certainly a well-known name, but I don't think I'll be rushing out to get this one.

Funny how older books get re-released like this. I recently read one I picked up at a bookstore not realizing it was a good 30 years old. Didn't really enjoy it, either.

djskrimiblog said...

A pity the story wasn't better. The cover tempts me, but I'll pass this one :O

Shooting Stars Mag said...

Sorry this is stuck too much in the 50's. It does sound like it was released to really capitalize in the Mad Men connection.

Literary Feline said...

Oh dear. I'm sure you're guess is right and it's just being re-published because of Mad Men.

Just reading about the message you found in the book made me cringe. I don't think I would like this book at all.

Suko said...

Dang! Sorry this wasn't more enjoyable, Tracy. I hope your next book is!

Charlie (The Worm Hole) said...

It doesn't sound like it's aged well. (Then again perhaps it wasn't so liked then either?) Interesting summary, but I might skip this.

Barbara Fisher said...

This is a difficult one for me because I already have it on my tbr list. I might still give it a go but I won't be rushing to buy it. Thanks for the honest review.


Melissa (Books and Things) said...

Well, this one doesn't sound like it has my name on it either. Sorry you didn't enjoy and hope the next one rocks your socks off!

Melliane said...

Oh no it's difficult, I can understand why you had a problem with this one... I'm not sure it's for me either.

Brian Joseph said...

With the one dimensional characters and the vacuous theme this does sound really bad.

Is there any chance that the author was being critical of the times and the predicament that the characters found themselves in?

Naida said...

Oh that's too bad. The premise sounds promising. I agree though, it shouldn't be republished just because of MadMen.

Mary (Bookfan) said...

Sounds like the reissue was because of the Mad Men connection. Too bad it wasn't better. I'll skip it.