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The Best of Everything

3.75  ·  Rating Details ·  3,577 Ratings  ·  474 Reviews
When Rona Jaffe's superb page-turner was first published in 1958, it changed contemporary fiction forever. Some readers were shocked, but millions more were electrified when they saw themselves reflected in its story of five young employees of a New York publishing company. Almost sixty years later, The Best of Everything remains touchingly and sometimes hilariously true t ...more
Paperback, 448 pages
Published May 31st 2005 by Penguin Books (first published 1958)
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Revolutionary Road by Richard YatesValley of the Dolls by Jacqueline SusannThe Man in the Gray Flannel Suit by Sloan WilsonThe Best of Everything by Rona JaffeThe Group by Mary McCarthy
If You Like Mad Men . . .
4th out of 40 books — 65 voters
The Best of Everything by Rona JaffeAtlas Shrugged by Ayn RandMeditations in an Emergency by Frank O'HaraThe Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner�die� ganze Welt von Mad Men [Ein Offizielles Mad Men Buch] by Dyna Moe
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1st out of 22 books — 11 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Feb 10, 2013 Kinga rated it really liked it
You start reading this book and you think: oh, how great it must’ve been to live in the 50s in New York. The glamour, the cocktail hour, the restaurants, the handsome men who drank scotch on the rocks. The glory days when the bosses sexually harassed their female employees because that’s what you did, the times when marriage was the only serious achievement any woman could or should aspire to, the times when every man felt he could patronise any woman… Ok, so maybe it wasn’t so great after all, ...more
Jun 16, 2011 Rachel rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction
When The Best of Everything was published in 1958, the cover price was 50 cents, and if it still sold for that today it would be way overpriced. I can't remember the last time I hated a book this much. I bear so much hostility for this book that I am practically giddy.

This is the story of four women who work for Fabian Publishing in New York in the early '50s. Ostensibly, Caroline is the smart ambitious one who wants to be an editor, April is the naive country girl who comes to the big city and
Dec 02, 2007 Anne rated it liked it
Recommends it for: New Yorkers, women in the publishing industry, Carrie Bradshaw
In the preface to the new edition of this 1958 bestseller, author Rona Jaffe tells us that The Best of Everything is now "a sociological document," and it is certainly that: a pre-feminist era look at career girls (typists, editors, and actresses) in New York. I found myself fascinated by just how much -- and how little -- has changed for women as they search for "success" (friendship, work, love, marriage) in the city. Her portrayal of the book publishing industry also struck a chord. Several o ...more
Aug 26, 2007 Pdxstacey rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Depressed and glamorous people
You know that feeling when you get a book and after the first few pages you realize it's going to be great? That's this book. I could not put it down and finished it in less than 24 hours.

I am shocked this was written in the 50's. I am also annoyed I did not read this book when I lived in NY. I woke up early on a sunday (around 6am) and finished it.

This is chick lit before there was chick lit. Better than Valley of the Dolls, better than Candace Bushnell (although I don't like her stuff that m
If Valley of the Dolls (1966) is the glamorous and excessive cousin of Peyton Place (1956), The Best of Everything is the Seconal-sedated twin of Valley of the Dolls. The Jekyll of the Hyde. Booze is flowing, but in a sophisticated Mad Men fashion. In case your blind date is a twat, just order loads of drinks in succession.

Chick lit is still a problematic genre for me, but instead of having another Bridget Jones's Diary (2001) experience, The Best of Everything was pretty entertaining. I l
Nov 06, 2011 Iris rated it it was amazing
Shelves: novels
Try to resist a book that opens with a breathy evocation of Monday morning, 9 o'clock, when thousands of girls emerge from Grand Central Station and subway exits, some in kidskin gloves and pomaded locks, some in torn dirty white gloves and a kerchief hiding their pincurls, all walking towards the skyscrapers where they fill steno pools.

The tension in this scene, ostensibly, lies between professional ambition and marital aspiration: "The Best of Everything" was published in 1958, and Jaffe's unm
Feb 24, 2009 Lisa rated it it was ok
This book was written in 1958, so it is extremely dated. But I like Rona Jaffe, so I thought I'd give it a try. The story is of a group of young women who come to New York because they want exciting lives. They meet at a publishing house, and it talks about what turn their lives take. What I found interesting was the portrayal of blatant sexual harassment on the job. I remember the 1980s and it was bad, but not like this. In the 1950s, men thought any woman in the office was fair game, and she ...more
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
I enjoyed this book, which toes the line between worthwhile and trashy as it follows the lives of four young women who meet while working at a New York publishing house in 1952. But while it initially looks like a workplace drama, and the depiction of the workplace and the publishing business is fascinating, the book is soon swallowed by the characters’ relationship drama. It is soapy at times, and some readers will enjoy it on that level, following the romantic misadventures of young women ...more
First Second Books
As a woman in publishing in New York City, I got a weird thrill out of reading this novel about the lives of three women in publishing in New York City...circa 1955. This book is a time-capsule - a look at professional women in a very different time, when the assumed goal of every young woman's life was marriage. The writing is also fascinating as a relic of an earlier era, but even by contemporary standards it's incredibly, compulsively readable. I loved it, but I'm not proud of myself for ...more
Jun 20, 2011 Aspho rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
(My review written for Amazon UK)

“The Best of Everything” starts well and is, at first, a very engaging read. The first few chapters introduce us to the character of Caroline Bender and her first weeks as a typist at Fabian publishing. Gradually, the other three main female characters appear, as well as a host of other ‘extras’: colleagues, friends, terrible dates, boyfriends and families. However, of the four main female characters, it really is Caroline who gets the most ‘screen time’. The oth
Maya Panika
Jun 05, 2011 Maya Panika rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I’ve wanted to read this book ever since Don Draper was seen with a copy, and the influences on Mad Men are plain; many of the characters in this book - about a group of girls coming to New York in 1952, in search of new lives but ultimately, in search of marriageable men - are instantly recognisable to a Mad Men aficionado.

It’s an old book, the author - a young girl when it was written - is now dead, consequently, it's somewhat dated, but it’s age shows in the content, the attitudes and mores,
Jul 26, 2012 Michael rated it it was amazing
One of the most honest and enthralling books I've read in a long time. I can't get over the fact that this was published in 1958. Either that's a mistake and it was published this year, or some things really don't change. There are lines in this book that I read over and over again because they resonated so strongly with emotions that I've felt in the past or I'm currently feeling.

Filled with laugh out loud moments, shocking moments, moments that make you hate these girls (because they make the
JoAnne Pulcino
Aug 27, 2013 JoAnne Pulcino rated it it was amazing
Shelves: adult-fiction

By Rona Jaffe

This is most definitely one of the golden oldies!!! Written in 1958 it was part of the vanguard that changed contemporary fiction. So many young women saw themselves reflected in the novel.

The story of five young girls trying to make their careers in a large New York firm rang true to so many of the lives of women in the 50's. It is a brilliant depiction of the personal and professional struggles that women found in the city and corporate world.
Jun 07, 2009 Susan rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: fans of Marjorie Morningstar and The Group
I'm not sure what it is about 1950s New York chick lit that I enjoy so, but it's a world full of crinolines and gloves, highballs (which are what liquor, exactly), endless parades of cocktails and brandies, and men and women who banter like hell afire. It's always a world where people are known by their last name and hometown (oh yes, the Cleveland Smiths) and everyone seems to have gone to the same dozen colleges.

This book follows a group of twenty-something "career girls" through the filth, g
Manik Sukoco
Dec 30, 2015 Manik Sukoco rated it really liked it
I believe this is Jaffe's very first novel and, to my mind, also the best. Great literature? No, but character-driven, engrossing, emotionally involving and very, very juicy. Quite dated (takes place in the early 50's) but still a steamy and believably accurate account of what transpired for women venturing out on their own at the time... the brilliant, driven, heartbroken college grad; the sweet hayseed who loses her innocence; the "bad girl" who pursues an acting career only to lose everything ...more
Andreea Lucau
Jan 26, 2016 Andreea Lucau rated it really liked it
This felt like such a classic chick lit! I enjoyed every moment of it and at times found it hard to let it out of hand. This is the story of 4 young, single ladies living and working in New York around 1950s. At times it felt a bit like Sex and the City, only that they drink and smoke waaaaay more.
What surprised me the most was how misogynistic the society was at the time: the most important thing for a woman was to find a good husband. She could have a job until she find it, but afterwards... s
Jun 22, 2011 Jane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wednesday 2nd January 1952; 8.45am; New York City:

“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
Julia Reed
Jun 08, 2011 Julia Reed rated it it was amazing
"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 of them 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 Staten Island and Connecticut. They ...more
Bill FromPA
Aug 11, 2015 Bill FromPA rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: romance
This novel follows four young unmarried women in New York City over three years, 1952 – 1954. This was definitely written with a pre-feminist mindset: these women are working only until they can get married; this is true even of the one who is trying to establish an acting career. Though the editing career of the main character, Caroline Bender, is occasionally described as fulfilling and important to her, even she is more than willing to throw it over for marriage to the right man. I was rather ...more
Jul 10, 2011 Charity rated it liked it
Women have come a long way since the 1950's, at least this is what I would like to hope. The young women struggle coming to terms with what they are looking for: marriage. Work is simply something that happens to fill time with before a wedding ring is slipped on a finger.

Caroline, the main character, goes to work to busy her mind from a broken engagement, in the process she finds a part of herself that she was not fully aware of, as I was reading I latched on to Caroline as a woman who could s
Mar 23, 2011 Amanda rated it really liked it
Have you ever read a book and as you got to the end you wanted to read more slowly because you just didn't want the book to end? That's how I was feeling when I was ambling toward the end of The Best of Everything. I LOVE stories from the mid-century because the 1950s, and the ensuing suburban discontent, is just fascinating to me. (Yeah, I love Mad Men.) I would have given the book five stars, but sadly, while the book started out well, I was really disappointed by the ending. It felt rushed an ...more
Apr 06, 2015 Christa rated it liked it
Shelves: chick-lit
It's funny, had this book not actually been written in 1958, I don't think I would have gotten through it. It was just so quaint, and a little too...much, I think. But I gave it leeway because I guess that's what it really was like at the time?

The book tells the story of three young women who work in publishing in 1950s Manhattan. And the look into the publishing world was utterly fascinating--I really don't know how women dealt with that kind of stuff all the time. Getting hit on by bosses, bei
Tracy Terry
Jul 02, 2014 Tracy Terry rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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. Whi
Missy Cahill
Mar 30, 2012 Missy Cahill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I hugely enjoyed this book. I think it had something to do with the glorious sunshine that we were blessed with this week. I can't believe this was published in the 1950s, it feels like a very risque book for that period. It's risque because it's true. And it certainly translates to today's modern woman. Yes some aspects of the books have changed, but it's still relevant in todays culture. This story really centers around Caroline & April, two girls, fresh to the sparkling bright city of New ...more
Jun 29, 2014 Bekkac rated it it was amazing
I love this book on so many levels. Makes it into my all time favorites list. I adore the perspective of the 1950s, actually written in the 1950s. A 1950s Devil Wears Prada meets Sex an the City and Casablanca. It's gutsy, truthful, and relevant. Some exquisitely written passages that gave me chills.

-"You'll buy a drink and you'll take it outside on the terrace...And you'll be looking out at the beautiful tropical night and listening to music from inside the bar, and you'll sip at your drink, an
Nov 02, 2013 Blanca rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, book-club
Jaffe's debut has been underrated. Why has this not been on reading list from writers since the 50's?

It's subversive yet a little soapy, which is why I know it's been relegated to toe the line between the dark corners of literary fiction and the pulpy titles the girls help publish in the novel.

There is more owed to this book and what it foretold about women and feminism without being preachy about it. The overall tone of the book is timeless and was very modern for the time; and at the same tim
Oct 11, 2009 Shelley rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Mad Men fans, Sex in the City fans
Shelves: historical, classic
Oh, Caroline. This bills itself as five office working girls in the early 50s, but Caroline was really the main character. I really enjoyed this and was taken aback by how entirely modern it still felt, despite being written and set in the 50s. Even the slang and language wasn't dated. I liked the girls we followed, especially Barbara and Caroline, and really rooted for them to figure everything out and get what they wanted. Bits were sad and shocking, poor Gregg, and I wish Caroline had a more ...more
Kristen Carannante
Sep 06, 2011 Kristen Carannante rated it really liked it
My single girlfriends in NY would say, "The more things change, the more they stay the same."

The Best of Everything follows the lives of female office workers in a publishing house in 1953 -- from the talented, underpaid editor; the young, hopeful bride-to-be; the girl trying to break into show business; to the girl who fell off the turnip truck who finds herself pregnant and hanging on to promises that will never come to be.

Each story is wound up -- some neatly, some not -- in a satisfying way
Yvonne Ryan
Sep 12, 2007 Yvonne Ryan rated it really liked it
Ok, it's a soap but it's quality soap. Characters that resonate, a glimpse into world of the generation of women who laid the groundwork for my generation to get jobs and expect to be treated equally (yes, I know it hasn't quite happened like that but we have to keep trying). The ending isn't quite as good the rest of the book, it sprints to a conclusion and is less convincing than other parts of the book but it's still an excellent read, which is what this site is about isn't it?
It took me a while to read this because the details of the various charcters' lives, while interesting individually, became too much as a group. What I appreciated most was the journalistic type commentary on what it was like to be a working woman in a big city in the 1950's at a time when it was becoming possible, if still difficult, for a young women to design the way she might live her life. A brave book for its time, I think.
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2015 Reading Chal...: The Best of Everything by Rona Jaffe 6 31 Jan 25, 2015 08:15AM  
  • The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit
  • The Group
  • Meditations in an Emergency
  • Ship of Fools
  • Sterling's Gold: Wit and Wisdom of an Ad Man
  • The Wicked Pavilion
  • Sheila Levine Is Dead and Living in New York
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  • The Chrysanthemum and the Sword: Patterns of Japanese Culture
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  • The Echoing Grove
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Rona Jaffe established The Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Awards program in 1995. It is the only national literary awards program of its kind dedicated to supporting women writers exclusively. Since the program began, the Foundation has awarded more than $850,000 to a total of 92 women.

Ms. Jaffe was the author of sixteen books, including Class Reunion, Family Secrets, The Road Taken, and The Room-
More about Rona Jaffe...

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“But fathers always thought their youngest daughters were rather special” 5 likes
“We keep making decisions, every day, half without thinking, half against our will. If we don't fight back, if we allow ourselves to change, to be changed, then once it's done we have to do other things, and on and on until the person we wanted to be is so far away in the past that we only remember her, longingly, as if she were a beloved stranger.” 4 likes
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