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The Best of Everything

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  5,164 ratings  ·  616 reviews
Before Valley of the Dolls and Sex and the City--the iconic novel of ambitious career girls in New York City

When it was first published in 1958, Rona Jaffe's debut novel electrified readers who saw themselves reflected in its story of five young employees of a New York publishing company. There's Ivy League Caroline, who dreams of graduating from the typing pool to an edit
Paperback, US / CAN Edition, 448 pages
Published May 31st 2005 by Penguin Books (first published 1958)
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Average rating 3.77  · 
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 ·  5,164 ratings  ·  616 reviews

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Oct 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: pub-1958
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 10, 2011 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
Nov 10, 2007 rated it really 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
May 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Because I enjoyed so much of this “step back into the 1950s of my favorite city,” I’m keeping the four star rating which is slightly higher than the book actually deserves.

It’s the ending that I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around. Three main characters get neat endings (which doesn’t necessarily equate to happy but resolution is a must). But not our main character— her ending is about as unresolved as it gets.

It just doesn’t fit and leaves me wondering why? Despite this flaw, I reall
Aug 26, 2007 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
Jul 26, 2012 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
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 lovi ...more
Maya Panika
May 30, 2011 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,
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.
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 entertainin
May 28, 2011 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
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 desp ...more
Nov 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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 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 h ...more
JoAnne Pulcino
Aug 27, 2013 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.
Magdalena Wajda
Jan 11, 2019 rated it liked it
The book is 60 years old, and yet I have the impression that while a lot has changed in the world of working women, many things remain the same.
This is a well-written novel, with very likeable characters. Good prose, some great scenes and very good, natural-sounding dialogue.
It has a very contemporary feel.
Jun 08, 2011 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 c ...more
Andreea Lucau
Oct 21, 2015 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
Vfields Don't touch my happy!
Apr 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: m-f, historical
My mother loved this book and I just found her copy so I picked it up and decided I would read it. First of all I haven’t had a paperback book in years.
I got a kick out of the 60s frame of the world.
I enjoyed the schmaltzy, drama, anxiety, early girl power thing.
The men were there but the core was all female!
Good gosh, lots of fun way over the top Drama.
It was a pleasure.
May 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
This book is like going out to dinner with your best friends, continuously ordering food and drinks simply to spend more time with each other, and finally dodging angry glances from waitstaff when you realize you are the only patrons left in the restaurant.

I loved The Best of Everything. It was warm, indulgent, funny, heartbreaking, and so annoyingly relatable. The book follows Caroline, April, and Gregg, three career women learning the ins and outs of the publishing world (acting for Gregg), d
Mar 23, 2011 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
Jun 07, 2009 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
Annie Witt
Jul 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This has to be one of the most enthralling and honest felt books I've read in a long time. I was surprised to see that some things really don't change. I found myself rereading lines (and pages) in this book because they seem to resonate strong emotions that I've felt in the past or have actually felt currently. This book is filled with laugh out loud moments, shocking moments, moments that made me hate these girls (because they seem make the silliest mistakes that I may or may not admit to havi ...more
Oct 09, 2013 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
Mar 12, 2009 rated it really liked it
Utterly addictive novel about a group of young women who work at a publishing company in New York City. The obvious thing to say is, "If you like Mad Men, then you'll love this book!"--and that's absolutely true. I also think it's true that Mad Men wouldn't exist without this book. Jaffe is funny and brutally honest--at least until the end, which takes a bizarre turn into preachy, morality tale territory. Nevertheless, this is a wonderful read that--unfortunately?--will continue to resonate with ...more
Jan 27, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
Published in 1958, this novel about five women working at a publishing firm in the early part of the decade has a certain fascination as a vivid time capsule. But did people really drink as much as all that in those days? I felt hungover if I read too much at once. The book was engrossing enough, but most of all it had me feeling grateful that I was not a young working woman in the 1950s (#metoo).
Oct 01, 2017 marked it as to-read
Mentioned in this fun NY Times piece about romances, along with Georgette Heyer. ...more
Aug 18, 2017 rated it it was ok
Abandoned just past the half-way mark. I thought this book would be a fun, campy 1950s version of The Valley of the Dolls. It was not. The pace is pretty slow, and the book could've been 100 pages shorter. The characters weren't that interesting. Throughout the book, they all seemed to be saying the same thing: "Oh, when will I be married?" I thought the story would show at least some of the characters interested in pursuing careers, but that was really secondary to them pursuing marriage.

I gue
Feb 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While I was reading this I kept thinking it should be a movie. Then I looked it up and of course it was made into a movie in 1959. I liked the story. I love the post war time period. This book captures the young women of that time period so well. More young women were going to college and getting jobs and staying single longer but for those young single women it seems like they were ahead of the times like the world wasn't quite ready for them. They were so restless.... In particular I felt that ...more
Jun 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020, june-2020
This could be a little shorter but I loved it. So glad I finally got around to it.
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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-

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