3.5 Stars rounded up to 4
Thank you to the publisher Berkley / Penguin Publishing Group for providing an advance reader copy via Edelweiss.
I love reading about the sixties and daily life in New York City, and knew next to nothing about Helen Gurley Brown- so took the plunge into reading this tome.
This is the story of a young woman named Alice Weiss who hails from Youngstown, Ohio, but was motivated to move to New York City, The year was 1965. Her mother Vivian died in a car accident eight years ago, when Alice was thirteen. Mom had been an aspiring model in New York City before she got married, and later was an avid amateur photographer, documenting her family's life. Alice treasured her mother's Leica camera, which she brought with her to New York City. Alice inherited her mother's love of photography, but with a dream of making it her career.
When Alice arrives in NYC, she looks up Elaine Sloan, a close friend of her mother's from the days when they were both models. Elaine is now a successful book editor, currently working with Jacqueline Susann's "Valley of the Dolls" book. Alice and Elaine had last seen each other at Mom Vivian's funeral eight years earlier. Elaine was happy to help Alice establish herself in New York City. To that end, she sent Alice for an interview with Helen Gurley Brown, who was just named chief editor of Cosmopolitan magazine.
Cosmopolitan (often nicknamed "Cosmo"), a magazine owned by the mammoth Hearst Corporation, was struggling at the time. Helen Gurley Brown had written a groundbreaking book three years earlier, "Sex and the Single Girl". The overriding theme of the book was that women didn't necessarily need to get married and they could also be financially independent. Helen wanted to transform the magazine in ways that the Hearst Corporation was constantly resisting. Helen kept referring to Cosmo's potential readers as "my girls" and wanted articles and products advertised geared to a woman's sexuality. She was relentless in her thought plan, and the first transformative issue for July 1965 was a make or break proposition for the magazine.
Alice lands the secretarial position to Helen Gurley Brown and is privy to Helen's frequent crying jaggers, obsession with her weight and fashion sense, but most of all...her strength and singularity of vision in the future of Cosmopolitan magazine. As Helen's right arm, Alice also finds herself rubbing shoulders with successful entertainment industry at parties. However glamorous Alice's job position might seem, it paid little and in her heart she still yearned to be a photographer. However, she had a generous heart and felt loyal and caring towards Helen Gurley Brown.
Alice navigates the rough terrain of romance, alcohol and sex, work intrigue, and career growth opportunities in this delightful historical romp through sixties NYC. I felt like the last twenty percent of the book lagged a bit with romantic tangents, but ultimately resolved itself to a satisfying present day conclusion.