Thursday, July 12, 2012

Review: The best of everything by Rona Jaffe

I loved The best of everything and for once I even put off reading the end for a day just because I didn't want it to be over (that never happens). I really liked how despite it's written in 1958 in the house wife era you can still recognize yourself in the women portrayed in this book, today 2012. Sure, there are some themes like them looking forward to getting married and such that isn't as prevalent today but the slippery slopes of love still is.

It's about four girls in their early twenties: Caroline, April, Gregg and Barbara. They all meet at a publishing house for pocket books in NYC where they work as office girls. Caroline wants to dive into work to forget her big first love who broke off their engagement through a letter telling her he's going to marry someone else, April moves from a small town to the big town with dreams and hopes of love and an acting career, Gregg tries to be an actress and studies at acting school and Barbara is divorced and takes care of her daughter and mother.

I like how the characters come to life, how they seem like flesh and blood. I think it's because of Rona Jaffe's own experiences. At that time Rona worked as an associate editor at Fawcett Publications and before writing the book she interviewed like 50 girls to get a better understanding. She was also only 27 years old when the book was published so she was in the middle of it all, she wasn't a bystander looking in on young office girls, she was one of them. I think that is why she could portray them so well.

The book focuses on the girls' inner dreams, hopes and love lives for three years. They meet both douches and sweethearts, just as today in the hunt for that prince Mr Right. It also take up sexual harassment which didn't have a name in those days but was something you just swept under the rug. Some men in The best of everything are real slime balls and douches and as a reader you get frustrated and sad for these women.

What disappointed me though with the book was the abrupt ending, I wanted to know how it went, what happened. I needed the bag to be tied up for them all. In a way the ending irked me a bit but I forgive that since it was a great book during the other approximately 500 pages (pocket version).

Overall, the book has some great nuances and I'm sure it shows a pretty good view on how it was to be a girl, specially an office girl, in her twenties during the 1950's. What makes it so genuine is the fact it's not written today, it's not an after construction, it was written then and there and revolutionized contemporary fiction from that day on. You can say it's the 1950's Sex and the city.

I truly recommend reading this book if not for the story, then to learn more about history and how it really was just 60 years ago for women in the US (and probably for women in the western world overall).

Trivia: It also came out as a movie 1959 and was nominated for 2 oscars! The book has also been read by Don Draper in Mad Men.

Swedish title: Det bästa av allt - Rona Jaffe
I read the Swedish translation

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