The Best of Everything by Rona Jaffe

3 young women meet in the typing pool at Fabian Publishing, 1952, hoping for love and finding that life has more to offer than they ever imagined.

I haven’t done much rereading since starting this blog, mostly thanks to the TBR tsunami that Bookmooch yielded out of a few boxes of discarded books my mom cleaned out of her house and sent to me. My reading life has been consumed by a tyranny of the new, but sometimes an old friend is just what I want.

Ever since I got hooked on “Mad Men” on AMC, I’ve been plagued with an overwhelming urge to reread Rona Jaffe’s landmark culture-defining work The Best of Everything. I’m fascinated by depictions of women’s lives from the turn of the century, and this 50s-era “Sex and the City” delivers a fine sociological excavation of the single girl in the big city, coated in just enough soap to make it the perfect antidote to the boredom and restlessness that are characterizing my final weeks of pregnancy.

The Best of Everything follows the lives of three girls. Caroline is the stable rock, who discovers a taste for working life after being jilted by her fiance. April yearns for marriage, and really would have benefited if “He’s Just Not that Into You” had been written a few decades sooner. Finally Gregg, an actress, enters into a relationship with a famous theater director only to find herself giving in to every weakness in her poor, lonely heart.

This isn’t shy realism–the dialogue and inner monologues lack anything resembling a subtext–but underneath the sometimes overwrought prose Jaffe has crafted a universal story that speaks to women’s ambitions and fears in a still-captivating way. The Best of Everything stands as a fascinating cultural document as well as a fantastic read.

I might not be able to restrain myself from staying in this world and rereading Marjorie Morningstar, Peyton Place, and The Bell Jar. Are there any other books that would fit my mood? I’d love to discover a new favorite.

4 thoughts on “The Best of Everything by Rona Jaffe”

  1. I know you didn’t like Marge Piercy’s Vida, but Braided Lives is in a similar vein and I did like it a lot better than I liked Vida.

  2. I’ll check it out. I really liked Piercy’s Woman on the Edge of Time. And I’ll give Vida another try at some point. I think it was as simple as wanting the 50s and not being satisfied by the 70s.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *