Books

The Best of Everything – Rona Jaffe

Every weekday morning all over the globe women leave trains, buses, apartments and houses and in the appropriate attire they make their way to work. Women who want to get on, women who want a career and women who want a marriage and the women who want both.

This is 1950s New York and Rona Jaffe in The Best of Everything shows some of these women as they try to find a place in society that suits them but also all those around who have expectations of them which differ from their own. In the building of Fabian Publications where they all work and their lives cross and intertwine.

Caroline is the most astute who does want the career but the man as well. Mary Agnes is a woman working until the wedding then her next role as wife and mother is the only one she has ever wanted. April does not know what she wants and thinks she has found true love but Dexter has other ideas. Gregg is chasing her acting dream whilst also working now and again with Caroline as well as sharing a small apartment with her. Gregg is a girl who thinks she has the correct man only to find that love is sometimes one way and can overtake you to the point of obsession. Barbara divorced young and with a child feels she has experience over these others and her life takes a different path, she knows what she wants but will get it in her own time and her own terms.

This is a long absorbing novel about nothing and everything really. As a woman reading it you will find so much you can relate to. How many times have you wanted to declare love and hope that it kept the man? How many times have you just gone out with a man because he was there and you just wanted to go out? It shows women at their best and worst, and despite being written some near 60 years ago it resonates as much today. Perhaps what has dated but also shows how far feminism has come is the overwhelming desire for weddings and marriage the role of women in society and in a man’s life as someone’s wife not as their own person.

Men are seen as predators with a slick style to impress and capture, the overbearing bosses who make it clear the way to get ahead is generally under them. For men, women are commodities and whilst there are some real gems out there, a great number are portrayed as heartless and not romantic. No wonder these young women have trouble finding the right one they certainly do not make it look easy as the book could have done to conform to a happy ending.

None of the characters stand out for me, this is a book where you turn the page and keep reading it is a fairly chunky book. There are no peaks and troughs, parts that draw you right in and thrills and upsets along the way. It is simply an account of life. For me I could not relate to any particular one but could relate to different incidents, comments and observations on life. Some things have changed in these 60 years others have not.  A chick-lit novel well before the phrase was even coined and a must for all women who want something a bit more than fluffy writing.

Thank you to Amazon Vine for allowing me the opportunity to read and review this book. 

I admit to finding it hard going in places and found some of the things that were said by the characters make me want to scream. Then I had to remember this book was written in the fifties and was of its time and I began to enjoy it more and see it as some sort of social history. It showed me a lot about how much has changed but it did strike one disappointing point with me – that the ultimate ambition for a woman was marriage. No other alternative. That really made me want to scream, because many people now still see that as the ultimate goal, both older people and peers alike and question why I have not achieved such a thing. I have yet to find that answer. 

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3 thoughts on “The Best of Everything – Rona Jaffe

  1. ** Perhaps what has dated but also shows how far feminism has come is the overwhelming desire for weddings and marriage the role of women in society and in a man’s life as someone’s wife not as their own person.** – so true.

    I can imagine it being tough, but I do not think I will pick this one up. Thanks for the honest review though.

  2. Women used to think that if they weren’t married by the time they were 21 then it was too late and they would end up being the dreaded ‘spinster’. Hopefully people don’t think like that now but some women just go nuts about weddings. It’s a mystery to me. I don’t think I’ll read it either.

  3. I had this book when, really, I was far too young to appreciate it (i.e. when it was originally published) so I will search out a copy and read it again, approximately half a century later! But I did go to see the film with my mother and thoroughly enjoyed it although, again, I expect a lot of it went straight over my head!
    Margaret P

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