The Best of Everything (Paperback)
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Rona Jaffe's beloved novel about 1950s NYC women in the workplace that paved the way for the #MeToo movement and iconic cultural touchstones like Sex and the City and Mad Men, now for the first time in Penguin Classics, in a 65th anniversary edition with an introduction by New Yorker staff writer Rachel Syme
A Penguin Classic
When Rona Jaffe’s superb page-turner was first published in 1958, it changed contemporary fiction forever. Some readers were shocked, but millions more were electrified when they saw themselves reflected in its story of five young employees of a New York publishing company. Sixty-five years later, The Best of Everything remains touchingly—and sometimes hilariously—true to the personal and professional struggles women face in the city. There’s Ivy League Caroline, who dreams of graduating from the typing pool to an editor’s office; naïve country girl April, who within months of hitting town reinvents herself as the woman every man wants on his arm; and Gregg, the free-spirited actress with a secret yearning for domesticity. Jaffe follows their adventures with intelligence, sympathy, and prose as sharp as a paper cut.
About the Author
Rona Jaffe was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1931. She was the daughter of Samuel Jaffe, a high school principal, and Diana (née Ginsberg) Jaffe, the daughter of Moses Ginsberg, the construction magnate who built the Carlyle Hotel. Rona was raised on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and was a lifelong New Yorker. She attended the Dalton School and gradufated from Radcliffe College in 1951 at the age of 19. In her early twenties she worked at Fawcett Publications, starting as a file clerk and working her way up to associate editor. At twenty-five she quit her job to focus on a novel she had started about women in the publishing industry. In 1958 The Best of Everything was published by Simon & Schuster. The work, provocative and prescient, hit a nerve among readers, especially women, and became an overnight success and bestseller. The following year a film adaptation was released starring Joan Crawford, Hope Lange, Suzy Parker, and Diane Baker. Jaffe went on to write sixteen more books during her career including Class Reunion, Mr. Right Is Dead, The Other Woman, Family Secrets, The Road Taken, and The Room-Mating Season. In 1995, she established The Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Awards, a program to identify and support promising emergent women writers, which provided over $3 million in grants during its 26-year history. Jaffe’s legacy continues through her Foundation and its funding of important areas of societal and cultural need. Rona Jaffe died of cancer in 2005.
Rachel Syme is a staff writer for the New Yorker who has covered fashion, style, and other cultural subjects since 2012. Her cultural criticism and reported features—which focus primarily on the intersections of women’s lives, artistic production, history, and fame—have also appeared in the Times Magazine, Elle, GQ, Grantland, New York, Vogue, Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, and The New Republic, among other publications. She grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico and now resides in Brooklyn.
“I finally picked it up recently and was blown away by Jaffe’s sharp, fizzy writing; her pointed analysis of women’s roles and restrictions; and her matter-of-fact depiction of sexual harassment in the workplace decades before the Clarence Thomas hearings or #MeToo...I had no idea that anyone in the ’50s was writing like this.”
“Jaffe… writes at the breakneck pace of a Sex and the City season finale and with the wry knowingness of a Nora Ephron novel…it’s by turns enraging and poignant to read this book with post-#MeToo eyes, to appreciate how much women’s lives have changed in the intervening decades and what’s at stake when our hard-won rights to workplace equality and abortion care are threatened.”
“Lively, delightful and heartbreaking… The book is not tawdry; it's terrific…‘The Best of Everything’ seized the mood of the moment and told the truth, and women by the millions devoured it. Sixty-five years later, I did, too.”
“An incredibly pleasurable and devastating novel — do yourself a favor and get a copy.”
“At no point in the story do [the characters] really ‘make it,’ but in the meantime, they get as much from the world around them as they possibly can, trying to wrangle proposals or free steaks or promotions or raises out of the men who hold sway over their life. The intensity of their desire, their desperation, is riveting.”
“Sixty years later, Jaffe’s classic still strikes a chord, this time eerily prescient regarding so many of the circumstances surrounding sexual harassment that paved the way toward the #MeToo movement.”