Book Club: The Best of Everything by Rona Jaffe

The Best of Everything

When The Best of Everything was published in 1958, I can only imagine the buzz it created among young women.  After all, they are comparing it to be the 50 Shades of Gray of our day.

Set in the early Fifties, the story follows a handful of working girls at a Manhattan publishing house.  There’s ambitious Caroline, who dreams of graduating from the typing pool to an editor’s office and she will do anything to get there; naïve country girl April, who’s goal is clearly to meet someone so she can quit her job and stay at home in full fledge domesticity; and Gregg, the actress who can’t separate life from fiction. Jaffe wrote this tale at the mere age of 27, after working in a major publishing house herself, and it had to be scandalous. It dealt with abortion, marital affairs, A LOT of drinking, smoking, sexual harassment in the work place and the whole “can women have it all?” question. In the age of Anne Marie Slaughter’s article, there is now certainly a quest amongst all women to juggle family and work at the same time, and this book touched on this topic at a time when women were expected to stay at home and people like Caroline were an anomaly.

It really can all be translated to the modern times when you think about how far we have come (or haven’t come).  Funnily enough, recent TV shows have used the book as an inspiration. Mad Men‘s Don Draper read the book in bed during the first season to learn about women and Lena Dunham has said repeatedly that her writers on Girls on HBO, another tale of four working women use the book as inspiration in the writing room.

My book club gathered last night to discuss the book, and as expected, it was a passionate discussion as ten successful, educated women talked about the women in the book.  Some of us have continued to work after having kids, some of us stepped out of the work force when our children were born.  It brought back memories of being treated unfairly in the office, getting overlooked for promotions and our early days of dating.  It’s a very good book club selection – the characters are so well drawn out over the course of 500 pages – and it pulls on every woman’s heartstrings and will get them to reflect on their own choices.

But more than anything, it’s a bold, honest look into life 60 years ago and it makes every woman think about how far we’ve come — or haven’t come, and I am beyond honored to be involved in the upcoming NYC production of:

the best of everything by rona jaffe

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  1. Thanks for posting this Holly. So excited to be working with you. So excited to hear the conversations that this play (and this book) are going to start!

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