After Marcel Proust and Jorge Luis Borges, Rona Jaffe is a welcoming change of pace for the brain. What makes The Best of Everything so appealing is the setting in time and place: New York City, publishing house, 1950s. Given a new lease of life by TV’s Mad Men, Rona Jaffe’s 1958 novel is a timeless tale of young women looking for love and rewarding work in New York. Yes, this is the original Sex and the City.
The book is now enjoying a new life beyond the secondhand book stores thanks to the cult TV show Mad Men. In season one, the show’s main character, the advertising genius Don Draper, was seen reading The Best of Everything in bed—the better to learn about young American women and their hearts’ desires—with the result that, soon after, in the US, Penguin republished the book.
The women in The Best of Everything, who work at a New York publishing house, struggle to choose a new way of living. Their emotional lives of are beautifully drawn. After the flop of The Receptionist: An Education at The New Yorker by Janet Groth, I’m excited to have discovered a book more substantial and well-drawn. At this moment I cannot put it down.