How Rona Jaffe came to write her bestseller The Best of Everything (published 1958) is almost as dramatic as the book itself.
The young Jaffe had recently quit her first job at Fawcett Publications to write full time. She had a few stories published in national publications but was still living at home with her parents.
While visiting a college friend, who worked for the editor-in-chief of Simon & Schuster, she met Jerry Wald, a famous Hollywood producer. Jaffe mentioned that she was an aspiring novelist. Wald, who was looking for property to option said, “I’m looking for a modern-day Kitty Foyle. A book about working girls in New York.”
Curious, Jaffe read Kitty Foyle (© 1939) and thought it was “dumb,” and clearly the author (male) didn’t know anything about young working women. She however did. She had worked in an office, and she knew the real story–the stuff no one was writing about in the 1950s-unwanted pregnancies, affairs with married men, sexual harassment, boorish boyfriends, and pay disparity. When she ran into Wald some months later, she told him she was going to write that book, and he promised to produce it.
She wrote the 775- page manuscript in five months on a manual typewriter. It was an instant bestseller for Simon & Schuster. The following year, the movie was produced by Jerry Wald, who had been aggressively promoting the book before Jaffe even completed it.
Jaffe said one of the most surprising things about the book was that it prompted so many women to move to New York to work. She had written The Best of Everything as a cautionary tale. But as she says in the foreword to the recent edition, “But of course an exciting life, even if very difficult, is better than a dull one, even if it changes you forever.”
The Best of Everything follows the lives of several young women who work for a New York publishing house. Ivy League graduate Caroline is hoping to be promoted from typist to editor, farm girl April reinvents herself as a glamour girl, and actress Gregg wants more than an ingénue role.
The book is a page-turner—funny, poignant, a bit melodramatic, and surprisingly (or perhaps not) relatable sixty years later.
What Other Reviewers Say
New York World-Telegram: “It will ring a bell with anyone who has lived in New York at a time of life when the city looks like a vast crackerjack box of amorous possibilities. It has mountains of merit.”
“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.” –Buzzfeed
Who Wrote It
Rona Jaffe (1931-2005) was a native New Yorker and the author of sixteen books, including the bestselling Class Reunion, Family Secrets, The Last Chance, and Mr. Right is Dead.