The Best Of Everything



Vivien Goldman on the importance of the steamy 1950s novel that was ahead of its time.

The Best of Everything was written by Rona Jaffe in 1958 and became an instant best seller. It was a novel about the travails of four working girls in the early 50s. The book was devoured by the Mad Men generation of women entering the world of work for the first time. They worked in publishing houses and for advertising agencies. They dreamed of leaving the typing pool behind and rising to the rank of copyist or editor. Jaffe crystallized the contradictions of this generation; ambitious and independent, yet constrained by their own traditional notions of femininity - desperate to marry, not to be 'left on the shelf, yet yearning for opportunity and independence. Jaffe's heroines reflected the real lives of these proto feminist American women. This programme looks at the importance of the 'Best of Everything' - reissued after Mad Men's lotharia Don Draper was spotted reading it in bed. Why did it speak so clearly to this generation? What of Jaffe herself - she never married - rejecting the road that so repulsed, yet beguiled her heroines. The Best of Everything is presented by the writer Vivien Goldman, who read the book as a girl in England.