I am not even sure how I came across this book now, I think it was an Amazon recommendation based on my purchase history. Oh, Amazon, you know me so well! I feel I have been so lucky lately with some really great reads. In August, there was only 1 out of 10 that I really didn’t get on with. Park Avenue Summer was actually my last August read, and what a way to finish off the month! I had quite a few thoughts on this one, so make sure you check out the full review after the plot section.
Park Avenue Summer by Renee Rosen
Genre: Historical Fiction
BUG Rating: 4/5
Overall: I totally lost myself in this book – I loved the premise, a strong woman about to conquer the man’s world of 1965. Helen Gurley Brown, the first ever editor in chief for Cosmopolitan, had a new vision for the failing magazine. She was determined, despite the men around her wanting her to fail. The book was told from the point of view of HGB’s assistant, Alice (fictional character). I absolutely loved the writing style, it flowed so easily that it made for such an immersive and addictive read and I am definitely going to be checking out some of her other books for sure.
This girl doesn’t care about gelatine and casseroles or gardening or fluoride. She cares about love. About getting a promotion at work. About being desirable and making the most of what she’s got.
Mad Men meets The Devil Wears Prada as Renée Rosen draws readers into the glamour of 1965 New York City and Cosmopolitan Magazine, where a brazen new Editor-in-Chief–Helen Gurley Brown–shocks America by daring to talk to women about all things off limits…
New York City is filled with opportunities for single girls like Alice Weiss who leaves her small Midwestern town to chase her big city dreams and unexpectedly lands the job of a lifetime working for Helen Gurley Brown, the first female Editor-in-Chief of a then failing Cosmopolitan Magazine.
Nothing could have prepared Alice for the world she enters as editors and writers resign on the spot, refusing to work for the woman who wrote the scandalous bestseller, Sex and the Single Girl. While confidential memos, article ideas, and cover designs keep finding their way into the wrong hands, someone tries to pull Alice into this scheme to sabotage her boss. But Alice remains loyal and becomes all the more determined to help Helen succeed. As pressure mounts at the magazine and Alice struggles to make her way in New York, she quickly learns that in Helen Gurley Brown’s world, a woman can demand to have it all.
I’ve come to love historical fictions and this was right up my street; quirky strong female pioneers in a time when these women would have been rare finds. The book, set in 1965, centres around Helen Gurley Brown, the first ever female editor in chief at Cosmopolitan magazine. I didn’t know much about HGB to be honest, so I did spend some time on google to see how accurate she was portrayed in this book – Rosen also spent a great deal of time getting to know HGB through her closest friend and apparently, that was reflected in the book. What I loved: obviously the characters. I totally admire HGB for what she did in pushing boundaries and forcing the world to see a woman could turn around a failing magazine and make it a huge success at a time when this would have been seen as something outrageous to consider. What I didn’t like so much, but having debriefed this morning with a friend who has just finished reading this too, I understand it a bit more. Helen does at times come across as overly emotional, but I guess most of this is done in her own private space, away from the men who are trying to make her fail. So, I guess that does show a great strength, but what about the constant use of her husband and his name in order to bail her out? That kind of seems against the female future in a man’s world she was trying to drive. And this is in no way a criticism to Rosen’s book or story, just some thoughts around HGB. Back to things I loved …. Alice’s character was pure fiction and I loved the passion and drive injected into her – I think there were elements to her story I would have like to have seen more of, especially that of her relationship with Christopher. I felt the introduction of some of her family was unnecessary/out of place and I wasn’t sure what value it brought to the overall story. In terms of the writing itself, I found it fantastic. I loved how easily it flowed and just made it such an immersive and addictive read and I am definitely going to be checking out some of her other books for sure.