Sunday, May 5, 2019

Park Avenue Summer by Renee Rosen

Title: Park Avenue Summer
Author: Renee Rosen
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: April 30, 2019

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.

“The girls! My girls. Your girls. The new Cosmo reader is a young, vibrant, single woman. She’s career minded and driven. She’s sexy and fun spirited. Even a bit naughty. And I know her better than anyone because I was that girl.”

What an interesting story Renee Rosen brings to life! It's a piece of historical fiction who has Helen Gurley Brown as the protagonist. For most of us, she's a name we have heard before but we might not have realized how important she became to the women in the sixties.

In 1965, Helen Gurley Brown becomes the new Editor-in-Chief of Cosmopolitan. Helen the author of Sex and the Single Girl novel has already created quite a stir but when she lands the position at the had-seen-better-days-magazine, many people are unhappy. Multiple employees (men for the most part) quit instantly and some others over the next few weeks after she takes over. From the novel, we learn that Helen was working with a skeleton crew and a very tight budget. Everyone was sure she was going to fail and plenty of leaks were dispersed about what she had in the works for the July and August edition of Cosmo that year. The Hearst executives didn't support her. She was too progressive for them. She wanted to speak to young women through the magazine.

“Helen Gurley Brown is all for a woman having a career.”

In order to tell us Helen's story, Renee Rosen brings us, Alice Weiss. A young woman who has moved from Ohio to NYC. Her mother used to live in NYC when she was alive. Alice wants to feel closer to her mother and she knows that in NYC she can be. Alice has the dream of becoming a photographer.

Thanks to a friend of her mother's, Elaine Sloan, Alice lands the job as Helen's secretary. Alice might disagree with some of the things Helen says but for the most part, Alice believes in her boss. A woman who for the most part is underestimated by many.

At work, Alice meets Erik Masterson and then, later on, she meets Christopher Mack, a photographer who has an eye for things and who wants to help Alice achieve her dreams. Alice realizes that both men are quite different and she's attracted to both. What does a girl do?

What I like the most about the book is the clear portrayal of Helen. She was a thin woman who ate very little. She broke pencils when she was under stress. A woman who loved to cry as an outlet and who asked for the support of her husband, David Brown, the famous producer of many movies like The Sting, Jaws, Driving Miss Daisy, Cocoon and Chocolat (to name a few), whenever she felt down. 
“Get me David.”

She was also a pioneer in fighting for "her girls". This is what she called the women she wanted the magazine to target. "My Girls" were women who were independent, women who were interested in their own careers, their own value and their sexuality. Women who might marry someday but who were enjoying the single life for now. In a world where women in their twenties were considered old or not marriage material, Helen was telling them, their life was just beginning.

“She’s smart, independent, always striving for more,” 
“She’s bold and daring. She loves men and she loves sex.”

I appreciate Mrs. Rosen's portrayal of Helen's life. Very interesting indeed. After finishing, I went to look for pictures of the July's cover with the model Renata. I also looked at pictures of Helen and Helen with David. They seem to have lived a long and loving life together.

"She truly cared about her girls."

Cliffhanger: No

4/5 Fangs

A complimentary copy was provided by Berkley via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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