Book review: Park Avenue Summer

I enjoyed White Collar Girl, an earlier Renée Rosen novel I read, so I was interested when I saw Park Avenue Summer. This is the story of 1960s Manhattan, and a new generation of young women working to carve out lives and careers for themselves in the Big Apple.

Alice Weiss is a young woman from the midwest who is still suffering from the loss of her mother, a beautiful and sophisticated ex-model who left New York to marry, but never truly set roots in the suburbs of Ohio. Alice has grown up with her mother’s glamorous tales of life in Manhattan. When Alice’s fiancé breaks off their relationship, she decides to save up her money to move to New York, knowing her mother would have been proud of her.

The job search isn’t particularly successful until she meets Helen Gurley Brown, the newly hired editor of Cosmopolitan magazine. A mutual acquaintance helps Alice to obtain a position as Gurley Brown’s secretary, at a time of upheaval for the magazine. Although it’s a far cry from the photography career she aspires to, the position places Alice on the front line of the radical changes bubbling under the surfaces of the editorial offices.

Not everyone wants Gurley Brown to succeed, and the new editor’s shocking ideas for transforming the stodgy magazine into a how-to guide for the young, sexually liberated, and career-minded sixties women shake up quite a few executives and advertisers who do not buy into Gurley Brown’s desire to create a generation of Cosmo girls.

This is a fun read, well researched, with well-developed characters and a great sense of setting. Fun to be a fly on the wall at the Cosmo offices in the 60s.

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