Book Title and Author: Park Avenue Summer by Renee Rosen
Publication Date and Publisher: April 30, 2019 by Berkley
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 368 pages
Buy on Amazon.com
Date Read: April 21, 2019 (e-arc)
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 couldn’t wait until my mom’s Cosmopolitan magazine showed up in the mailbox every month when I was a teenager, and I always hoped that I’d get to it before she did. It was so much more fascinating than Seventeen magazine, and I read it for two decades. Oh yes, I was a longtime Cosmo girl and have long admired Helen Gurley Brown for revolutionizing women’s magazines when she took over as editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan. So when I knew that Park Avenue Summer was about the first few months of Gurley Brown’s rise as editor-in-chief, I knew I had to read it! It didn’t disappoint at all and even though I was on vacation in Italy when I read it, I picked it up every spare` minute that I had. A page-turning, empowering, fun read!
This is a wonderful book and Renee Rosen puts you right in the center of New York City during the summer of 1965 when Helen Gurley Brown takes over as editor-in-chief of Cosmo to the dismay of the Hearst executives who want the failing magazine, to well, fail or at least to stay the sweet, womanly, innocent ladies magazine that it has always been.
Although the book follows Brown’s first few months at Cosmo, especially focusing on the July issue and cover (do yourself a favor and Google that cover just to see this oh, so shocking cover that caused such turmoil back then because it’s so tame for today), the story is told through the eyes of young Alice Weiss, a young woman who comes from the midwest hoping to land her dream job as a photographer. Instead, she becomes Gurley Brown’s secretary and is the perfect narrator for this story!
I loved Alice as an MC. It was fascinating to see her explore her own hopes and dreams as an independent, single girl in NYC in 1965, take Gurley Brown’s advice about men, sex, and her career and also hear from her the inside scoop about the changes Gurley Brown is making at Cosmo. Believe me, the scandal, mayhem, and deception that ensues as Gurley Brown shakes up the magazine with her revolutionary ideas are shocking. I had to remind myself while reading that it was the 60s and most men expected women to just smile sweetly and look for a husband, definitely not be career-oriented or talk about sex!
But times are changing men, so it’s time to get onboard! The mid-60s were the heyday of feminist icons such as Gloria Steinham and Betty Friedan and although Gurley Brown’s message was a bit different, she still gave women a voice and the expectation to demand more and expect more than ever before. She wanted the magazine redefined for “her girls”—the young, single, career-oriented women who wanted to read about the things they cared about like fashion trends, careers, being single, and sex because Gurley Brown knew the sexual liberation had already started.
I loved this book and felt like Rosen did an outstanding job writing about the era, capturing her characters, and nailing the plot. Dazzling historical fiction and one of my favorite historical fiction reads of the year! Definitely grab a copy or add to your TBR!
**Thank you Edelweiss and Berkley for an ARC to read in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.**