Summer at Tiffany by Marjorie Hart
Published: 2007 by Avon
Do you remember the best summer of your life?
So begins this wonderful memoir of an era that could easily be viewed as the best of times and the worst of times (apologies to Charles Dickens).
It is 1945. At the end of their school year at the University of Iowa, Marjorie Jacobson and her closest friend, Marty Garrett, head to New York City for the summer with high hopes. Some of their sorority sisters have landed coveted jobs at the big department stores, and the girls want to join their ranks. Turned away from them all (“Come back in the fall” they are told), in a very bold move they decide to call at Tiffany, one of the hallmarks of luxury then as now.
Thanks to the still-ongoing war in the Pacific, young men are scarce for filling positions, and the girls are hired as pages for the store’s sales floor. It is not the most glamourous job, but for Marjorie and Marty it is the opportunity of a lifetime. They are provided dresses from Bonwit Teller (one of those much admired department stores) as uniforms, at times act as models of the jewelry in the showroom, and catch glimpses of celebrities.
Outside of work, the girls have an active social life; their apartment in the city is party central for their sorority sisters coming in for the weekend from the outer boroughs. And they meet new people as well that have the potential to change the course of their lives. Marjorie, an aspiring cellist, meets a Yale music professor at the home of the girls’ landlady who encourages her musical ambitions; and she meets a Navy sailor, Jim, who might be more than just a summer acquaintance.
What I truly loved about this book is that it re-created the time and the place so well. I often say that I was born in the wrong decade and would love to go back in time to live in the 1940s and this book put me back there. The innocence of these 20 year old girls — “Good Night!” “Judas Priest!” “Oh my gosh!” were the harshest phrases coming out of their mouths — and the simplicity of the era (despite the war raging overseas) is just wonderful to experience. It’s also entertaining to see how much prices and the value of money have changed over the years — who wouldn’t grab a dozen etched cocktail glasses from Tiffany for $12 these days?
I also loved the element of suspense contained in the memoir — at the end I found myself exclaiming “NO!” out loud, totally surprised at the outcome.