Books: All the Sad Young Women

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THE BEST OF EVERYTHING (437 pp.)— Rona Jaffe—Simon & Schuster ($4.50).

The principal message of this first novel by 26-year-old Radcliffe Graduate Rona Jaffe: heaven no longer protects the working girl, and the corner drugstore is not always successful either. Author Jaffe's working girls are all the sad young women who splash to Manhattan like tender young salmon, desperately eager to find a man and spawn, in wedlock but not necessarily in Westchester. In the meantime they take office jobs and go cummings' Cambridge ladies one worse by living two to a furnished soul.

It would have been too much to ask that Author Jaffe produce a second Sister Carrie—it would also have been too much Sister Carrie—and probably will do no lasting harm that what she has written instead is a naughtied-up Little Women. The girls work in a publishing house, whose name is pointedly disguised (the

New York-born author worked in one too). There is flighty April Morrison a little breath of bedspring from Colorado, done in by a dastard who tools a white Jaguar. He refuses to marry her, but—Author Jaffe admits New York men are not wholly vile—he recognizes that there are some occasions on which a Jaguar is not proper. He shows up to escort April to the New Jersey abortionist in a rented, chauffeured Cadillac.

Then there is serious little Gregg. She raids her ex-boy-friend's garbage can. broods lovingly over pieced-out evidence of his new romance. A different sort is sensible, prim-and-proper Caroline; she likes older men. Halfway through the book she sights one of them, a gin-rickety, fascinatingly debauched religion editor: "Caroline could not help remembering the feelings she had had about him at the other party . . . and as his eyes met hers she realized he was thinking about it too. For an instant the spark arose between them again, and her heart began to pound. She was filled with a sweetness mixed with sadness. Mike leaned down and kissed her very lightly on the lips. 'Merry Christmas,' he said softly."

Without noticeable softness, Miss Jaffe's publisher says that her novel's movie rights were sold for $100,000 before publication—almost as much as the haul made by Peyton Place. Merry Christmas.