First Edition published in 2007
New York, NY
"Do you remember the best summer of your life?" For Marjorie Hart nee' Jacobson it was New York City and the year was 1945.
"Marjorie Jacobson and her best friend, Marty Garrett, arrive fresh from the Kappa house at the University of Iowa hoping to find summer positions as shopgirls. Turned away from the top department stores, they miraculously find jobs as pages at Tiffany & Co., becoming the first women to ever work on the sales floor -- a diamond-filled day job replete with Tiffany blue shirtwaist dresses from Bonwit Teller's -- and the envy of all their friends. Hart takes us back to the magical time when she and Marty rubbed elbows with the rich and famous; pinched pennies to eat at the Automat; experienced nightlife at La Martinique; and danced away their weekends with dashing midshipmen. Between being dazzled by Judy Garland's honeymoon visit to Tiffany, celebrating VJ Day in Times Square, and mingling with Café society, she fell in love, learned unforgettable lessons, made important decisions that would change her future, and created the remarkable memories she now shares with all of us." (Summary courtesy of HarperCollins)
Once again I have Carrie at Reading To Know to thank for my learning of this book. Interestingly enough I don't remember seeing it although it's only been out for three years. It was through Carrie's review at 5MinutesforBooks that I discovered this delightful little read and first decided to add it to my own reading list. I call it a "little read" because it is physically small measuring roughly 7" x 5" and running just over 250 pages. (It is the perfect size for a summer read or a on-the-go-stick-it-in-your-purse read, but I digress.) It also feels little because it reads more like a light-hearted short story than it does a memoir.
Honestly I haven't read a more delightful memoir in some time, not to say the ones I've read haven't been good, they have -- it's just this one had something extra special about it. For starters, I've always been partial to stories about life during the early to mid 20th century, so it isn't surprising that I was quickly swept up into the story. At one point about a quarter of the way into the book I found myself holding my breath. I realized that I was waiting for that proverbial "other shoe to drop" at which point something bad would happen to the protagonist in the story. After all, isn't that what happens in most novels? Oh, but wait. I'd then remember that this is not a novel. This was real life. This was "the best summer" of her life and I started breathing again and relax.
I really enjoyed the sweetness to the story, Mrs. Hart is a wonderful story teller. I also enjoyed the fascinating knowledge one reaps from reading about life in a time and place foreign to oneself. Examples reach beyond the celebrity sightings of Judy Garland and Marlene Dietrich, yes those were fascinating, but I also loved learning what life was like living in the Big Apple at a time when lunch could be bought for less $0.15 at the Automat; when ladies wore gloves and hats as part of their daily attire; and when the tallest building was the Empire State Building where it was rumored on a clear day you could see five states at once. (I should note that the Empire State Building held this status until 1972 when construction on the World Trade Center was finished. It has since gained back the status after the collapse on 9/11/01).
Another aspect that I loved so much about this book was how music played its own part in the story. Yes, there was dancing, there was singing, but there was also Marjorie's love for music and more specifically the cello. Leading up to her summer in New York City, Marjorie had been studying music at the University of Iowa with a focus on the cello, but during that busy summer of 1945 she wasn't able to give much time to practicing. Still the cello was a big part of her personality and it eventually found its way into her busy life and this story. I was excited to find that Mrs. Hart was a cellist as I love the cello. Beginning when I was 13 I played the cello all through Jr. High and High School and for a couple years after college. I never made a career of it like Mrs. Hart, who eventually became a professional and played in the San Diego Symphony, but reading Summer At Tiffany brought back some pleasant memories of my own.
Summer At Tiffany is definitely worth adding to your reading list. Copies are definitely a bargain online if you purchase through Amazon (new copies run just under $6 and used are less than $4 for hardcover copies). I was very surprised to find none of my local libraries had a copy, so I was left with the option to buy or request through Inter Library Loan. I have to say for the price they are online, if you cannot find a copy through your library it's worth the few dollars for this gem of a read.
Thank you Carrie for telling me about this book. I wish I had found it three years ago!
Official Website for: Summer At Tiffany
Summer At Tiffany (Audio Book, unabridged)
Marjorie Hart's Author Page - HarperCollins Publishers
Smith Magazine's May 2007 Interview with Marjorie Hart
Marjorie Hart's Essay: Kappa Days
Tiffany & Co.