Vintage Chick Lit

Did you know that chick lit predates the Shopaholic, the diary-writing nannies or the Prada-wearing Devil? This is a literary genre so old it can trace its roots all the way back to Jane Austen. Chick lit comes in many forms, but it almost always involves some combination of smart-but-struggling single girls, dating disasters, career catastrophes, a glamorous big city and cute shoes.

My passion for 1950s and 1960s chick lit doesn’t hold a candle to Carrie Bradshaw’s obsession with Manolo Blahnik pumps. But still, I love this fluffy stuff from an earlier era.

Here are a few that are still very readable and enjoyable to this day:

The Group by Mary McCarthy follows eight graduates of Vassar College’s Class of 1933 for several years after graduation. These gals struggle to be modern and liberated, unlike their mothers. McCarthy tackles plenty of hot button issues head-on, like birth control, lesbianism, breastfeeding and Communism.

The Best of Everything by Rona Jaffe centers on five working girls at a New York City publishing house in the early 1950s as they try to balance love and work. Surprisingly steamy and frank in parts, this book reads a bit like a novelization of Mad Men but with an emphasis on the office girls instead.

Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann chronicles the lives of three young women who move to New York to make it big in showbiz. Filled with plenty of sex, drugs and self-destruction, this is still a page-turner.

The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy is about the adventures (and misadventures) of an American girl living large in Paris in the 1950s. It’s romantic, funny, charming and British (not unlike our dear friend Bridget Jones).

For another take on the chick lit genre, read Kara’s post on “literary chick lit.”


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