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Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page 42.
- Review Date: 2007-01-08
- Reviewer: Staff
At the age of 82, Hart, a professional cellist, recalls 1945, when she and her best friend, Marty, students at the University of Iowa, spent the summer in Manhattan, in this pleasant but slight memoir. Failing to obtain work at Lord & Taylor, the pair, self-described as long-limbed, blue-eyed blondes, were hired at Tiffany's—the first female floor sales pages, delivering packages to the repair and shipping department, for $20 a week. Hart details their stringent budget ("1. Two nickels for subway. 2. Sandwich at the Automat: 15 cents") and describes, somewhat breathlessly, what a thrill it was to see such luminaries as Marlene Dietrich and Judy Garland shop at the fabled store. Her romance with a midshipman, the combat death of her cousin, the news of the dropping of the first atomic bomb and a vivid account of the celebration in Times Square after Japan's surrender convey a sense of the WWII era, but without adding much illumination. She does, however, evoke New York City as seen through the eyes of two innocent smalltown girls. 16 pages of b&w photos and illus. (Apr.)
Tiffany charmer is pure sterling
Every once in a while a book comes along that is everything one wants it to be; such is the case with Marjorie Hart's Summer at Tiffany. Hart's infectious telling of her wide-eyed introduction to New York City during the summer of 1945 is charming and fun. She begins by reciting the names of the department stores along Fifth Avenue, some now only legends, as seen from the top of a double-decker bus: "Bergdorf Goodman. Bonwit Teller. Cartier. De Pinna. Saks Fifth Avenue. Peck & Peck." Hart and her best friend and sorority sister, Marty, have come east with meager savings and big ambitions: to score a job in one of those stores. They already possess Vogue-inspired wardrobes and a Manhattan address and soon they'll become Tiffany's first-ever female pages (in-house couriers)wearing a uniform of "the most perfect day dresses" Hart has ever seen, "shirtwaist style in an aqua-blue silk Jersey" and from Bonwit's no less.
Summer at Tiffany offers a rare behind-the-scenes peek at the iconic store, where Marlene Dietrich, newlyweds Judy Garland and Vincente Minnelli, a steady stream of the 400 and "Old Man Tiffany" himself (Charles Lewis Tiffany II) come through the doors. But, of course Hart's summer is not all work; she writes of lunches at the Automat, her first taxi ride and Stork Club visit, and of not jitterbugging ("Gene Krupa's drumsticks were flying, and he was chewing gum faster than the beat."). Though the war is not the main story here, it is nevertheless always present, in nylon shortages and store closures, oh-so dateable servicemen, sad news from home, the B-25 flying into the fogbound Empire State Building and, finally, VJ Day in Times Square.
Part of Summer at Tiffany's charm lies in the intersection of the girls' youthful spirit and the sophistication of the city (reminiscent of Rona Jaffe's The Best of Everything and Truman Capote's Breakfast at Tiffany's). Equally compelling is that Hart was able to recreate the essence of that summer decades later, developing the book at the urging of her grandchildren and then having it discovered during a writers conference.
Alas, MiChelle Jones has never purchased anything at Tiffany & Co.