If you’re looking for a fun, quick, juicy read you can’t go wrong reading anything by Rona Jaffe. Ms. Jaffe is her generation’s Carrie Bradshaw. She chronicled the love lives of women coming of age in the prim and prudish 1950s where gay men were still on the down low, straight men were all cads and women were pretty much expected to go to college and the workplace to find a husband.
I must have read my mom’s copy of Class Reunion when I was a middle school, and at the time it was probably pretty salacious to my 13-year-old brain. By today’s standards where any kid can access porn from the Internet, Class Reunion is probably pretty tame stuff. However, it’s also an engrossing, entertaining and page-turning read.
Class Reunion follows four main characters during their years at Radcliffe and the years after they graduate. Anabel is a high-spirited and flirtatious Southern belle. Chris is the mousy intellectual. Emily is insecure and eager to please. And Daphne is the campus golden girl. However, all of them have their trials and tribulations like anybody else.
Anabel, Chris, Emily and Daphne pretty much arrive at Radcliffe with one thing in mind. Marriage! Sure, they all desire getting an education, but having available men at nearby Harvard is just an added bonus. A Harvard man? Be still my heart!
As I mentioned, Class Reunion begins in the 1950s, a time of white gloves and pearls. Women were supposed to aspire to be wives and mothers and they better be virgins on their wedding night! Of course, plenty of people had sexy time before their nuptials. And in Class Reunion a few characters indulge in carnal delights. Anabel, the Blanche Devereaux of the group, is one of the first to have sex, and is immediately branded a whore. And mousy Chris sleeps with Alexander who she later finds out is keeping a deep, dark secret. Emily falls in love with an aspiring doctor, and Daphne tries to hold on to her golden girl status hoping nobody will find out she has epilepsy.
All the women do find love as graduation appears. And they believe marriage, children and life in suburbia will be blissful. But of course, following a linear path so in-grained in the 1950s course doesn’t come to fruition. And the upheavals of the 1960s and 1970s definitely affect our heroines. Daphne gives birth to a child with Down ’s syndrome. Chris’ husband Alexander is gay. Anabel’s bestie, Max, is brutally murdered. And Emily realizes being a doctor’s wife isn’t exactly a picnic.
The Radcliffe grads meet once again at their 20th class reunion. They are older, maybe wiser and try to come to grips of how life has changed for themselves and the world around them.
Class Reunion is hardly groundbreaking. And the characters fit into stereotypical female archetypes found in everything from the Golden Girls to Sex in the City. In fact, while writing this I kept thinking to myself, “Okay, Chris is the Miranda. Emily is neurotic like Carrie. Daphne reminds me of Charlotte. And Anabel is totally Samantha.” Still, Class Reunion is the perfect retro chick-lit and a great trashy read.