New York, 1963.
Fashion, music and attitudes are changing, and there's nowhere in in the world more exciting. Sherry, Donna, Allison and Pamela have each landed a dream internship at Gloss; America's number-one fashion magazine.
Each girl is trying to make her mark on New York and each finds herself thrown head-first into the buzzing world of celebrity, high-end fashion and gossip. But everything isn't as glamorous as it seems - secrets from the past threaten to shatter their dreams.
They're finding out that romance in New York is as unpredictable and thrilling as the city itself.
At first I thought Gloss was going to be a bubbly, carefree, sugar sweet story about four young girls fresh out of high school working as interns in a New York magazine and enjoying all the glitz and glamour entailed. However I was surprised to find that the story really made me think about women's place in society, both in the '60s and nowadays, and women’s struggle for independence and a life outside of marriage. The four main characters, Sherry, Donna, Pamela and Allison, each went through personal crises that changed the way they looked at their lives, themselves and other people. They changed and grew throughout the story, with the overriding message highlighting that you should follow your own dreams and not those of society. It was a little obvious what message the story was heading towards, but I enjoyed it all the same and found Marilyn Kaye’s writing to be faultless and flowing.
Each of the girls had their distinct personalities and views on how women should act, and the story was written from each of their perspectives to give a better insight into their attitudes and the ups and downs they went through. When the narrative first changed perspectives I was a little thrown, but soon got into the swing of the different girls' voices. Sherry was my favourite because she was down to earth, friendly, and humble. Yet she grew in confidence and started to take control of her own life in a positive way. Donna's was the only narrative that showed her in the past before coming to Gloss, but I think this was pivotal in understanding why she was so shy and withdrawn. Allison, the rebel, tried a little too hard to fit into an alternative lifestyle, and Pamela had some very forthright and radical views on relationships and affairs which at first didn’t endear me to her. I did like all the girls though, and the differences between them showed different backgrounds, traditions and the changing times.
The thing I had to keep reminding myself when reading Gloss was that the 1960s was a very different time for women. The traditions and expectations of marriage and motherhood, and the idea of sex before marriage being sinful, was very common. However things were starting to change and you can see this in the change of attitudes and behaviours of the four young girls. I was shocked and gobsmacked by some men's behaviour, that Sherry just wanted to get married and could only see men and relationships in this way, and that smart Allison was going out with the most obnoxious man ever yet she fell at his feet. I did almost thrown the book down in disgust, but after reminding myself that things thankfully have changed for the better I continued reading and admired Marilyn Kaye for exploring perspectives that today might be seen as sexist, backwards or chauvinistic, but actually we can probably all relate to in some small way. I think it is thanks to strong women like Caroline, a managing editor and woman struggling to work in a high ranking position and get the same respect that men do, as well as the young interns making decisions contrary to want society expects, that has given us the freedom and society we have today.
With an interest in publishing, I enjoyed seeing the girls in their roles as interns and was pleased that the job mixed in more mundane tasks as well as the glamorous ones like going to fashion shows and interviewing celebrities. It made it seem more realistic rather than overly sensational and fake. The New York setting was also really interesting, especially given that all the girls came from very different backgrounds and responded to the big city in different ways and wanted to try out new things.
Having enjoyed Gloss, I will definitely look for other books by Marilyn Kaye, although perhaps as an occasional holiday read. Not just a sugary sweet read, Gloss delves into the struggles that women faced during the 1960s and how four girls try to find their own way in the changing society.
Try it for yourself: Amazon (paperback) | Amazon (kindle) | Amazon UK (paperback) | Amazon UK (kindle)