From Publishers Weekly
Journalist Koppel found the inspiration for this book, based on her 2006 New York Times article, after discovering Florence Wolfsons diary in a Manhattan dumpster. Koppel eventually locates Florence in Florida and surprises the 90-year-old with this artifact from her past, which reveals her views on growing up as an intelligent, ambitious and creative teenager on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in the 1930s. Florence received the diary as a present on her 14th birthday. She recorded everything from her first kiss (with a boy) to her crush on actress Eva Le Galliene (which led her to question her sexuality) to her passion for writing and art. The diary acts as a window into a fascinating and privileged world, one that Koppel tries to recreate by writing in a novelistic way, using no more than snippets of text from Florences diary and, we can presume, multiple interviews as support. The result, which some readers may find frustrating and others rewarding, is that the original inspirationthe diary itselfbecomes no more than a starting point for a much larger story: that of Florences life.
In 2003, Koppel, a novice writer for the New York Times, stumbled upon an amazing discovery: the decades-old diary of a privileged teenaged Manhattanite penned between 1929 and 1934. Fascinated by entries detailing theater expeditions, shopping sprees, love interests, and grand ambitions, she put her journalistic skills to good use, tracking down the original owner of this faded and cracked red-leather treasure. Elated to discover 90-year-old Florence Wolfson alive, alert, and eager to share her memories of a bygone time and place, Koppel began interviewing Florence, interweaving the brief diary entries with more detailed personal anecdotes infused with the type of glamour and sophistication associated with a 1930s romantic comedy. After a front-page story appeared in the New York Times Sunday City section, interest in Florence’s fascinating story prompted the author to write a full-length book that works as both a biography and a spellbinding glimpse into a vanished era. --Margaret Flanagan