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The Boston Girl: A Novel Hardcover – December 9, 2014
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An Amazon Best Book of the Month, December 2014: There’s a lot that’s familiar about The Boston Girl. A tale of a plucky immigrant girl at the turn of the century, it addresses some of the same themes as other contemporary novels, including the author’s breakout The Red Tent: religion, feminism, the pull between tradition and the modern world. Here, our heroine is Addie Baum of Boston, now in her eighties telling the story of her life to her twentysomething granddaughter. And what a life it was: born in 1900, Addie survived the travails of aggressive greenhorn parents, world wars, abusive men and a flu epidemic to become a woman, finally, with a voice and a life of her own. What makes this story engaging is just that old-fashioned straightforwardness, as well as its perfect ear for the locutions of the time. Someone is “smiling to beat the band.” Addie “can really cut a rug.” You had to “kiss a lot of frogs before [you] found a prince.” No wonder this book rings so true: reading it feels like lazing away a winter afternoon with a beloved aging relative paging through a family scrapbook. – Sara Nelson
“Strong female ties form this story’s core. Through these relationships…Diamant brings to life a piece of feminism’s forgotten history [and reminds us] there will always be those who try to prescribe what you should be. Good friends are those who help you find out for yourself.” (Good Housekeeping)
“Diamant infuses [The Boston Girl] with humor and optimism, illuminating a wrenching period of American progress through the eyes of an irresistible heroine.” (People)
"A graphic, page-turning portrait of immigrant life in the early twentieth century...an inspirational read.” (Booklist)
“The story of every immigrant and the difficulties of adapting to and accepting an unfamiliar culture." (Huffington Post)
"Enjoyable fiction with a detailed historical backdrop." (Kirkus)
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And it is absolutely delightful!
I think this book hit me on two emotional levels. For one thing, Addie Baum reminds me of my grandmother. Sort of. On the surface, there probably isn't that much in common between Addie, a Jewish girl growing up in the North End of Boston, and my grandmother, a Norwegian girl growing up in small town North Dakota, other than they are about the same age. But, Addie reminded me of what I always pictured my grandmother to be as a young woman--spunky and ahead of her time.
The other tie for me was that this book takes place in Boston and I lived there for 3 years. While I don't miss the city, it is fun to read about place with which I'm familiar. Diamant vividly creates early 20th century Boston and it was great fun for me to take a trip back in time with her.
This book reads exactly like what it is: a grandmother telling her granddaughter about her life and what shaped her into the woman she became. There are several times in the book where Addie makes asides, telling her granddaughter not to tell her mother something or, well, hinting about things that happened in her life that probably wouldn't be proper to talk about (her granddaughter, as you discover at the end of the book, gave up the hinting and just lays at all out--I almost snorted tea through my nose when that little bit came up!).
This was one of those books that I just could not put down--I plowed through it in a little over a day, which is pretty fast for this mother of young kids. Yet, I still kept scratching my head about how this was so different from Diamant's The Red Tent. I guess it is the measure of a skilled author to be able to write in such different voices.
I highly recommend this book to, well, just about anyone. Just be warned...if you think you'll be reading something along the lines of The Red Tent, you'll need to adjust your expectations (trust me, it will be worth it!)
The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant is an emotionally moving and gripping story of a Jewish grandmother, born in the early 1900s, surviving life in Boston in the early 20th century during the women's movement--told with compassion and humor for an engaging multi-generational historical fiction.
At the beginning of the novel Addie Baum, now eighty-five years old, is asked by her twenty-two year old granddaughter, Ave how she became the woman she is today. Addie begins telling her poignant and honest story growing up with unhappy Russian immigrant parents, and life with her sisters. (Wow, I wish my mom or grandmother would tell me these stories, as when I ask, they do not get into any of these juicy details)!
Addie had a poor and rough childhood after their family came to America to live in Boston. Things changed when she was a teen with some more positive role models, when she joined a library group which was held at a neighborhood settlement house. We learn about her sisters and a young's girl's aspirations and dreams, as her older sister, Betty was constantly fighting with their parents and moves out to become a saleswomen at a department store. (Unheard of in this era, as they were more concerned about getting married, versus going to college or having a career)
Addie learns about Rockport Lodge and goes on vacation at the inn for young girls in a seaside town and is nurtured by Miss Chevalier, where she forms a close friendship with Filomena (loved her) for life. Filomena demonstrated all the new freedom and liberation in store for women with lots of fun stories.
Over the years, Addie experienced tragedies and joys, as she makes her way to womanhood, finding her way from a secretarial job to a newspaper, where she works her way to columnist and finds true love with a labor lawyer, Aaron Metsky, and a career as a social worker and a teacher.
Told from Addie's POV, The Boston Girl was so much fun, as the descriptions and settings were so vivid, and colorful, making you feel as though you will sitting by the fire, chatting with a cup of tea and a friend; as we see a young girl blossom into a wise woman and her personal journey through the controversial and new and exciting times for women in this era.
A beautiful relationship and special moments between a special grandmother and granddaughter, with intimate meaningful moments of love, work, and relationships. A huge fan of multi-generational stories of women where we learn the secrets of our grandmothers and generations past. This is my first book by Diamant and look forward to reading more, as have heard so much about The Red Tent and Day After Night. Highly recommend for women of all ages!
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Linda Lavin, you gotta be kidding me, was my immediate response to Lois when she picked out this Audio Book for us to listen to in the car.Read more
Historical non fiction with many lessons to learn in life