Sunday, May 19, 2019
The Boston Girl
Posted by JaneGS
I've read a couple of books by Anita Diamant (The Red Tent, and The Last Days of Dogtown), but her most recent, The Boston Girl, is by far my favorite. I listened to the audio version read by Linda Lavin, who was absolutely perfect doing the first-person narration.
Addie Balm is the daughter of Jewish immigrants, born in 1900 in Boston. She relates her life story focusing on her teen years and early twenties, basically from the onset of puberty to her marriage.
I loved hearing about life in Boston in the first decades of the 20th century, particularly the Saturday Club, where daughters of various immigrant groups came together to recreate, relax, form friendships, and try out leadership roles. I also loved learning about Rockport Lodge, where young women could spend a week relaxing and learning about nature and the world outside of the city. I read an article about the book and it seems that Rockport Lodge was the inspiration behind the novel, which makes perfect sense to me.
And, of course, I loved hearing about Addie's work as first a typist, then a copy editor, then a writer for a magazine. One of my favorite books is James Thurber's The Years With Ross, about Harold Ross, editor of The New Yorker. While the publication Addie worked for is no New Yorker, the vibe of the newsroom brought back fond memories of Thurber's memoir.
The characters in The Boston Girl are marvelous--the contrast between Addie's two older sisters, Betty and Celia, is interesting to think about--both were immigrants like their parents--one embraced the new world and the other couldn't. Addie's parents, her brother-in-law, and especially her friends are complex, interesting, flawed, and very real. And then there are her mentors--the women who invest their time and money into helping younger women find a way out of poverty and powerlessness so they can live rich, fulfilling lives. Addie's own mother was an anchor, and not in a good way, but Addie found surrogate mothers who showed her that she had talent and worth and helped her at key points in her life.
Finally, the historical events and how they shaped lives were fascinating to read about--the sweat shops, the Great War, the Spanish flu, prohibition--they all are a factor in Addie's life.
Wonderful book--one of my favorites so far this year. It is full of energy and hope, tempered with pragmatism. Addie is a heroine that reminds me of Francie Nolan, of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.