Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Boston Girl - Anita Diamant

Release Date:
  December 9, 2014
Historical Fiction, Women’s fiction
322 pages
My Rating:

 About This Book (from Goodreads)
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Red Tent and Day After Night, comes an unforgettable coming-of-age novel about family ties and values, friendship and feminism told through the eyes of young Jewish woman growing up in Boston in the early twentieth century.

Addie Baum is The Boston Girl, born in 1900 to immigrant parents who were unprepared for and suspicious of America and its effect on their three daughters. Growing up in the North End, then a teeming multicultural neighborhood, Addie's intelligence and curiosity take her to a world her parents can't imagine - a world of short skirts, movies, celebrity culture and new opportunities for women. Addie wants to finish high school and dreams of going to college. She wants a career and to find true love.

Eighty-five-year-old Addie tells the story of her life to her twenty-two-year-old granddaughter, who has asked her "How did you get to be the woman you are today." She begins in 1915, the year she found her voice and made friends who would help shape the course of her life. From the one-room tenement apartment she shared with her parents and two sisters, to the library group for girls she joins at a neighborhood settlement house, to her first, disastrous love affair, Addie recalls her adventures with compassion for the naïve girl she was and a wicked sense of humor.

Written with the same attention to historical detail and emotional resonance that made Anita Diamant's previous novels bestsellers, The Boston Girl is a moving portrait of one woman’s complicated life in twentieth century America, and a fascinating look at a generation of women finding their places in a changing world.

How and Why I Acquired This Book
I picked up this book because it was on a recommended list from a blogger I follow and happened to be on the "just returned" shelf when I went to the library.  I read Diamant’s The Red Tent years ago and remembered finding it interesting.

Were my expectations met?
My expectations for this book were met.  It was an enjoyable read that was not too heavy but still contained themes of substance.

Prose & Dialogue
The flow of this book was ideal for a busy reader.  There are larger sections that consist of shorter chapters.  The sections are labeled with a date range while the chapters each have a sentence out of the chapter as the “title.”  I found it interesting to consider why each particular sentence was chosen to identify a given chapter. 

Because the chapters are shorter, it was easy to pick up and read a chapter or two in five minutes between other things going on through the day.

The story is told chronologically by Addie Baum to her granddaughter.  This gives the whole book a very conversational feel.  The engaging tone draws the reader in from the start.  The only drawback to this is that occasionally Addie breaks from the story of her history to address her granddaughter.  Each time that occurred, it was jarring. 

Characters & Points-of-View
The characters are all well-developed throughout the narrative.  The reader is really drawn into the story of Addie, her choices, and her life.  The secondary characters such as her family, mentors, and friends provide support to the story line through further developing the main character and providing points of conflict.

Story Structure & Pace
The conversational tone of the book draws you in right away.  There are many secondary characters as Addie goes throughout her life.  However, they are introduced at different times as people move in and out of her life.  So it isn’t overwhelming. 

I did feel like the ending was somewhat rushed.  Three chapters cover 1931 to 1985.  However, I understand the need for it as otherwise the book would be forever long.  And I think that Diamant does well at wrapping up all pertinent story lines.

Questionable Content
For the more conservative readers, there are a few swear words (none of the more vulgar ones) and allusions to sex – both married and not.  Also, the book and characters deal with life issues:  family members and conflict, death, disappointment, even attempted rape and abortion.  I believe these issue were addressed in an appropriate manner within the context of the story. 

·         Instantly engaging
·         Easy to read whether you have small or large chunks of time to read
·         Deals well with some challenging topics

·         Some swear language
·         The jarring moments when Addie comes out of the story to address her granddaughter

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