The Boston Girl is a light story about Addie Baum, a young girl growing up in Boston during the early 1900s. The book begins in 1985 as Addie tells her story to her adult granddaughter, Ava. It has a casual feel, as if the two were sitting in Addie’s living room and this makes it easy to read.
Addie’s parents are Jewish immigrants from Russia and they struggle with the usual challenges of earning a living, assimilating into a new country and raising three daughters. Addie is the youngest daughter and an independent thinker. Her oldest sister Betty has boldly left home to find some fun. Middle sister Celia is frail and troubled and their mother frets she will never find a husband. Addie wants more out of life. She is smart, loves to read and continuously locks horns with her mother over what’s proper and expected for a young teenage girl.
She finds her way by connecting with prominent female do-gooders who help pave her way and introduce her to the world of literature, education and career-oriented women.
The Boston Girl is an adult story, but it has a simple presentation and vocabulary and reads more like young historical fiction. The characters are a little plain and, even though there are many adult situations and some innuendo, many of the major players are wholesome helpers, making it seem as if Addie is being protected by a guardian angel. And while Addie’s love life has its ups and downs, it’s not much of a surprise to see her meet the man of her dreams.
There is plenty of heartbreak in The Boston Girl, but the chapters are short and the characters lack a certain depth that would make these events realistic. World War I and the 1918 flu pandemic wreak havoc, but these references have an over and done feel and seem to be forgotten in the next chapter.
I enjoyed reading The Boston Girl, but I was expecting something different. It was mildly interesting, with many references to Boston, historical events and important social causes, especially women’s rights, education and child labor laws. But for me, the story’s preachy feel made it a little boring. And although it’s a small thing, a crack about Ronald Reagan and right-wingers at the end seems contrived and out of place. The author includes this reference as part of a fast-forward storyline conclusion. Perhaps she was just trying to add some political reference. To me it seems more like her own opinion, a risky move.
The Boston Girl was not my favorite, but I loved The Red Tent and I’m willing to try another of Diamant’s novels. Anyone have a recommendation?
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