Florence Adler Swims Forever
I decided to read this right away after announcing it was on my radar. What I didn’t know then is that Beanland’s debut historical novel is based on a true family story about the author’s great-great-aunt, Florence Lowenthal.
Florence Lowenthal grew up in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and dreamed of swimming the English Channel. Although a strong swimmer, she drowned in the summer of 1929 off the coast of Atlantic City. At the time, Florence’s sister was pregnant and in the hospital on bedrest, after losing a baby boy. Their mother insisted they keep Florence’s death a secret until after the baby was born. Beanland used these events to write her story. She created additional characters to add historical content.
In Beanland’s story, the Adlers are a Jewish family and Florence is the younger daughter. Her older sister, Fannie is in the hospital on bedrest. During this time, her daughter, seven-year-old Gussie Feldman, lives with the grandparents while Fannie’s husband, Isaac, who works for the Adler family business, stays at their apartment. A young woman named Anna Epstein also lives with the family. Joseph Adler has sponsored her to come to America from Germany, to escape Hitler’s alarming restrictions on Jews living in Germany. Anna’s parents hope to join their daughter, but they face a multitude of nonsensical requirements and time is running out.
Like the real Lowenthal mother, Esther Adler insists on keeping Florence’s death quiet so that Fannie will deliver a healthy baby. During these months, we learn about other family secrets, especially between Joseph and Esther, and the reason Anna has come to stay with them. Isaac Feldman also plays an important part of the story. Beanland throws in a nice romance as well as a few moral dilemmas.
One of the best parts of the book is its setting and the author’s description of Atlantic City’s sights and sounds. Although completely unrelated in plot and character, it reminded me of the HBO show Boardwalk Empire and I was easily able to picture Atlantic City during these times.
I enjoyed reading Florence Adler Swims Forever, although I thought the story was a little flat at times. The first half reads like a Young Adult novel, but transitions to more mature themes in the second half. I liked how several characters had to make important and bold decisions that affect the Adler family.
This is a fast read and great for fans of historical fiction. Although the end lacked a lot of details, it gave me space to imagine how the characters are doing. I look forward to seeing more books by this author.
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