Monday, December 8, 2014

The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant: a review

The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant is a captivating look at what it was like to be a Jewish girl navigating her way through America in the early 1900s.

From Goodreads: 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.

My thoughts: While I was reading this historical fiction, I felt like Addie was in the room with me telling me her story. Honestly, if I didn't know it was fiction, I would have thought it was a non-fiction memoir - that's how well written it is.

The book seems simple, however, it is anything but. Addie lives in a complicated time with unfortunate standards that women are meant to follow. Help out at home, obey your parents, get married, have babies, obey your husband. Addie wants more than that, and is able to surround herself with likeminded women. I like to think that had I grown up in this time, I'd be friends with Addie.

The writing style is fairly simple and it's a quick read, but I think that's how the story shines. There's no detail that seems out of place. The reader is able to get to know Addie and her family/friends, and can understand the world they lived in. The book spans over many years, and I loved getting to see how Addie changed, but how she ultimately stayed true to herself. It was refreshing to read about a strong woman remaining a strong woman.

This book is not all happy. There are some terrible things that happen to Addie and her family, but that's the realty of the times, and life in general. I appreciated the terrible things because these things happen to all of us, and made the book even more relatable. It's a testament to Diamant's writing that I was able to connect to a character whose story takes place in the early 1900s.

This book goes on sale Tuesday, December 9th and is one that you should definitely go out and buy immediately, or add it to your Christmas wish list.

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