#BookReview: The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant

Jewish Historical

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An unforgettable novel about a young Jewish woman growing up in Boston in the early twentieth century, told “with humor and optimism…through the eyes of an irresistible heroine” (People)—from the acclaimed author of The Red Tent.

Anita Diamant’s “vivid, affectionate portrait of American womanhood” (Los Angeles Times), follows the life of one woman, Addie Baum, through a period of dramatic change. Addie is The Boston Girl, the spirited daughter of an immigrant Jewish family, born in 1900 to parents who were unprepared for America and its effect on their three daughters. Growing up in the North End of Boston, 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. 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, to finding the love of her life, eighty-five-year-old Addie recounts her adventures with humor and compassion for the na├»ve girl she once was.

Written with the same attention to historical detail and emotional resonance that made 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. “Diamant brings to life a piece of feminism’s forgotten history” (Good Housekeeping) in this “inspirational…page-turning portrait of immigrant life in the early twentieth century” (Booklist).

I picked up Anita Diamant’s The Boston Girl as an in-between read, you know, one of those titles you crack open to ‘cleanse the palate’ between heavier fare? I was in the market for something light and it looked like it’d fit the bill so I pulled it up on my kindle and dug in. I’d no expectations and had no prior experience with the author’s work, so I was a surprised as anyone when the novel swept me clean off my feet.

The book is written in the first person and as a result, feels intensely intimate. Addie is an irresistibly candid character with a sparkling sense of humor and her earnest account of her life experiences grant the novel a unique degree of emotional depth. I read historic fiction for the history, but even I can’t deny that the emotional elements of the story are what set The Boston Girl apart.

Thematically the book has a lot going on and I admire how it explores immigration as a long-term prospect with implications that ripple across generations. Addie grows up in a family environment that is rooted in old world traditions, but the multicultural neighborhood of Boston’s North End has an influence all its own. Addie is a product of both and I think the novel invites understanding of what that experience really means for those who live it.

Heartfelt and emotive, The Boston Girl isn’t to be missed. A beautiful and highly recommended read.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Obtained from: Netgalley
Read: June 7, 2017

"You should always be kind to people, Ava. You never know what sorrows they’re carrying around."