Author: Stephanie Lehmann
Published: June 2013, Touchstone
Format: Paperback, 396 pages
Amanda Rosembloom, proprietor of Astor Place Vintage, thinks she's on just another call to appraise and possibly purchase clothing from a wealthy, elderly woman. But after discovering a journal sewn into a fur muff, Amanda gets much more than she anticipated. The pages of the journal reveal the life of Olive Westcott, a young woman who had moved to Manhattan in 1907. Olive was set on pursuing a career as a department store buyer in an era when Victorian ideas, limiting a woman's sphere to marriage and motherhood, were only beginning to give way to modern ways of thinking. As Amanda reads the journal, her life begins to unravel until she can no longer ignore this voice from the past. Despite being separated by one hundred years, Amanda finds she's connected to Olive in ways neither could ever have imagined.
My thoughts: This was our September book selection for the Book Lovers Unite book club and I have to say, I really enjoyed this one! I think my favorite part of the book, besides the great story, were the black and white photos that were included throughout the book - photos of Manhattan from the early 1900s. I love looking at old photos, especially of places I'm familiar with and living just north of Manhattan, I do get there quite often.
Astor Place Vintage is told using the dual-time narrative, I format I really have come to enjoy in books. Moving back and forth between Amanda's story in the present and Olive's story in the 1900's, it's very easy to get wrapped up in both their lives. I was particularly fascinated by Olive's story, because it contains such great tidbits of what life really was like for women during that part of history. Imagine not being able to rent an apartment because you were a single gal...or trying to get a job doing what you really want despite the fact that it's not really a 'woman's job.'
The writing in this book was extremely vivid - I felt that I could really picture the tenement where Olive ended up living and the hats that the women wore during that time. It definitely made me yearn for another trip into the city - just to walk through some of these areas to see how they've changed. I also want to spend some time pouring over old photos of the city. All this from reading this book- thank you Stephanie Lehmann for piquing my interest further in a city I already love!!!
This story is full of twists and turns that keep you glued to the pages. With each switch from one character to the other, it's like being left with mini-cliffhangers and you can't wait to get back to the other one. Both these characters are equally compelling - mainly because they are both flawed characters that make mistakes as they go through life. It's easy to relate to both of them.
I don't know if there are any plans to revisit these characters, but I would love to see what happens next for Amanda. Stephanie Lehmann is definitely on my must-watch author list - I can't wait to see what she writes next!
Have you read this one yet? How do you feel about the dual-time narrative?