My passion for The Freshwater Circle, Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, all things nineteenth-century, Victorian-era related!
Sunday, March 2, 2014
My review of Astor Place Vintage by Stephanie Lehmann
Amanda Rosenbloom, 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.
Paperback: 416 pages
Publisher: Touchstone; Original edition (June 11, 2013)
Astor Place Vintage is a parallel novel spanning two different decades wherein Stephanie Lehmann introduces us to two very different women living very similar lives! For instance, first we meet Amanda Rosenbloom living in New York City in 2007. By day she is the owner of a vintage clothing shop, 'Astor Place Vintage.' Her life changes when she visits 'Jane Kelly' a wealthy 98 year old woman dieing of cancer and buys some clothing from her including a trunk filled with a muff containing the journal of a woman named Olive Westcott living in 1907 New York City. These two women have much in common and their lives seem to parallel each other for various reasons.
Amanda and Olive both deal with being single working women during two decades where independence and autonomy is held up against the belief and expectation of women being meant for marriage and motherhood instead. In 'Astor Place Vintage' New York City plays host to these two women and their loved ones both in very different ways.
I should mention some aspects of the novel that stood out are obvious: the 1907 vivid descriptions of my hometown of Manhattan. I have walked every neighborhood the author mentions and have always loved the architecture of the grand mansions and history of my city. What Stephanie Lehmann does in 'Astor Place Vintage' is bring New York City to life through her humorous writing style. I may be somewhat biased about my city but it comes to life in both eras and I could relate more to Olive's problems in certain situations and then felt empathy with Amanda's struggles.
The history and descriptions of New York City are plentiful throughout 'Astor Place Vintage' so this may grab you and keep you reading or it may frustrate you! Also, Amanda-the modern working woman deals with an affair while Olive our 1900s girl is very sexually naive. Stephanie Lehmann goes into great detail about Olive's sexual innocence, menstruation is dealt with as are feminist issues. Either way, the storylines are captivating and I enjoyed Astor Place Vintage immensely! I would highly recommend this novel to anyone looking for a funny and heartwarming story about two women who discover they needed each other and were brought together through a journal to help each other change their lives and put some issues to rest!