Friday, March 28, 2014

William Morris Textiles and Wallpaper exhibit and other finds...

So, I came across this 'special exhibit' running at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, here in NYC and I went with a friend tonight. It is a small one room exhibit primarily showing textiles but if you love William Morris it is very much worth the trip! 
 William Morris Textiles and Wallpaper February 3–July 20, 2014

From the museum website, "William Morris (1834–1896) is acknowledged as the leader of the British Arts and Crafts movement of the second half of the nineteenth century. His enterprise, originally founded as Morris, Marshall, Faulkner, and Company in 1861, became Morris & Company in 1875. They produced a variety of decorative arts, with textiles and wallpapers comprising a large portion of their artistic output. In 1923, the Metropolitan acquired the institution's first examples from the oeuvre of Morris & Company, and a selection of these are shown in this installation. According to the printed company logo on the selvages, the printed textiles bought that year were produced after Morris & Company moved to Hanover Square, London, in 1917. Like the printed textiles, the wallpapers and the woven fabrics were probably produced later than their original design date, attesting to their perennial appeal.

A white card on the wall mentioned a familiar name:  "John Henry Dearle (1860-1932) was hired by Morris in 1878 and began designing for Morris & Company in the late 1880s. Like Morris, Dearle was enamored of historic textiles and carefully studied the Victoria and Albert Museum's collection in London. Two examples of his work from the early 1890s are displayed in this gallery. Upon Morris's death, Dearle became the company's chief designer. 

Walking through the museum I spied a few favorite portraits and some paintings...

"King Lear," Act I, Scene I by Edwin Austin Abbey (American, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 1852–1911 London) Date: 1898 Medium: Oil on canvas

 John Singer Sargent's The Wyndham Sisters, 1899, Oil on Canvas, 115 x 84 1/8 in., Metropolitan Museum of Art

Queen Victoria, 1838 by Thomas Sully (American, 1783–1872), Oil on canvas; 94 x 58 in. (238.8 x 147.3 cm) Lent by Mrs. Arthur A. Houghton Jr. (L.1993.45)


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

The Moonstone, a priceless Indian diamond which had been brought to England as spoils of war, is given to Rachel Verrinder on her eighteenth birthday. That very night, the stone is stolen. Suspicion then falls on a hunchbacked housemaid, on Rachel's cousin Franklin Blake, on a troupe of mysterious Indian jugglers, and on Rachel herself.

The phlegmatic Sergeant Cuff is called in, and with the help of Betteredge, the Robinson Crusoe-reading loquacious steward, the mystery of the missing stone is ingeniously solved.

 Beautiful inside frontpiece of The Moonstone

When I found this re-published 1868 New York edition sitting on the Fiction shelf of my local Barnes and Noble, I just grabbed it. This edition is beautifully illustrated in a gorgeous blue hardcover book and very hard to resist!  My favorite Wilkie Collins novel remains, ‘The Woman in White’ followed by ‘No Name.’  That being said, everyone has raved to me about ‘The Moonstone’ over the years so I had to read it.  I love the descriptive tone of Wilkie Collins and the true ‘Victorian’ language in which he writes. I am immediately captivated and brought willingly into his world. I believe most of what is happening  just so I can enjoy the ride.  

I enjoyed ‘The Moonstone’ overall and read it with the analytical eye of it being tagged as ‘the first English detective novel!’  It works for me; especially since I am not an avid Sherlock Holmes fan if I’m honest. The only one I truly enjoyed was ‘Hound of the Baskervilles.’ I really am more of a Bram Stoker girl and highly recommend his other novels. 

So back to ‘The Moonstone’.  The premise and main character is the moonstone itself; a yellow diamond captured by a British officer during a military campaign in India in 1799. You see, the diamond was given to one of the younger relatives a Rachel Verinder but hours after it arrives at the Verinder estate it vanishes or did a relative steal it instead? Wilkie Collins begins what will be termed in future detective novels as throwing in several ‘red herrings’ and sending the reader on a goose chase following some false leads. Don’t worry the journey is well worth it! 

This is a mystery told from the perspective of multiple characters so expect to follow several narrators constantly interjecting the reader on its path. For instance, the beginning is told by the house steward of the Verinder estate a Mr. Gabriel Bettredge then followed by a relative Miss Clack. The Moonstone is a fascinating thriller for its day and unless you have an interst in jewels, Victorian England and India be careful because your attention could stray tempting you to rush through it and flip through chapters! Not that I did that…right away!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Happy Birthday May Morris!

Mary May Morris was born on this day in 1862. Originally named Mary by her parents, William Morris and Jane Burden Morris because she was born on the Feast of the Annunciation. Later, it was changed to May partly as her choice and partly because her elder sister, Jenny called her 'May' instead!  I am not going to write up a biography or piece together the usual details of her life; although, fascinating they can be searched anywhere.

No, the point of this brief post is because it struck me this morning when I realized today was May Morris's birthday that yesterday was her father William Morris's birthday as well!  What must it have been like in the Morris household first at Red House where the Morris girls were born and shared a brief idyllic childhood before moving on to Kelmscott Manor sharing a birthday for father and daughter, William and littlest May? I am sure she had a lifetime of memories of birthday cake celebrations perhaps, fun games, parties, it must have been incredible! I bet William Morris told the best bedtime stories ever!! 
Can you possibly imagine what it was like to have shard a birthday with your father? They were born only twenty-four hours apart. Well, you know what I mean!  I actually have a very good idea of how May Morris felt possibly experiencing a shared birthday with her father her entire life until his passing. They must have shared their birthdays together, I can't imagine Jane Morris baking two separate cakes two days in a row? Nobody has that much time!  So, it is my guess and wish that they celebrated birthday's together as I did my entire life with my beloved grandfather who was the only father figure in my household! He also was a fine painter and craftsman himself but I'll keep those memories to myself and focus on May Morris!

Lastly, this morning I was searching for an old photograph of one of my birthyday's I celebrated together with my beloved 'pop' and the one I was thinking of I couldn't find but after searching through many old albums I found this one which is better than nothing!  So, to all of those daughters who are gifted to share a birthday with a parent or their parental figure, here's to you all and May Morris is I hope together in heaven sharing and celebrating with her entire family in bliss looking down on all of us strange humans still remembering them all!

Enough of my ramblings just a quick birthday post because May and William Morris sparked a few wonderful old family birthday memories of my own!  
 just me and my pop celebrating our birthdays together: his was January 20th and mine is January 21st! 
With love I miss you terribly pop! 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Julia Marlowe America's Favorite Shakespearean Actress (August 17, 1865 – November 12, 1950)

Julia Marlowe by Arnold Genthe, 1911, vintage gelatin silver print

Julia Marlowe was a stage actress during the late 1800's and early 1900's. She was born Sarah Frances Frost at Caldbeck, England, on August 17, 1865.  She came to the United States with her parents, John Frost and Sarah Hogston Frost when she was five years old.  Upon entering the United States, her family settled in the state of Kansas.  From there, they moved to Ironton, Portsmouth and Cincinnati, Ohio. From 1873 to 1877 she resided in a 3-story brick building on Second Street in the city of Portsmouth, Ohio.  She lived here from age 7 to age 10.

In the March 3, 1903 edition of The Marion Daily Star newspaper, details of Julia's life in Portsmouth was recounted by Mr. Edward Staiger,
"When Mr. Staiger was a boy and attended school at Portsmouth, a certain girl who was known as a tomboy was his classmate.  This tomboy left Portsmouth when she was about ten years of age and went out into the world to become known and admired, later, as Julia Marlowe.

When Miss Marlowe lived at Portsmouth, her name was Fannie Brough and she was the daughter of a woman who ran a boarding house and saloon which was one of the most popular resorts in the town.  Mr. Staiger recalls the girl as an unpromising youngster, a dare-devil willing to do anything any boy or girl was afraid to do.

Mrs. Brough moved to Cincinnati when Julia was about twelve years old, and opened a boarding house on Sixth street, which she is still running, despite the achievements of her wonderful daughter.  She has since been married to a man by the name of Beck.

Mr. Staiger has met his old classmate but once since the days of their childhood and that was in Cleveland after she had won great favor at the hands of the theater-going public.  Julia greeted him in an old-time rollicking way, and an evening of most pleasant reminiscences followed."

Another article in the February 2, 1942 issue of The Marion Star newspaper recounted:
"There are still living in Portsmouth those who remember Frances as a gay, lively girl, fond of making speeches, riding horseback, going on excursions into the Kentucky hills."
Julia Marlowe as 'Rosalind' in Shakespeare's As You Like It (1904-1913)
I just love her softness in her facial expression here!

Still in Cincinnati, Ohio, nicknamed, ‘Fanny’ she first began her career in the chorus of a juvenile opera company. She toured with them for a year performing in Gilbert and Sullivan’s H.M. S. Pinafore in 1879, under the direction of Colonel Robert E.J. Miles who was the manager of the Cincinnati Opera House. She played Sir Joseph Porter and later in Pygmailion and Galatea. She also starred in her first Shakespearean roles: as Balthazar in Romeo and Juliet and then as Maria in Twelfth Night. When she met Ada Dow, a relative of her theatre director, she was told to go to New York to study vocal training formally and attempt to become a serious stage actress. Her brief roles back in Ohio did not prepare her for life in New York. Now, a twenty-year old unknown Julia Marlowe attempted to audition for Shakespearean roles to no avail. When Colonel Miles became the new manager of the New York Bijou Opera House this gave her an opportunity to tour for two weeks in New London, Connecticut. She received acclaim for her portrayal of Ingmar, the Barbarian in Friedrich Halm’s Der Sohn der Wildnis during October of 1887. Her next step would be on the Broadway stage.

Julia Marlowe was touring in Philadelphia in 1891 when she came down with typhoid fever. Her face became so swollen that doctors suggested lancing it to release the toxins but another treatment was performed instead. Thank goodness her face was saved and her career continued. 
 Julia Marlowe and her first husband Robert Taber, NYPL

She made her Broadway stage debut in 1895 going on to appear in more than seventy Broadway productions;  most of them alongside her second husband and fellow stage actor, E.H. Sothern. Her first husband was Broadway actor Robert Taber. They were married in 1894 through 1900 but had no children.  Apparently, the marriage ended because she was more successful than her husband and Mr. Taber couldn’t handle it. She divorced him in 1900. Having saved her money wisely she independently decided to purchase a five story townhouse in New York City’s Upper West Side neighborhood at 337 Riverside Drive which is the corner of W. 106th Street.
 337 Riverside Drive on W. 106th Street, NYC, as it stands today!

 Julia Marlowe in Jeanne d'Arc. This reminds me so much of a J.W. Waterhouse painting

 Julia Marlowe with her second husband E.H. Sothern in Hamlet, NYPL

 The successful partnership between Julia Marlowe and E.H. Sothern began in 1904 when they appeared together in Romeo and Juliet, Beatrice and Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing, and the lead roles in Hamlet then The Taming of the Shrew, The Merchant of Venice and Twelfth Night through till 1905. They left their manager Charles Frohman and went with the Shubert Brothers increasing their profits. In 1906 they starred together in Percy MacKaye’s Jeanne d’Arc, he played the Duc d’Alencon and Julia played Jeanne d’Arc; becoming one of her most successful roles. Next came Sudermann’s John the Baptist and Heinrich in The Sunken Bell to  favorable reviews. E.H. Sothern became famous and most loved for his performances as Benedick and Malvolio. After another season in New York it was off to London but the audiences weren’t really there so they returned to America with a run at the Academy of Music in New York where audiences who could not afford a Broadway ticket could now see them perform together. They continued their Shakespearean repertoire starring in Antony and Cleopatra at the New Theatre and in Macbeth where they were a hit. They also put on special performances at children’s schools throughout New York City. By this time E.H. Sothern was divorced from his first wife having two children from that marriage he married Julia Marlowe in 1911 and they remained married until his death in New York City at the Plaza Hotel where they resided until 1933. She retired from acting in 1924, living at The Plaza until her death in 1950. She died of pneumonia at the age of 73.

Mr. and Mrs. E.H. Sothern in 1922 aboard the RMS Aquitania.

Julia Marlowe in 1950 at 73 years old Vintage publicity photograph

Julia Marlowe by John Daniel Barry, 1899, Richard G. Badger & Co., Boston, Massachusetts

Julia Marlowe: Her Life and Art by Charles Edward Russell, Kessinger Publishing, 2011

Friday, March 14, 2014

A review of Whistler: A Life for Art's Sake by Daniel E. Sutherland

The first biography in more than twenty years of James McNeill Whistler (1834–1903) is also the first to make extensive use of the artist’s private correspondence to tell the story of his life and work. This engaging personal history dispels the popular notion of Whistler as merely a combative, eccentric, and unrelenting publicity seeker, a man as renowned for his public feuds with Oscar Wilde and John Ruskin as for the iconic portrait of his mother. The Whistler revealed in these pages is an intense, introspective, and complex man, plagued by self-doubt and haunted by an endless pursuit of perfection in his painting and drawing.

In his beautifully illustrated and deeply human portrayal of the artist, Daniel E. Sutherland shows why Whistler was perhaps the most influential artist of his generation, and certainly a pivotal figure in the cultural history of the nineteenth century. Whistler comes alive through his own magnificent work and words, including the provocative manifestos that explained his bold artistic vision, sparked controversy in his own time, and resonate to this day. 

Hardcover, 440 pages
Published March 4th 2014 by Yale University Press

A copy of Whistler: A Life for Art's Sake by Daniel E. Sutherland was provided to me in exchange for a fair and honest review.

This is a proper 'cradle to grave' biography covering the entire life span of American painter, James McNeill Whistler. The author, Daniel E. Sutherland makes a point to mention that he uses Whistler's private correspondence excerpted throughout this biography. Well, he did quote a sentence or two throughout chapters related to events and people in Whistler's life pertaining to his art career and friendships; however, I was so disappointed in this aspect of the novel. The quoted letters sentences used did not provide a thorough or concrete glimpse into Whistler's life. They were merely used as teasing glimpses. Nowhere, throughout this biography were entire paragraphs of Whistler's letters used nor were there any images of his correspondence included in a total of 107 illustrations! Daniel Sutherland included over one hundred of Whistler's drawings, sketches, paintings, portraits, and photographs including himself, his well-known artist friends; even his female mistresses, girlfriends, muses, etc. are there to satisfy the readers curiosity. So, why only use a sentence or two in a page sporadically dispersed throughout various chapters? You have done your research and gained access to his correspondence and those of his friends and family members, so why not quote more of the letters and provide copies in the book as well? I believe strongly having had more excerpts of James Whistler's own words, it would have brought the man to life; up through his canvas instead of remaining flat and dull. I say this having done research myself on nineteenth-century poets. Correspondence is key to gaining a vivid understanding of the complete person!

I have some idea of the type of human being James Whistler was but not enough of a true life portrait here for my liking. Daniel Sutherland relies heavily upon explanation of geographical areas Whistler lived, so much so I sometimes felt as if I was on a road trip! Sometimes it was a good and interesting ride and sometimes I felt sick in the back seat and needed to be let out of the car for some fresh air! I suppose I expected and hoped for more descriptive concentration on Whistler the man and the painter; his inspirations for his art beyond the women in his life. This is not a romantic biography by any means; there is no painter and muse fantasy going on here, so drop those expectations immediately! I was hoping for more of an understanding of who Whistler was as a painter through his friendships with the more 'Impressionist' painters to put a label on it. For instance, Degas, Monet, Tissot, Courbet, etc. They were here but mostly in story form or humorous tales over dinner and drinks with the lads! However, if you are a fan of Pre-Raphaelite Art or the Brotherhood, look no further you have found your artistic biography! The gangs all here as it were! Whistler's close friendships with Swinburne and the Rossetti brothers; Whistler's understandable adoration of John Everett Millais, some mentions of Watts, Burne-Jones, even Julia Margaret Cameron, and The Prinseps but as usual not enough of the Freshwater set for me which is fine. I just grew tired of Dante Gabriel Rossetti dominating his friendship with Whistler; it became so tired and overdone!

All the famous Whistler paintings are mentioned and described chronologically as it pertains to events going on in Whistler's life but not enough depth really. If Whistler's correspondence mentions any rich details about his thoughts and musings over certain paintings, I missed reading about it here! When it comes to The Whistler Family, James sometimes called 'Jamie' or 'Jemie' is explained in the usual general manner in this biography. However, I noticed again when it came to illustrations or photos of family members, a lithograph of his parents are included and only one photograph of his brother 'Willie' William McNeill Whistler as a grown man. There are no lithographs or photographs at all of his sister Deborah nicknamed 'Debo' and they had a very close sibling relationship throughout their lives. Only one painting shows her likeness, 'At the Piano' with their niece Annie. It was Whistler's first painting exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1860 where J.E. Millais said, "finest piece of colour."

 At the Piano by James McNeill Whistler, 1860. Included in the biography.
When discussing the illustrations Daniel E. Sutherland includes the many women in Whistler's life that he dated, courted, and lived with so I found it very odd to discover that one woman was missing from the illustrations completely! She was Whistler's first fiance and the one that got away. A very important young woman named Elizabeth ‘Lizzy’ ‘Baby’ Dawson. Elizabeth's eldest sister, Frances Dawson met and married Frederick Leyland, Whistler's lifelong friend and mentor. Whistler painted her portrait painting, ‘Symphony in Flesh Colour and Pink: Portrait of Frances Leyland’, 1871–1874. This painting is included in the illustration section but none whatsoever of Elizabeth Dawson. I did a little search of my own and found two of Whistler's pastel drawings of Elizabeth Dawson at the University of Glasgow's Hunterian Museum website. I'm sure there is a very good reason why they were not included in Whistler: A Life for Art's Sake. Even though, I find this a very frustrating aspect of reading a chronological biography; especially, when its "the first biography in more than twenty years!" As a reader, I should not have to do my own research to find images of subjects in a biography. I did it out of frustration instead of a positive curiosity gained after reading about a person and wanting to learn more. To me this is an on-going problem I experienced as a reader. 

‘Symphony in Flesh Colour and Pink: Portrait of Frances Leyland’, 1871–1874 by James McNeill Whistler

If you are looking for a fun and lighthearted biography of the artist James McNeill Whistler than this could be for you. There are wonderful artist stories told about him and his famous friends and the research is here for the reader. In my case, I was just expecting a much different type of artist biography!

For further information about this biography, Yale University Press

Thursday, March 13, 2014

My review of Julia Margaret Cameron and The Allure of Photography by Bob Cotton

ebook (iPad iBooks format), 135 pgs
Publish Date:
This book attempts to answer the questions: Why did Julia Margaret Cameron become so besotted with Photography? What did she bring to the art? Why is her work important? Julia Margaret Cameron and the Allure of Photography is an introduction to, and an overview of Julia and her work, and provides the art historical and technological context for her work. 
My Thoughts
I am in awe of the beauty of this book. Not only is it beautifully represented and presented by Bob Cotton he gorgeously and intellectually writes about the concept of photography and its importance during the nineteenth-century not only to Julia Margaret Cameron but brings it into present day culturally while focusing his passion and knowledge of media and photography as it stands today. He explains it much more cogently than I ever could!

I highly recommend, 'Julia Margaret Cameron and The Allure of Photography' to anyone wanting to learn not only about the role of Julia Margaret Cameron as pioneering nineteenth-century photographer but as a woman, as a wife, as a mother, and as a friend. Bob Cotton has humanized her and brought her ever so tangibly and lovingly into soft focus!

I have researched The Freshwater Circle of artists and know a little about Mrs. Cameron and this book taught me about aspects of her use of the camera and her photographs that I couldn't find anywhere else and I've read the nineteenth century literature! Bob Cotton has gone to great lengths to do painstaking research and his passion for photography, cultural media, and all things 'Freshwater Circle' related comes shining through clearly! I add this to my research stack of books proudly!

If you are interested in purchasing the kindle version of Julia Margaret Cameron  and The Allure of Photography by Bob Cotton, Blurb

The soft cover version is a bit more expensive and harder to find depending upon availability copies may be available at, Cameron House Books 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

A Happy Birthday look back to Elizabeth Barrett Browning (March 6,1806-June 29, 1861)

Elizabeth Barrett Browning by Elliott & Fry, after Macaire
albumen carte-de-visite, mid 1860s (September 1858) NPG

In this happy birthday post to one of the most loved Victorian poets, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, herself, takes us on a private remembrance of her early years at Hope End in one of her early letters. 

According to the parish register of Kelloe Church, in the county of Durham, England, she was born at Coxhoe Hall which at the time was the home of her uncle Samuel who lived five miles south of Durham. Elizabeth’s father, Edward Barrett Moulton, took the surname of Barrett on the death of his grandfather who left him the estates in Jamaica. His wife was Miss Mary Graham-Clarke, daughter of J. Graham-Clarke, of Fenham Hall, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, but of her not very much is known. However, her early death is one of the few mentions in the family records.

Mary Graham-Clarke and Edward Barrett had a large family: Henriett, Arabel, Elizabeth and eight sons: Edward, whose tragic death at Torquay saddened the family so much, Charles (who was ‘Stormie’ in family letters), Samuel, George, Henry, Alfred, Septimus, and Octavius. 

It was around 1809 that The Barrett Family moved into Elizabeth’s favorite childhood home, ‘Hope End’, in Herefordshire, among the Malvern hills, only a few miles from Malvern itself.  Elizabeth spent the first twenty years of her life here growing very close to her father, who affectionately called her, ‘ba!’ She would write her childhood reminiscences in such early poems as, ‘Hector in the Garden,’ ‘The Lost Bower,’ and ‘The Deserted Garden.’ 

Elizabeth Barrett herself describes her early years in a letter to Mr. R.H. Horne written on October 5, 1843, 

“And then as to stories, my story amounts to the knife-grinder’s, with nothing at all for a catastrophe. A bird in a cage would have as good a story. Most of my events, and nearly all my intense pleasures, have passed in my thoughts. I wrote verses-as I dare say many have done who never wrote any poems-very early; at eight years old and earlier. But, what is less common, the early fancy turned into a will and remained with me, and from that day to this, poetry has been a distinct object with me-an object to read, think, and live for.  And I could make you laugh, although you could not make the public laugh, by the narrative of nascent odes, epics, and didactics crying aloud on obsolete muses from childish lips. The Greeks were my demi-gods, and haunted me out of Pope’s Homer, until I dreamt more of  Agamemnon than of Moses the black pony. And thus my great “epic” of eleven or twelve years old, in four books, and called “The Battle of Marathon,” and of which fifty copies were printed because papa was bent upon spoiling me-is Pope’s Homer done over again, or rather undone; for, although a curious production for a child, it gives evidence only of an imitative faculty and an ear, and a good deal of reading in a peculiar direction. The love of Pope’s Homer threw me into Pope on one side and ito Greek on the other, and into Latin as a help to Greek-and the influence of all these tendencies is manifest so long afterwards as in my “Essay on Mind,” a didactic poem written when I was seventeen or eighteen, and long repented of as worthy of all repentance. The poem is imitative in its form, yet is not without traces of an individual thinking and feeling-the bird pecks through the shell in it. With this it has a pertness and pendantry which did not even then belong to the character of the author, and which I regret now more than I do the literary defectiveness. 

All this time, and indeed the greater part of my life, we lived at Hope End, a few miles from Malvern, in a retirement scarcely broken into me except by books and my own thoughts, and is a beautiful country, and was a retirement happy in many ways, although the very peace of it troubles the heart as it looks back. There I had my fits of Pope, and Byron, and Coleridge, and read Greek as hard under the trees as some of your Oxonians in the Bodleian; gathered visions from Plato and the dramatists, and eat and drank Greek and made my head ache with it. Do you know the Malvern Hills? The hills of Piers Plowman’s Visions? They seem to me my native hills; for, although I was born in the county of Durham, I was an infant when I went first into their neighbourhood, and lived there until I had passed twenty by several years. Beautiful, beautiful hills they are! And yet, not for the whole world’s beauty would I stand in the sunshine and the shadow of the many more. It would be a mockery, like the taking back of a broken flower to its stalk.”

 Elizabeth Barrett Browning with her son Robert Wiedemann Barrett Browning by Alessandri
albumen carte-de-visite, 19 June 1860, NPG

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.
  • Product Details
  • 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! 

My review of The Unfinished Business of Eadie Browne by Freya North

  When your present meets your past, what do you take with you - and what do you leave behind? ** Eadie Browne is an odd child with unusual ...