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Posted June 11, 2013
Imagine living your life as a working young woman in 1907 or in
Imagine living your life as a working young woman in 1907 or in 2007. What would be the same and what would be different? Believe it or not, not much, although as this novel depicts two women from each period run into society’s strictures and mistakes of their own. This is the story of Olive Westcott, a young woman living in the earlier part of the 20th Century. She wants to be a retail seller of clothing in the worst possible way, but her father and business owners will not allow social pressures to make her dream possible. A woman could never go anywhere alone, let alone work without a male reference or supporter. She is up to the fight however, when her father no longer has that ever-present influence in her life. She proves that times are slowly changing by starting at the bottom as a salesgirl at a department store.
How do we know all this? Amanda Rosenbloom, who owns a clothing shop named per this novel’s title, finds Olive’s journal. Amanda is in a bit of a quandary herself. She’s an insomniac dating a married man. She knows her future with him is going nowhere fast but lacks the strength to end it, at least initially. As it turns out, the economy in New York City is changing as well, and Amanda finds herself being evicted so the owner can charge a more exorbitant rent to the next person. After all, New York, both in Amanda and Olive’s time, is prime territory for real estate and business. Amanda will prove to be creative and resourceful in her attempt to save her business, find a better place to live, and seek a satisfying romance.
Tall order for Olive and Amanda, yes; but Stephanie Lehmann offers the reader two females with all their strengths and weaknesses who are all the more likeable because they are so real! Lehmann also offers us through quaint, exciting and painstaking detail a thorough panorama of the architecture, interior designs, fashions in clothing, food, music, and art prominent in both time periods. This is an elegant picture of New York as it evolved over 100 years and a delight to relish equally with the story!
Astor Place Vintage is very finely written and a hugely entertaining read!
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Posted June 21, 2013
Just finished Stephanie Lehmann's latest novel, ASTOR PLACE VINT
Just finished Stephanie Lehmann's latest novel, ASTOR PLACE VINTAGE and this book is quickly jumping to the top of my highly recommended books. It's enchanting, rich with historical detail and tells the story of two women from different time periods that will have you rooting for them all the way. I couldn't put it down! This one is a real winner!
3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 24, 2014
Perfect summer - or fall, winter, spring - reading.Great for reading groups.
We chose Astor Place Vintage as our "family reading group" summer selection and we couldnt have done better. We wanted a really good read that was perfect for a number of mostly female readers from age 20 to 64 - who like both literary fiction and totally escapist fiction. This was a perfect balance -- a page-turner that was well-written and engrossing. The two women protagonists - a hundred years apart - gave us a good sense of issues facing women at the turn of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. But mostly it was just a good, heart-warming, interesting story.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 24, 2013
This was an enjoyable read . The contrasting of 2 lives in different eras present and the past and how their passages eventually are intertwined. I had passed this book to two other people who enjoyed it as much as I did.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 14, 2013
Astor Place Vintage is a seamlessly-woven tale about two women l
Astor Place Vintage is a seamlessly-woven tale about two women living a century apart but connected by a weird combination of mystical and historical phenomena. Amanda Rosenbloom, a Manhattan vintage clothing dealer battling insomnia and exhaustion, stumbles upon Olive Wescott’s diary (written in 1907-08) while purchasing garments from an eccentric old lady. Amanda becomes enthralled by Olive’s fascinating journal entries, which seem to bring the turn-of-the century protagonist eerily to life. But this isn’t a novel about time travel so much as an imaginative, well-executed story about the interconnectedness of two human souls through time and space.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
The chapters narrated by Olive offer a marvelous glimpse at feminism’s “first wave” in the form of Olive’s personal challenges as a single woman living and working in the same lower-East Side neighborhood now inhabited by Amanda, but during a far more conventional and inequitable era. Through equally engaging past and present-day narratives, Astor Place Vintage provides an eye-opening education into the plight of women at the beginning of the twentieth century, and the ripple effect their disenchantment had on future generations. Second- and third-wave feminists often forget that an oppressed crop of feisty females laid the groundwork for the feminist surge that took place during the Sixties and Seventies. Women like Olive were not only unable to vote, but also faced societal norms that would keep them both ignorant of their biology and tacitly dependent on men’s physical needs for their financial survival (whether through the “legitimizing” marriage marketplace or the unsanctioned trade of sexual favors in exchange for financial ones). Outside of marriage, women of that era had few viable means of garnering a living wage, much less partaking equally in social and civic life alongside their male counterparts.
Olive experiences this injustice firsthand when a devastating setback forces her to find work and fend for herself. I was reminded of Edith Wharton’s House of Mirth in the way Olive had to cope with socioeconomic restraints and sexual mores stacked squarely against women in general, but especially unmarried ones. Readers will easily understand why Olive’s warmhearted co-worker friend, Angelina, supplemented her meager wages by “keeping company” with a wealthy married man. However, ostensibly independent Amanda—a modern-day businesswoman who clearly should know better—strikes a far less defensible bargain by accepting financial help from her married boyfriend, Jeff. Although the fact that he was her high school sweetheart makes their affair somewhat less detestable, I found Amanda rather vexing at times (as I am sure the author intended). Lehmann’s irresolute protagonist yearns for motherhood, yet remains hopelessly embroiled in a dead-end relationship, knowingly trading her prime childbearing years for financial support and erratic male companionship. Though frustrating, I found Amanda’s dilemma both plausible and authentic—and not all that different from Olive’s in the sense that, unlike men, women have a biologically finite time frame within which to link up with a man if we want to create families of our own, and still find it emotionally challenging and less than desirable to remain child-free by choice.
Replete with fertile scenes and mounting emotional tension, Astor Place Vintage climaxes with a masterful birthing event that sets this novel apart for its realism and suspense. Until then, it’s an easygoing thrill ride with just a hint of understated edginess. But that passage—including the forthright discussion that follows between Olive and the Johnny-come-lately doctor—imbue this otherwise pleasurable novel with an important substantive component that makes it worthy of “must read” stature as contemporary women’s fiction and historical fiction. (And lest anyone doubt that women could be as ignorant as Olive when it came to sex and reproduction, I can personally attest that my mother, born in 1917, misinformed me that a woman is most likely to conceive immediately before her period. I definitely got a chuckle over Olive’s ongoing confusion over that erroneous detail!)
A simply delightful read from first page to last, I didn’t want Astor Place Vintage to end. Nevertheless, Stephanie Lehmann wraps it up neatly and convincingly, leaving the reader perfectly sated yet still longing for more.
Posted September 6, 2013