Astor Place Vintage: A Novelby Stephanie Lehmann
Amanda Rosenbloom, proprietor of Astor Place Vintage, thinks she’son just/i>
When a New York City vintage clothing shop owner’s recent purchases contain a hidden journal from 1907, her entire life will be turned upside down in this “insightful, charming, and wholly entertaining novel” (Khaled Hosseini, author of The Kite Runner).
Amanda Rosenbloom, proprietor of Astor Place Vintage, thinks she’son 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.
“Lehmann’s blend of past and present perfectly woven together create an addictively readable novel. New York City will never look the same to me after reading Astor Place Vintage.”
"This soul-searching journey of two women magically connected though time is spellbinding. I was transported by every moment.”
"Stephanie Lehman's Astor Place Vintage is a fascinating tour of turn of the century New York. Guaranteed to appeal to anyone who likes to search for the bones of the past beneath the bustle of the present."
“A novel bound to be next summer's guilty pleasure! I love Amanda and Olive and how we come to understand what links them despite the passage of time. I love what Lehmann has done with the 1907 cityhow real it is.”
“This utterly engrossing novel gives us a portrait of one of the most fascinating cities in the world where long after the book has ended you will walk the streets in your mind.”
"A splendid banquet of fashion, style, and both old and contemporary New York City, couched in a riveting story. A feast not to be missed!”
"Anyone who loves vintage clothing, feels the pull of nostalgia, and has a taste for retro will be utterly transported by this wise and wonderful novel. A mesmerizing story about two women separated by a century but united by a quest for independence, a talent for business, and the challenges of being a woman that arise in every era."
“The past meets the present in Lehmann's work of feminist literary fiction. . . . The author combines an impressive knowledge of history, sociology and psychology to create an intellectually and emotionally rewarding story.”
"Lehmann does a seamless job of moving between the past and present and gives a definite sense of place to the story’s two periods, with rich descriptions of city life and architecture. First-class storytelling with an enticing dose of New York City history."
Verdict Incorporating historical photographs and details, Lehmann’s (The Art of Undressing; You Could Do Better) well-written fifth novel vividly captures the atmosphere of early 20th-century Manhattan and seamlessly weaves the past with the present. Readers who like their women’s fiction to combine elements of history and fashion (e.g., Isabel Wolff’s A Vintage Affair and Kate Alcott’s The Dressmaker) will delight in this appealing novel.Karen Core, Detroit P.L.
(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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Meet the Author
Stephanie Lehmann received her BA at UC Berkeley and a MA in English from New York University. She has taught novel writing at Mediabistro and online at Salon.com, where her essays have been published. She currently lives in New York City. Visit her online at StephanieLehmann.com and AstorPlaceVintage.com.
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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!
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!
I loved this book. Being from NY CITY I absolutely loved reading the book. The story goes from NY during the 1900 to present day. It is a story of two women from two different centuries. It starts with a diary of one of the women to be read by a modern day woman. Lots of references to the history of buildings and how women were to conduct themselves during the 1900's. Great story.
How many pages???? Thank you in advance.
Fantastic story about the early 1900's and women's rights! Excellent book about friendships, too! Wow! I read all the rave reviews about this wonderful book, but couldn’t read it until now. Some things are worth waiting for, and this is one of them. I am so glad I had purchased this and had it on my Kindle, just waiting…. Amanda is a single woman, who is in a complex relationship with her high school sweetheart (who is married). Amanda is also the owner of a little vintage shop, where she gets to sell clothes that are more than just a piece of fabric…there are memories woven throughout. Through a series of events, Amanda comes to terms with her relationship, makes huge decisions about her home/place of work, and her life. However, the true magic is in the diary Amanda finds, stitched inside a fur muzzle. Taken back to the early 1900’s, Amanda reads about the adventures of Sadie, Angelina, and Olive. All independent women, with different adventures in their lives, yet they all hold a valuable bond. They all had great stories to tell, however, I was so taken aback by the challenges young women faced back then. With no rights to vote, it was very hard for women back then to even rent a hotel room! Women had to enter through a different door, labeled for women, they weren’t earning near as much as men, deal with issues of wanting to be independent and faced criticism for it, etc. It was just an amazing and horrible ordeal that women dealt with, but still managed to make great strides despite restrictions. I just loved the stories, past and present, and absolutely loved the pictures in the book! I purchased this book on my e-reader, but would definitely recommend buying the actual book to appreciate the pictures better. It’s a fantastic read and one that I’d recommend to anyone wanting to read a great book about friendships, historical fiction, and love books with a bit of mystery!
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.
Great story, well written
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.
Astor Place Vintage arrived in my mailbox at just the right time. I was wanting to read something light and fun, but not mindless. A mix of chick lit and historical fiction, this book fit the bill. The story is told in alternating perspectives by two women living in New York City 100 years apart—Olive, age 20 in 1907, and Amanda, age 39 in 2007. Amanda drove me nuts. I found her a little shallow and completely juvenile. Plus, she's been having an affair with a married man for years, and the only remorse she ever seems to feel has only to do with what she has lost. Well, boo-hoo! I can't count the number of times I rolled my eyes at her. I didn't feel sympathetic toward her character at all, but I also didn't mind watching the train wreck. But Olive... Olive was a fantastic character! I loved watching her change, become empowered, break away from societal expectations. In a sense, this is Olive's coming-of-age story. I was surprised by how inhibited women of her time and her social class were, by how taboo it was to discuss very normal things that take place in a woman's life. I also didn't realize single women had so much trouble finding a respectable place to live; apparently being unmarried was frowned upon. Astor Place Vintage has a satisfying conclusion, and overall is an engaging read. There are even turn-of-the-century photographs of New York City interspersed throughout. This book is perfect for vacations, the beach... anytime you want something undemanding yet not frivolous. I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive any other compensation for this review.
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. 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.
A great easy read and fabulous story. But, be careful this is one that won't let you go until the very last page.
Even though I’m not familiar with most of the buildings in New York City, Astor Place Vintage by Stephanie Lehmann was still a book that I could enjoy. Amanda has a vintage clothing store and she loves connections to the past. Not the cheesy 70’s & 80’s past, but the REAL past, like 1900s, 1920s, etc. As she is struggling with a bad economy and a relationship that has nowhere to go, Amanda stumbles upon the 100-year-old diary of Olive, a NYC transplant from the suburbs. As Amanda reads Olive’s diary, she realizes that she has the power to make some necessary changes in her life. At the same time, Amanda discovers that many of the NYC locations she frequents have connections to Olive’s past. This story is told from both Amanda and Olive’s perspectives, which is something that I always love, especially when done well! Astor Place Vintage is a light, enjoyable read about two connected women 100 years apart, and one I highly recommend, whether you’re familiar with NYC or not. Thank you to my friend @ Touchstone Books for this copy of one of her new favorites! This book takes place in NYC – have you been? Thanks for reading, Rebecca @ Love at First Book