Wednesday, December 17, 2014

ARC Review: The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant

Title: The Boston Girl
Author: Anita Diamant
Published: December 9, 2014 by 

Synopsis: From the New York Times bestselling author of The Red Tent and Day After Night, comes an unforgettable coming-of-age novel about family ties and values, friendship and feminism told through the eyes of young Jewish woman growing up in Boston in the early twentieth century.

Addie Baum is The Boston Girl, born in 1900 to immigrant parents who were unprepared for and suspicious of America and its effect on their three daughters. Growing up in the North End, then a teeming multicultural neighborhood, Addie's intelligence and curiosity take her to a world her parents can't imagine - a world of short skirts, movies, celebrity culture and new opportunities for women. Addie wants to finish high school and dreams of going to college. She wants a career and to find true love.

Eighty-five-year-old Addie tells the story of her life to her twenty-two-year-old granddaughter, who has asked her "How did you get to be the woman you are today." She begins in 1915, the year she found her voice and made friends who would help shape the course of her life. From the one-room tenement apartment she shared with her parents and two sisters, to the library group for girls she joins at a neighborhood settlement house, to her first, disastrous love affair, Addie recalls her adventures with compassion for the naïve girl she was and a wicked sense of humor.

Written with the same attention to historical detail and emotional resonance that made Anita Diamant's previous novels bestsellers, The Boston Girl is a moving portrait of one woman’s complicated life in twentieth century America, and a fascinating look at a generation of women finding their places in a changing world.

What struck me most about The Boston Girl is that that it is full of heart. Fans of Modern Classics like A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, To Kill A Mockingbird, and The Heart is A Lonely Hunter will easily connect with Addie and enjoy this coming-of-age story of a young woman growing up in Boston and learning about life and love with a character-driven plot with great characters. 

This book follows the formative years of Addie Baum in the early 1900's through the Great Depression. And while it touches on a lot of historic events it really doesn't come close to mentioning the major events of the day. But that's not really the focus of the book. Fans of Historical Fiction may be disappointed by this fact which but it gives The Boston Girl more of a Literary Fiction feeling. And the character-driven nature of the plot also makes it feel more like Lit-Fic. It focused less on the moments and more on the feelings for the characters during these times. It's less about being there for things like World War I and the Roaring Twenties, and more about what it felt like to be a young woman in this time period. And because it was more about the people, the mood of the book was at time sad and depressing while still being sweet and sentimental.

But what made it all the more sentimental for me was the characters. The characters were likable and I was definitely invested in their struggle. Addie was the perfect "modern woman" to not only place in this tale but make it's narrator. She was intelligent and ambitious but had to navigate the waters of a society and family that was more traditional. I also really enjoyed Addie's family and friends. Her family felt so genuine and timeless. You could tell they love each other despite being hard on one another, like families are. Her friends seemed to be ushering her into the modern era and supporting her through the ups and the downs. My favorite character was probably the love interest. He was perfect and sweet and when they final got together I was extremely giddy. It really felt like Addie had earned it. It sounds like a weird thing to say in Lit-Fic but I definitely shipped them in this book. On the whole I was invested in the characters struggle and they made this book really enjoyable.

As for the plot and the pacing, I'm learning that with Lit-Fic the pacing is going to be slower and less important than the plot-driven books I usually read. It didn't make the book bad, it's just that I'm going to find it much harder to be blown away by a character-driven story than a thrilling plot-driven one. With these kinds of books it's more about the connection to the characters and I had that here. Plus Anita Diamant's writing was beautiful and had a nice flow when it moved from moment to moment. Despite the fact that it would skip years and moments, it was still easy to follow what was happening and I never felt like I was missing anything. It wasn't really the kind of book that you can devour in a quick period of time. The beginning of the book was like a slow progression as we got to know the characters and then all of a sudden I read 100 pages and it was almost over. It was like I blinked and a third of the book had passed me by. That is definitely a good sign for a character-driven book.

I give The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant a 9 out of 10

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Buy. Fans of Literary Fiction should absolutely read this book. The Boston Girl was a simple and enjoyable with likable characters perfect for fans of coming-of-age stories and modern classics that make you feel what it was like to grow up in a certain place at a certain time period. Read it!

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