“The Boston Girl” by Anita Diamant is a generational immigrant story set throughout most of the twentieth century. It was published by Scribner on Dec. 9, 2014.
I may have said this some time before, but I am an absolute sucker for beautiful book covers and boy did this one nail it on the head! The last time I read a story about a jewish immigrant was in “The Book Thief” by Marcus Zusak and that ended up becoming one of my favorite novels of all time, so I had pretty high hopes for this one. Despite the similarity in heritage and time period between these two books, “The Boston Girl” is a completely different and unique read to “The Book Thief.” It has nothing to do whatsoever with WWII, almost shocking considering what we have come to expect with a jewish girl in the 1900’s. I had to get it.
The novel follows Addie Baum. Born in the year 1900, just a few months before her parent’s migrated to Boston, she has very little knowledge of “the old life” compared to her parents or two older sisters. The novel puts a strong focus on her life from ages fifteen to thirty, while mostly summarizing the rest. Addie grows up somewhat poor, living mostly in the shadow of her sisters and dealing with a highly conservative and tunnel visioning mother. She is always curious, testing the boundaries of her mother’s tolerance and venturing out to try new things, wear different clothes, make interesting friends. We follow her through school and summer, relationships, jobs and a whole lot of increasing family drama.
I fell in love with this novel. Addie is extremely interesting. She is the perfect protagonist in the perfect setting. I love her quirks and how she comes about life. She is naive and yet so well tempered, cunning, progressive and in the heat of a feminist movement. The novel somehow manages to be upbeat and cheerful despite the slew of tragedies that occur within. All of Addie’s supporting characters are well placed and serve their own unique role within the novel. If a character get’s a name, then the novel ought to need that character in order to accomplish something and Diamant does just that. The setting was always lively and fast-moving. We go all around Boston from lodges to diners to businesses to neighborhoods and we get to watch the city grow over the course of Addie’s lifespan. Want to see what it was like when the telephone was first invented? Want to see what it was like when there was no treatment yet for the flu? You’ll find those things in here. When I got to the end, all I wanted was more. I wanted this 320 page novel to become 640 and tell me a detailed account of her life from thirty on until eighty five, which is where it ends.
Trying to think of things that I didn’t like about this novel is difficult. Despite it being the story of a person’s entire life, the novel is short, compact and a rather easy read. Diamant did make an aesthetic decision to frame the story with the eighty five year old Addie recounting her life to her twenty two year old granddaughter. There wasn’t much of a need to do this. The granddaughter, Ava, never actually comments on the story. I like the sentiment of it – the elderly passing on their stories and life experience to young ones – but it really didn’t add or remove anything from the story. The novel makes so few interjections to remind us that it could almost be forgotten.
I absolutely recommend “The Boston Girl” to anyone looking for something a little different, adventurous and historical. I had an amazing time reading it and probably would have finished in a single sitting if life hadn’t gotten in the way as it tends to do.
If you want to read “The Boston Girl,” you can find it on Amazon, Book Depository, Barnes & Noble and most other major booksellers.
5.00 / 5.00