The Boston Girl is the story of a Jewish girl, born in 1900 to immigrant parents. It takes the form of an 85-year old grandmother — Addie Baum — talking to her 22-year old granddaughter, Ava. Structured in short chapters, The Boston Girl is an easy and comforting read that nevertheless touches on some significant themes and covers a period of tremendous political and social upheaval in the USA and around the world.
Amongst other experiences, Addie’s life span covers two world wars, changing attitudes to religion and race and the emergence of women’s rights. She sees these events not as a politician or from a position of power or influence but rather from the perspective of an ordinary woman living an ordinary life — working to earn her living adapting to the changes around her — always positive, always learning — working to maintain family relationships, sustain friendships and ultimately to build an independent life.
At its heart, The Boston Girl is a novel of family and friendship — rich in emotion and empathy and it is perhaps Addie’s intensely personal experiences that will hold the greatest resonance for most readers — whether that’s the youthful experience of falling for the flattery of a handsome but predatory young man, class and cultural sensitivities, friendship, the responsibilities and support of family — particularly siblings, the joy of finding love and happiness.
While not without troubles — and she has some serious troubles to contend with — Addie is a positive and optimistic character — likeable, wise, non-judgmental like the best of grandmothers. In telling the past, she is not sentimental nor does she seek to return to former days but instead she shares what she has learned always adapting, always looking to the future.
I enjoyed The Boston Girl enormously — for its subject matter, for its geographical setting, for the era 1900-1985 that it spans — most of all for the empathy and insights of its heroine, Addie Baum. A book to share with women of all ages.
[The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant is published by Scribner — a division of Simon & Schuster. Disclosure: An Advance Review Copy was made available by the publisher via Edelweiss for the purpose of this review]
See also The Red Tent by Anita Diamant.