The Boston Girl — a novel for all generations

Boston Girl Anita Diamant
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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.

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

I must start by confessing that The Red Tent by Anita Diamant was a book club choice which I might never have come across left to my own devices

Essentially The Red Tent is about women and menstuation and it is set in Biblical times.

I believe that there is nothing new under the sun and so I can easily accept that women thousands of years ago were not so very different to how we are today. That’s one of the things that I like about this book. You can relate to the female characters.

Nothing new?

The club girls had quite divergent views on The Red Tent though. Some thought if you have read women’s studies during your formative years, you’ll find nothing new in this format. I accept that, but still thought it a good story, nicely told – an enjoyable read with enough pace and content to keep you interested.

I loved the image of the women collecting herbs and sewing them into the hemlines of their dresses as they traversed the desert.  I can even say I was moved to tears – particularly at the ending.

I read a lot of books so one of the ways I rate them is whether they stay with me months after I’ve read them. The Red Tent by Anita Diamant does. I couldn’t necessarily recount the tale or describe the characters but some of the images have lingered in my head. For that reason, I’m happy to recommend it.