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Astor Place Vintage
2013, 396 pages
Amanda Rosenbloom owns the Astor Place Vintage clothing shop, but finds more than some beautiful old dresses when she visits 98- year-old Jane Kelly. Among the consigned items is a fur muff with a diary from 1907 hidden inside. Rosenbloom, who loves New York history, reads the diary and learns about Olive Wescott, a 19-year-old orphan who hopes to become a department store buyer. She’s just lost her father and her income and struggles with expectations about her gender and class as she finds work, settles into a boarding house, and makes new friends.
Rosenbloom faces losing her store lease, undergoes hypnosis for insomnia, and vows to break up once and for all with her high-school-sweetheart-married-lover and find a man she can start a family with before she hits menopause. Lehmann deftly weaves Rosenbloom’s and Wescott’s stories, taking readers on a virtual tour of old New York (with vintage photos to aid the imagination) in the process.
As the novel unfolds, it becomes clear that although women today enjoy more rights and freedoms, they have many of the same concerns, dreams, ambitions and desires as their sisters of a century ago. A fun, interesting, thought-provoking read for history buffs and fans of Joanna Trollope and Masterpiece’s Mr. Selfridge. An excellent choice for book clubs.