Astor Place Vintage
“A really charming, funny book that moves deftly from modern-day New York to the same city streets in 1907.” –Kate Forsyth, BITTER GREENS
“Insightful, charming, and wholly entertaining.” –Khaled Hosseini, THE KITE RUNNER
Publisher’s Weekly Starred Review
Lehmann’s enchanting fifth novel tells the stories of two New York women a century apart, interweaving their lives through playful synchronicity and hints of the supernatural. The present-day timeline involves Amanda Rosenbloom, who owns the eponymous Astor Place Vintage clothing store and has a strong attachment to the past. She mourns the spread of modern buildings in the East Village, where the store is located, and can’t let go of her married lover Jeff, a man she’s known since high school. While going through some consigned wares, Amanda discovers the 1907 diary of Olive Westcott, an upper-class woman who dreamed of becoming a department store buyer. The story switches to the past, with Olive, after her father’s death, facing widespread prejudices against women working and supporting themselves economically. Amanda feels an increasing connection to Olive and meets a possible descendant of the diarist, in the process gaining the strength to assert her own emotional independence. Lehmann does a seamless job of moving between the past and present and gives a definite sense of place to the story’s two periods, with rich descriptions of city life and architecture. First-class storytelling with an enticing dose of New York City history.
The past meets the present in Lehmann’s work of feminist literary fiction.
In 2007, 39-year-old Amanda indulges her interest in history by running a vintage clothing business in New York City. She is contacted by Jane Kelly, who, at 98, is getting rid of a lifetime’s accumulation of stuff, selling whatever she can for whatever she can get. Amanda takes an old trunk full of clothing on consignment and, while going through the items, finds a journal, started in 1907 by a woman named Olive, sewn inside a muff. These two women are separated by a century but have a lot in common. Olive is rebelling against the 19th-century concept of a woman’s “place” in society, and Amanda feels herself caught between two historic eras. Olive’s mother died in childbirth, and she was raised by an upper-class, loving but conservative father. His fortune was lost in the stock market, and when he died, she became poor. The author presents compelling, often shocking historical details about the treatment of working women in the early years of the century. Meanwhile, Amanda, in contemporary Manhattan, is considering extricating herself from an affair with a man she dearly loves. Along the way, she visits a hypnotist. The tape she receives after her session introduces questions that bring her closer to Olive.
The author combines an impressive knowledge of history, sociology and psychology to create an intellectually and emotionally rewarding story.
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