I was completely excited when I heard about this book and very happy to have been asked to review it. I couldn’t wait to read it, and….you guessed it…Astor Place Vintage by Stephanie Lehmann didn’t disappoint me!! In fact, I couldn’t put it down and read it in about one day, sometimes only with one eye and one hand!
This novel, juxtaposing between Olive in 1907 NYC and Amanda in 2007, the story had a ton of things to love. My excitement grew as I checked off my list the following: NYC-Manhattan circa the 1900s (a fave time period and place in history for me), fashion, vintage, art, women’s rights, female protagonists, and mystery! Wow, how much more could I possibly want, right?!?
I happen to still have been hoping for a wonderful story to go along with the beautiful cover and my overwhelming interest in its topics. Happily, a wonderful story that will go on the list of favorites this year was the outcome. I certainly recommend that this book make it to the top of your reading pile if you like Manhattan history, as well as modern-day NYC living, and have a great desire to read about women, even from different eras, who are struggling to make a career for themselves.
Both characters have similar voices even though they live 100 years apart, which tells me that the conflicts and dilemmas that women deal with aren’t different no matter what decade they are living in. Things change with the times, but a monumental struggle for most women is a desire to leave a legacy through some type of career work, or even a need to work, while still juggling the issue of having or raising children. Marriage. Death. Rights. Finances. They all come in to play in this conflict driven drama featuring well-developed characters.
Lehmann is a superb writer, prone to lovely details describing people and places, all that give you a true sense of being in the story and learning about life in a new place. I loved her details of historic NYC and really immersed myself in her descriptions. On the modern end of the tale, I think we also get a good picture of the modern woman’s city life, such as issues with owning a small business, turns that relationships take, and stress.
As Olive and Amanda hauntingly intertwine, the journal that Amanda has found in her modern life, written by Olive, becomes a driving force both to Amanda’s character as well as to the reader. It really did propel me to read faster. Just as we wonder about the many people in history who have come before us, we are left wondering at the end and left to our own imaginations.
I highly recommend this book for its absorbing story, historical aspects, and alluring characters, as well as for its engaging entertainment value. And it’s even more recommended if you’re like me and love vintage fashion!
Astor Place Vintage, Synopsis!
Amanda Rosenbloom, proprietor of Astor Place Vintage, thinks she’s on just another call to appraise and possibly purchase clothing from a wealthy, elderly woman. But after discovering a journal sewn into a fur muff, Amanda gets much more than she anticipated. The pages of the journal reveal the life of Olive Westcott, a young woman who had moved to Manhattan in 1907. Olive was set on pursuing a career as a department store buyer in an era when Victorian ideas, limiting a woman’s sphere to marriage and motherhood, were only beginning to give way to modern ways of thinking. As Amanda reads the journal, her life begins to unravel until she can no longer ignore this voice from the past. Despite being separated by one hundred years, Amanda finds she’s connected to Olive in ways neither could have imagined.
Praise for Astor Place Vintage
“The past meets the present in Lehmann’s work of feminist literary fiction. . . . The author combines an impressive knowledge of history, sociology and psychology to create an intellectually and emotionally rewarding story.”
« “Enchanting. . . . 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.”
-PUBLISHERS WEEKLY (STARRED REVIEW)
“A thoroughly engaging story about fate, struggle, and will, as told through the intertwined lives of two women in New York living a century apart. Past and present blur in unexpected ways in this insightful, charming, and wholly entertaining novel.”
—KHALED HOSSEINI, author of The Kite Runner
“Lehmann’s blend of past and present perfectly woven together create an addictively readable novel. New York City will never look the same to me after reading ‘Astor Place Vintage.’”
—KATHLEEN GRISSOM, author of The Kitchen House
“A fascinating tour of turn-of-the-century New York. Guaranteed to appeal to anyone who likes to search for the bones of the past beneath the bustle of the present.”
—LAUREN WILLIG, author of The Secret History of the Pink Carnation
“I love Amanda and Olive and how we come to understand what links them despite the passage of time. I love what Lehmann has done with the 1907 city—how real it is.”
—BEVERLY SWERLING, author of City of Promise
“This utterly engrossing novel gives us a portrait of one of the most fascinating cities in the world where long after the book has ended you will walk the streets in your mind.”
—STEPHANIE COWELL, author of Claude and Camille and American Book Award recipient
“A splendid banquet of fashion, style, and both old and contemporary New York City, couched in a riveting story. A feast not to be missed!”
—LYNN CULLEN, author of The Creation of Eve
Author Stephanie Lehmann, Biography~
Stephanie Lehmann received her B.A. at U.C. Berkeley and an M.A. In English from New York University. She has taught novel writing at Mediabistro and online at Salon.com, where her essays have been published. Like Olive and Amanda, she lives in New York City.
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