Astor Place Vintage. Stephanie Lehmann. Touchstone Books/Simon & Schuster. June 2013. 416 pp. pbk. ISBN #: 9781451682052.
Imagine living your life as a working young woman in 1907 or in 2007. What would be the same and what would be different? Believe it or not, not much, although as this novel depicts two women from each period run into society’s strictures and mistakes of their own. This is the story of Olive Westcott, a young woman living in the earlier part of the 20th Century. She wants to be a retail seller of clothing in the worst possible way, but her father and business owners will not allow social pressures to make her dream possible. A woman could never go anywhere alone, let alone work without a male reference or supporter. She is up to the fight however, when her father no longer has that ever-present influence in her life. She proves that times are slowly changing by starting at the bottom as a salesgirl at a department store.
How do we know all this? Amanda Rosenbloom, who owns a clothing shop named per this novel’s title, finds Olive’s journal. Amanda is in a bit of a quandary herself. She’s an insomniac dating a married man. She knows her future with him is going nowhere fast but lacks the strength to end it, at least initially. As it turns out, the economy in New York City is changing as well, and Amanda finds herself being evicted so the owner can charge a more exorbitant rent to the next person. After all, New York, both in Amanda and Olive’s time, is prime territory for real estate and business. Amanda will prove to be creative and resourceful in her attempt to save her business, find a better place to live, and seek a satisfying romance.
Tall order for Olive and Amanda, yes; but Stephanie Lehmann offers the reader two females with all their strengths and weaknesses who are all the more likeable because they are so real! Lehmann also offers us through quaint, exciting and painstaking detail a thorough panorama of the architecture, interior designs, fashions in clothing, food, music, and art prominent in both time periods. This is an elegant picture of New York as it evolved over 100 years and a delight to relish equally with the story!
Astor Place Vintage is very finely written and a hugely entertaining read!