Thursday, July 11, 2013

Review: "Astor Place Vintage" by Stephanie Lehmann

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.

My Thoughts:  I don't read historical fiction set in in the United States very often but this story sounded so intriguing that I couldn't resist.  Astor Place Vintage is set in New York City in both 1907 and the present day and follows the lives of two women as they deal with some major life changes.

Amanda is the main character in the present day portions of the story.  She owns a vintage clothing story and has a very complicated personal life.  I found her to be really frustrating at times.  She's having an affair with a married man and wants to break it off but seems unable to.  I think I was so frustrated with her because she is supposed to be 39 years old but when it comes to her personal life she acts like a teenager.  I kind of wanted to shake her!  I did find her obsession with vintage clothing to be really interesting and the descriptions of the different outfits she works with and wears were so neat.  Amanda is also kind of obsessed with New York history and there were a lot of great descriptions of both past and present New York City.

Amanda 'encounters' Olive Westcott when she finds a journal in some old clothes she purchases from a dying woman.  Olive is a single woman living in New York City in 1907.  I loved Olive.  She knew what she wanted and was willing to work her hardest to get it.  She had some major struggles in her life but she handled them with grace and dignity.  There were times where she was a little naive but considering her upbringing, it wasn't super surprising.  I found it to be fascinating to see the kinds of difficulties working women encountered in the early 20th century; their pay was barely enough to live on and a single woman seemed to have hardly any rights.  There were parts of the story that I was shocked at; I couldn't believe that a respectable woman like Olive couldn't stay in a hotel by herself!

I will admit, at times this book is a little creepy.  Amanda visits a hypnotist to try to cure her insomnia and this somehow allows her to see Olive in the past.  At first it seemed that her apartment was haunted by Olive's ghost but it was more like Amanda could 'see' Olive as she lived her day-to-day life.  This was a very unique aspect to the story and kept me wondering what would happen next. 

Astor Place Vintage is a thoroughly enjoyable read that features unique characters, really cool descriptions of New York City and is just a touch mysterious.  I highly recommend it and once you start reading it, you won't be able to put it down!  4 stars.

I received this book from Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author:


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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