The Boston Girl - Anita Diamant

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I enjoyed "The Red Tent" by Anita Diamant when I listened to it on audio a few years ago so I was intrigued when this new release was chosen for our book club. I was also able to get the audio for this book and HIGHLY recommend it. The audio is read by Linda Lavin. When I was growing up my mom and I always enjoyed watching the sitcom "Alice" in which Linda Lavin played the title role. I remember some days when I stayed home from school sick I would watch reruns and they were very comforting because I was so familiar with all the characters. This selection was already looking good: an author I have enjoyed read by an actress I have enjoyed!

The story is actually more of a monologue with occasional asides to a granddaughter named Ava. Ava is conducting an interview of her 85 year old Jewish grandmother. Linda Lavin was fabulous at taking on the accent and the singsong way that I've heard older Jewish ladies from the east coast tell stories. Once I was hooked in, there was nobody else I could even imagine reading the part. I think I enjoyed hearing the audio more than reading the eBook.

On a scale of 1 - 5:

Sex: 2

Religion: 4

Gruesome: 2

Suspense: 1

Morality: 3

Sex - there are a few occurrences, not much detail is provided but in some instances it was more forced than a woman had anticipated.

Religion - a large theme of this book is growing up Jewish, it is largely who these characters are. As they grow and have new experiences in the world, their religion is always at their core.

Gruesome - most details are left to the imagination but there are a few situations which could be considered gruesome, such as: abortions, suicides, illness and war injuries.

Suspense - the thing I found most suspenseful was whether or not Addie would finally find the right guy for her. You know all along she is talking to her granddaughter so you assume this came about the traditional way and not through adoption. Sadly, when her spouse is finally revealed, it almost seemed like the author missed an opportunity for a big reveal and just casually threw it at the reader.

Morality - while there are instances of pre-marital sex and less-than-upstanding members of society, there are many more instances of good people just trying to do the right thing and live a normal life. Addie could have preached at her granddaughter on many occasions but she kept her life advice quick and to the point.

This is a VERY enjoyable book. It is a lot like sitting down and hearing your grandmother reminisce about her days as a young woman. I only hope that when I am 85 I can recall with fondness so many details of my life. That is probably unlikely though because already at 45 I don't have the recall that Addie does. She can remember conversations and colors of clothing from 60 years ago. I can't even tell you what my husband was wearing when he proposed to me a little over a decade ago. So I had to suspend belief on her total memory recall - but without it there obviously wouldn't have been as much of a story.

I got the impression that Ms. Diamant researched quite well the social clubs of Boston in the early 1900s. I have not done any actual fact checking on her facts - but either way it comes across as realistic and completely plausible.

Discussion Questions

How much have attitudes towards marriage changed? How much have they stayed the same? (ref. pg. 40)

On pgs. 63 & 64, Addie remembers the first thing she ever bought herself - a hat. What was the first thing you ever bought for yourself?

On pg. 114, Addie remembers a post card word for word. What things do you remember word for word?

Addie said, "Stumbling into Mr. Boyer's [Shakespeare] class was one of the best accidents that ever happened to me." (p. 119) What are some of the best accidents you have had in your life?

Share your thoughts about Celia's death. There is an implication that it was suicide. Do you think that is plausible, especially given that her character was portrayed as emotionally weak? How did the later scenes that brought to light the effects of child labor change your understanding of Celia's death?

During the flu epidemic, Addie's mother "put a red string on all the doorknobs to keep out the evil eye." (p. 135) Does your culture have any similar traditions?

Addie received a whole new viewpoint when she was at the lodge as a cleaning girl and tried to join in the activities. Do you have any life experiences that have changed the way you interact with a certain group of people?

Aaron proposed to Addie in a post script of a letter, with a reference to pancakes. What did you think of this proposal strategy?

Even as recently as the 1980s it seemed that pre-marital sex was just beginning to gain acceptance. Were you surprised at the behaviors in 1926?

Why did Addie wait so long to tell her family about Aaron?

When Addie wrote the story for The Nation she used her real name and wound up losing her job because of it, even though in her job she wrote under an assumed name and was relegated to the women's pages. Discuss the situation. (p. 246)

Theme Ideas

Serve "hot dogs and cherry pie and saltwater taffy" (p. 23) like Addie ate the first time at Rockport Lodge.

Serve "mixed nuts" (p. 29) in honor of the girls' table group at Rockport Lodge.

Play "lawn tennis, archery, [and] croquet" like the girls played at Rockport Lodge.

Serve whiskey and wine like at the weddings.

Serve cherries flambe like Addie ordered on her date with the dentist. (p. 146)

Serve sandwiches and coffee like Miss Chevalier did at the gathering where Addie met Aaron. Or serve the opposite, tea and tea cakes like Addie opposed.

Serve Chinese food like the first meal Addie and Aaron shared. (p. 217)

Serve apple pie (from a bakery) like Irene served when they had Addie and Aaron over for dinner. (p. 229)

Serve "hummus, pita bread, olives with pits, and a kind of chopped salad" (p. 322) like Katherine served Addie when she went over to retrieve her letters.