The Boston Girl
Published by: Scribner
Buy the Book: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Bookshop, IndieBound
The Boston Girl is told through the eyes of Jewish woman growing up in Boston in the early twentieth century. It is a coming-of-age story about family ties and values, about immigration and generational change, about friendship and feminism.
Addie Baum is The Boston Girl, born in 1900 to immigrant parents who were unprepared for the effect that America would have on three daughters. Growing up in the North End –at the time a teeming multicultural neighborhood—Addie’s intelligence and curiosity lead her to a world her parents can’t imagine, a world of short skirts, movies, celebrity culture and new opportunities for women. Addie wants to finish high school and dreams of going to college. She wants a career and to find true love.
Eighty-five-year-old Addie tells the story of her life to her twenty-two-year-old granddaughter, who has asked her “How did you get to be the woman you are today.” She begins in 1915, the year she found her voice and made friends who would help shape the course of her life. From the one-room tenement apartment she shared with her parents and two sisters, to the library group for girls she joins at a neighborhood settlement house, to her first, disastrous love affair, Addie recalls her adventures with compassion for the naïve girl she was.
She remembers staying at Rockport Lodge, a sort of “fresh air fund” resort located in a seaside town north of Boston, where she makes friends, who are part of a life that spans World War I, the influenza epidemic, and the Great Depression.
The Boston Girl is a moving portrait of one woman’s complicated life in twentieth century America, and a how a generation of women found their place in a changing world.
“Diamant infuses [The Boston Girl] with humor and optimism, illuminating a wrenching period of American progress through the eyes of an irresistible heroine.”
“Strong female ties form this story’s core. Through these relationships…Diamant brings to life a piece of feminism’s forgotten history [and reminds us] there will always be those who try to prescribe what you should be. Good friends are those who help you find out for yourself.”
“Ravishing. . . . whip-smart, warm, and full of feeling… deeply pleasurable. . . you can’t help wanting to linger.”
“Crisp, lively, clear, wry, affectionate, compulsively readable and very entertaining…The Boston Girl’s…[narrator] is supremely brave and bighearted — a marvelous role model no matter how you parse it.”
—San Francisco Chronicle
“The Boston Girl convincingly traces the story of a scrappy, intelligent immigrant, who does more than merely survive the 20th century; she embraces it all—tragedies, joys, and the humdrum—with unflagging passion.”
“Addie is…a good storyteller, and her descriptions of the human devastation of World War I and the flu epidemic … have an immediacy that blows away any historical dust.”
“Anita Diamant’s The Boston Girl introduces [a] woman of substance…[who] relates how growing up in a time of gender inequality, strict family expectations, and a widening generation gap of social values made her a successful person.”
“A vivid, affectionate portrait of American womanhood … Diamant has built her career on taking women seriously, and Addie Baum is another strong heroine with an irrepressible voice.”
—Los Angeles Times
“Engaging… interesting, informative, and a good read.”
—New York Journal of Books
“This compelling new novel by the author of the book club favorite The Red Tent (1997) also celebrates a woman’s story.”
—Dallas Morning News
“The story of every immigrant and the difficulties of adapting to and accepting an unfamiliar culture.”
“A resonant portrait of a complex woman. . . [a] page-turning portrait of immigrant life in the early twentieth century…an inspirational read.”
“Enjoyable fiction with a detailed historical backdrop.”
“Anita Diamant is known for her thought-provoking novels about women’s lives, from Biblical times to the present day…The Boston Girl becomes the story of the 20th century and the ever-changing roles of women within it.”
“Readers…will feel lucky that they read this richly textured all-American tale.”
—Historical Novel Society
“An exploration of the immigrant experience, love, marriage and friendship, plus many significant world events, including World War I and II, Prohibition, the Spanish flu epidemic, civil rights and the sexual revolution. Through it all, family and friendship remain resilient.”
—Fort Worth Star-Telegram
“A gripping story of a young Jewish woman growing up in early-20th-century Boston. . . A stunning look into the past with a plucky heroine readers will cheer for.”
“Diamant offers impeccable descriptions of Boston life during those early years of the 20th century and creates a loving, caring lead character who grows in front of our eyes.”
Reading Group Guide
This reading group guide for The Boston Girl includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. Early on it is clear that Addie has a rebellious streak, joining the library group and running away to Rockport Lodge. Is Addie right to disobey her parents? Where does she get her courage?
2. Addie’s mother refuses to see Celia’s death as anything but an accident, and Addie comments that “whenever I heard my mother’s version of what happened, I felt sick to my stomach” (page 94). Did Celia commit suicide? How might the guilt that Addie feels differ from the guilt her mother feels?
Ava, sweetheart, if you ask me to talk about how I got to be the woman I am today, what do you think I’m going to say? I’m flattered you want to interview me. And when did I ever say no to my favorite grandchild?