I needed a book with Girl in the title for the 2023 Pop Sugar Reading Challenge, and since none of the books from my TBR fit, I went searching. It didn’t take long before I came across The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant (Scribner, 2014), and that was an easy choice. I love Anita Diamant. I love her fiction, I love her nonfiction, I’m a huge fan. So much so that I was almost frightened to start this book, because what if I didn’t like it? Cautiously, I opened the cover, turned a few pages to the first chapter, started reading…and hilariously, I was hooked within the first two paragraphs. Unsurprisingly, I ended up loving this book.
Told in the style of an interview with her granddaughter, The Boston Girl tells the story of the life of Addie Baum, a Jewish woman whose life spanned the course of the 20th century. Her parents are poor and don’t quite understand this new country that they’ve fled to; her sisters are distant, and forming relationships with them in such a volatile household is nearly impossible. But Addie scrapes together a life for herself, using the many resources around her, like the Settlement House and its courses and support groups, to turn herself into a real Boston Girl.
Growing up as the impoverished daughter of immigrant parents. World War I and its devastation. Unexpected pregnancy in a dangerous time. A prescient retelling of the terror of the Spanish flu pandemic. Life, death, love, struggle, and triumph. It’s all here in this book, where Addie Baum blossoms from a naïve young girl to a woman surrounded by love, family, friends, and the incredible life she’s built for herself.
This book is fabulous historical fiction that covers so many topics that are still relevant today. I think I held my breath through all of the pages that were set during the Spanish flu pandemic; that part was particularly well-written and far too familiar, so much so that I flipped back to the copyright page and was a little surprised to find this was published in 2014. Of course it’s part of Addie’s timeline, but I think that part of the story has taken on far more meaning since the book’s initial publication date.
There are some fraught moments, moments of death, sexual assault and harassment, a soldier’s PTSD, and what we recognize today as emotional abuse by a parent. But there’s also joy, of friendship, of carving out a career path, of falling in love for the first time. This is truly a well-crafted story that spans a century of incredible change, and Ms. Diamant manages to cover just enough history without bogging down the reader with tiny details or the more complicated parts of history. This is character-driven with a heavy influence by the outside events of history, and I truly loved it.
Visit Anita Diamant’s website here.