My review of Astor Place Vintage by Stephanie Lehmann

About the book:

When a vintage clothing store owner in New York City discovers a journal from 1907, she finds her destiny at stake as the past and present collide. 

The past has a seductive allure to Amanda Rosenbloom, especially when it comes to vintage clothing. She’s devoted to running her shop, Astor Place Vintage, but with Manhattan’s rising rents and a troubled economy, it’s tough to keep the business alive. Meanwhile, she can’t bring herself to end an affair with a man who really should be history. When Amanda finds a journal sewn into a fur muff she’s recently acquired for the shop, she’s happy to escape into the world of Olive Westcott, a young lady who lived in New York City one hundred years ago.

As Amanda becomes immersed in the journal, she learns the future appeals to Olive. Olive looks forward to a time when repressive Victorian ideas have been replaced by more modern ways of thinking. But the financial panic of 1907 thrusts her from a stable, comfortable life into an uncertain and insecure existence. She’s resourceful and soon finds employment, but as she’s drawn into the social circle of shopgirls living on the edge of poverty, Olive is tempted to take risks that could bring her to ruin. Reading Olive’s woes, Amanda discovers a secret that could save her future and keep her from dwelling in the past.

It’s Olive, however, who ends up helping Amanda, through revelations that come in the final entries of the journal. As the lives of these two women merge, Amanda is inspired to stop living in the past and take control of her future.

My review:

I enjoyed this novel and how the author alternated between 1907 and 2007. The stories paralleled each other in their tragedy and triumph. The author did a good job with the setting for each as I felt like I was experiencing NYC in the past and in the recent present. The way the characters tied together was intriguing as well. I understood both of their struggles and the desire to know what happened. I found the problem with her inability to sleep well both compelling and revealing. She had good reasons to be discontented.

The minor characters were well crafted, too. I found the whole situation with Olive and Joe quite compelling. I understood her weakness and confusion surrounding the whole situation. The author did a good job with that aspect of the novel. She also did a great job with showing the differences between the characters’ beliefs and the way they were raised to think. Out of necessity Olive found herself struggling to survive in a man’s world where women were sorely underpaid for similar jobs, making it difficult to manage on their own.

The way the story ended was bittersweet. I think I liked it more than I disliked it. If things had been perfectly resolved it may have left the reader with a sense of disbelief, whereas I found the way it ended quite believable. I liked how the author left so many things open ended, yet with a lingering sense of happily ever after. I didn’t care for the occasional swearing by the heroine in the present day, but other than that, I enjoyed this book.

Astor Place Vintage was published by Touchstone and released in June 2013.

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