Cover of Astor Place Vintage Paperback

Within a few pages of beginning to read the novel Astor Place Vintage, I was captivated and unable to tear myself away from the interwoven stories of Amanda and Olive. Written in alternating chapters, the book begins with 39-year old Amanda, a vintage clothing dealer who visits an elderly client and comes across Olive’s journal in a trunk of clothing from the early 1900s. As Amanda’s own life begins to unravel, she finds comfort within the pages of Olive’s journal from 1907, especially since she, like Olive, wants to be independent and self-supporting. Although more than a century separates their lives, Olive and Amanda share a love of New York City and the backdrop of the city’s history becomes another character in the story.

The depth of research underlying this complex story is impressive, with the specificity of details of early 20th century dress, etiquette, social norms, and landmarks adding authenticity to the tale. (Given the nature of my work in researching costume history, my standards are high!) The inclusion of the tragic but true love triangle of Stanford White, Harry Thaw and Evelyn Nesbit added another layer of historic accuracy, and by the end of the book, I felt like Amanda and Olive might be real.

It has been a long while since I’ve had time to read fiction. Astor Place Vintage was engaging and well-researched and one of those books that I wished would never end (even though I stayed up late to get to the end). This book is the perfect summer read and would be especially appealing to costume historians, vintage clothing details and history buffs. 

Title: Astor Place Vintage
Author: Stephanie Lehmann
Publisher: Touchstone, A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
Year: 2013
Price: US$16.00, Canada $18.99
ISBN 978-1-4516-8205-2

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