I have to admit that when I finally began to read it, I had low expectations, mainly because of the cover. But I’ll get to that in a moment.
This is a well-written engaging novel that is hard to put down. ASTOR PLACE VINTAGE is a braided story of two women, Amanda living in NYC in 2007, and Olive, living in New York City in 1907. Unlike some books, in which the modern part is less interesting than the historical part, Ms. Lehmann has made both parts equally strong. Both Olive and Amanda are compelling characters, partly because they have flaws, they make mistakes, and they both have to struggle to earn a living as single women.
It is obvious that Ms. Lehmann is a gifted researcher. The 1907 part of the novel was replete with fascinating facts about how hard it was to survive at that time as a single woman. But, unlike some authors, Ms. Lehmann has used that information to pull you into that world.
This novel is a treat to read. Ms. Lehmann is a combination of a gifted storyteller and a gifted researcher, two sets of skills that are very different, and more commonly than not, do not go together in the same person. I am sure that she is going to have a very successful career as an historical novelist.
Now to that cover. I don’t think Touchstone/Simon & Schuster is doing Ms. Lehmann any favors. It simply doesn’t convey the message of the story at all. Instead of marketing this book as a serious look at women’s issues, it gives the impression that this is yet another fluffy chick-lit yarn.
My recommendation would be to keep the gorgeous black and white photo in the background, but remove the foreground figure and all the pink, and instead replace it with two faces looking at each other, modern Amanda and 1907 Olive. You CANNOT tell this book by its cover! Five stars.