In 1935, Dottie Krasinsky is the epitome of the modern girl. A bookkeeper in Midtown Manhattan, Dottie steals kisses from her steady beau, meets her girlfriends for drinks, and eyes the latest fashions. Yet at heart, she is a dutiful daughter, living with her Yiddish-speaking parents on the Lower East Side. So when, after a single careless night, she finds herself in a family way by a charismatic but unsuitable man, she is desperate: unwed, unsure, and running out of options.
After the birth of five children—and twenty years as a housewife—Dottie’s immigrant mother, Rose, is itching to return to the social activism she embraced as a young woman. With strikes and breadlines at home and National Socialism rising in Europe, there is much more important work to do than cooking and cleaning. So when she realizes that she, too, is pregnant, she struggles to reconcile her longings with her faith.
As mother and daughter wrestle with unthinkable choices, they are forced to confront their beliefs, the changing world, and the fact that their lives will never again be the same….
Kathryn - 4 Star
I have a thing for historical fiction set around WW2. It doesn’t have to be European or American or any particular theme or story line but something about it makes me think of my grandparents and their real existence during this time period.
Modern Girls has two strong female leads, mother and daughter, whose stories alternate in real time with some of the mother’s past given to us as well. There aren’t any direct male voices which is interesting in itself in a time period that is just on the brink of women joining the work force etc. I love that Dottie flits between the traditional daughter, who helps at home, to modern girl out with her friends. The descriptions of both are so vivid and it made it so easy to envision her life. Rose is also very vibrant and her personality comes through with every internal thought and voiced opinion. I love her sense of self despite her traditional role as mother and wife which always seems to incorrectly imply a lack of personality.
Their shared secret was wonderfully played out- I felt for Dottie when she couldn’t decide the best way to move forward and empathised so much with Rose about her frustration with not being able to help her daughter- she was also trying to work through so much personally. I was so touched with the scenes between Rose and her husband. They seemed to respect each other so much that I kept hoping one of the prospective partners for Dottie would suddenly become so enlightened. I’m not sure if any of them would have had the same long-lasting love.
The real story comes down to family and the links that tie them, from parents and children to siblings and friends. Modern Girls was entrancing and I loved reading it.
Thank you to Penguin Random House for our review copy. All opinions are our own.
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