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Memories of a Restaurant Girlhood

by Charlotte Silver

Pub Date: Feb. 16th, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-59448-815-3
Publisher: Riverhead

Memoir of a childhood spent at the legendary Harvard Square restaurant Upstairs at the Pudding.

Silver brings back to life an era when Harvard Square wasn’t filled with the soulless plate-glass windows of national banks—when local businesses were chaotic, working on trade, a little dusty, yet full of human spirit and character. The book will no doubt enjoy a prominent place in the windows of the Harvard Coop, and fans of Upstairs, a local institution that closed in 2001, will likely enjoy the backstage view of the beloved restaurant. As a memoir, though, the book is lacking. The author provides many lighthearted stories about long nights spent amusing herself in the restaurant, but she rarely re-examines the events in the light of adulthood. Silver gives equal attention to her youthful party dresses and her emotional inner life, with a slight edge to the party dresses, while significant events, such as court dates or divorces, are mentioned in passing. The author presents her stream of anecdotes in a straightforward way, rarely offering critical distance or narrative context. For example, Silver drops a description of an electrifying moment in her burgeoning sexual awareness in the middle of a chapter about mice in the restaurant. It’s almost as if the author doesn’t want to fully share herself with readers.

Like its namesake dessert, a confection—enjoyable but lacking substance.