The past meets the present in Lehmann's work of feminist literary fiction.
In 2007, 39-year-old Amanda indulges her interest in history by running a vintage clothing business in New York City. She is contacted by Jane Kelly, who, at 98, is getting rid of a lifetime’s accumulation of stuff, selling whatever she can for whatever she can get. Amanda takes an old trunk full of clothing on consignment and, while going through the items, finds a journal, started in 1907 by a woman named Olive, sewn inside a muff. These two women are separated by a century but have a lot in common. Olive is rebelling against the 19th-century concept of a woman’s “place” in society, and Amanda feels herself caught between two historic eras. Olive’s mother died in childbirth, and she was raised by an upper-class, loving but conservative father. His fortune was lost in the stock market, and when he died, she became poor. The author presents compelling, often shocking historical details about the treatment of working women in the early years of the century. Meanwhile, Amanda, in contemporary Manhattan, is considering extricating herself from an affair with a man she dearly loves. Along the way, she visits a hypnotist. The tape she receives after her session introduces questions that bring her closer to Olive.
The author combines an impressive knowledge of history, sociology and psychology to create an intellectually and emotionally rewarding story.