Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Book Review: A Long Way from Boston

Book Review: A Long Way from Boston

Author: Beth O’Shea

Date: 1946

Publisher: Whittlesey / McGraw-Hill

ISBN: none

Length: 266 pages

Illustrations: drawings by Peggy Bacon

Quote: “When Kit and I—two girls just out of school—started to drive across the country in a Model-T Ford, our major problem at first was how we were going to sleep.”

It was the early 1920s. “Boston girls did not drink, smoke, use lipstick or inuldge in necking parties in the back seat of cars.” Beth O’Shea and the friend she calls Kit were “nice girls.” The adventures they have, even on their road trip when they’re chaperoned only by each other, are on the “nice” and safe side. The point was, at the time, that two thoroughly nice girls could have adventures.

E.g.: “The West did not actually begin for us until we bobbed our hair...We had talked of doing it before we left Boston, but lopping off the old crowning glory was a serious decision in those days...People were beginning to concede that every short-haired woman was not necessarily a dangerous Red.”

Beth and Kit, like other adventurous women of their day, were short-haired. They wore trousers, although (see page 218) never in church. Other adventures they had included selling handmade aprons door-to-door, playing badminton with movie star Douglas Fairbanks (an old name for the game was “battledore,” and Fairbanks named his variation on the rules “Dougledoor”), and eating fry bread on a reservation.

From time to time they met young men, some of whom they found attractive and a few of whom they kissed. Kissing was as far as it went in those days and some readers may be disappointed that, calm as they are about kissing guys, the girls never kiss each other. But no. This is a girl-power story; Beth and Kit have things on their mind other than making babies, and so they’re able to do things other than making babies. The  story ends with the girls assuring each other that they’re over their latest silly crushes, heading home.

Stories about what women did in the early twentieth century always call my attention to how many freedoms we’ve gained...and how many we, and men, have lost. Read this book to be surprised, or read it just as a plausible, entertaining story.

Did you check out that Amazon link (by clicking on the picture)? W-o-w. While writing the first draft of this review I had a copy of this book, with the dust jacket in better condition than that, and I sold it for $1. I didn't get enough online time in those years. Currently, to buy it here will cost you $140 for the book plus $5 per package.