Monday, March 20, 2017

What I Read in June 2016 Part II. . .

What I Read in July 2016 Part I . . 

Diary of a Waitress: The Not-So-Glamorous Life of a Harvey GirlDiary of a Waitress: The Not-So-Glamorous Life of a Harvey Girl by Carolyn Meyer

Kitty Evans dreams of going to college and becoming a journalist, but her father's business isn't doing well and he only has enough money to send one child to college. Kitty is incensed that her brother Howie gets to go to college when all he wants to do is fool around. She is expected to marry and have a family, the norm in the 1920s, therefore, she doesn't really need to go to college. Kitty has bigger dreams than that and she finds a way to make them happen when she signs on to be a Harvey Girl waitress. Harvey Girls are held to the highest standards and Kitty isn't sure she will make it past training, but with help from her friends, sensible Emmy and fun-loving Cordelia the flapper, she can stand anything. Kitty discovers there are adventures waiting to happen despite the grueling job.

I really enjoyed this fictional adventure. I saw an old movie with Judy Garland as a Harvey Girl but that was the first time I had ever heard of them. It's obvious Carolyn Meyer did an intense amount of research and the subject is one she's passionate about. I really liked the inclusion of period photographs of real Harvey eating houses, hotels and staff. Kitty's world comes to life, even without the photos, as she describes everything happening around her. I really go caught up in her adventures and couldn't put the book down waiting to see who would make it and how long they would last.

However, I do have a few little issues with the novel. I feel Kitty missed a great opportunity for her first story. She discovered brown girls get relegated to the kitchen whereas Harvey Girls are fair, usually blond and blue eyed. No one in the 1920s would publish a story about racism but it would have been a good teaching moment for younger readers. I kept forgetting this was set in the 1920s and not pre-war. The pop culture references are tossed in occasionally to remind readers and Kitty frequently refers to Cordelia as a flapper. Other than that, the story could have taken place any time during the late 19th century to the 1950s. I also could have done without the romance. It felt a little forced into the plot, especially into the epilogue. I hate jealousy plots and love triangles but fortunately this one is pretty mild. I wasn't crazy about the epilogue. The central novel was so descriptive and fun, the epilogue had a different feel - definitely told and now shown. I would have preferred to imagine my own adventures for the characters or even a sequel/companion novel.

This is Carolyn Meyer's best book in years, perhaps her best ever. She should stick to writing about fictional characters instead of historical figures.

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