Review: The Saturday Evening Girls Club by Jane Healey

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Although I don’t read a lot of historical fiction, I’ve realized that when I have had the opportunity to read a historical novel, I always seem to end up enjoying it. This is what happened with “The Saturday Evening Girls Club”.

“The Saturday Evening Girls Club” came with my ONCE UPON A BOOK CLUB Box (to be reviewed next on my blog). It’s a story about four young immigrant women living in Boston’s North End in the early 1900s.

The book opens on a beautiful autumn morning in 1908. Twenty year old Caprice is wondering if this was the same type of day that greeted her parents when they came to Boston from Italy twenty-four years earlier. They had come to America dreaming of a better life than they could have ever had back in Sicily.

Caprice’s parents want her to get married to a nice Italian man and have a family, but Caprice wants more. Working as a hat trimmer at Madame Dupont’s Millinery has made her realize just how much more she wants. Her big dream is of opening her own hat shop, “Caprice’s Millinery” where she’ll make affordable hats for women in her own neighborhood. But it will take a lot for this dream to come to fruition.

It has been a terrible day at work but Caprice is thankful that it’s Saturday. Saturday means the weekly Saturday Evening Girls (S.E.G) meeting. Caprice has been attending these meetings since she was thirteen years old. They have educational speakers, discuss literature, put on plays, and listen to music among other things. But the best part of the S.E.G club is spending time with her best friends Ada, Maria, and Thea who are also members of the group. The meetings take place in the basement of a pottery shop. The club really helps the girls. During the time they spend together, they are often able to help each other work out some of the issues they may be having in their lives.

Caprice’s father is continually inviting eligible (or who HE thinks are eligible) bachelors over to meet Caprice. He feels this is the year she needs to be married. Caprice wants no part of an arranged marriage, but has kept these feelings to herself. Her friend, Thea is very shy. Thea comes from a Jewish family that barely acknowledges her existence. Ada is very intelligent and is hiding the fact that she’s taking college classes from her Russian Jewish father. And then we have, Maria who wants a better life for herself than the one her broken down Italian Catholic mother has with her alcoholic father. What will she do to escape that life?

Though the story is a bit of a slow burner, I enjoyed the descriptions of Boston in the early 1900’s. The apartment building in the North End where Caprice and Maria both lived with their families, where doors were always open, and everyone knew everyone’s business. Sunday dinners with aunts, uncles and cousins. Even the men invited to come for desert were pretty entertaining.

We see how the women each deal with their individual issues. Will they achieve their dreams? Or will circumstances, their families, and/or cultural prejudice keep them from realizing their full potential and finding true happiness.

I really enjoyed reading about these women and the tight bond they had. No matter the time, a good set of supportive friends will always be priceless. I liked their personalities and I became invested in their lives. These women were always there for each other.

I thought “The Saturday Evening Girls Club” was an interesting historical fiction novel. I found it very interesting that the novel and many of its characters were based on real people and a real club. The real “Saturday Evening Girls Club” started as a book club in Boston in 1899 and S.E.G Club Pottery or Paul Revere Pottery is now quite valuable and highly collectible. The club grew to include other days of the week for different ages of girls and grew to have over 250 members. An interesting part of history.

Thank you to Once Upon a Book Club for providing a copy of this book for me to read in exchange for my honest review.

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