One of my favorite book bloggers, Gilion, in addition to hosting the European Reading and TBR 22 in 22 reading challenges also hosts on her Rose City Reader blog Book Beginnings on Friday. While I’m no stranger to her European Reading Challenge, only recently I decided to participate in Book Beginnings on Friday. This week I’m back with another post.
For Book Beginnings on Friday Gilion asks us to simply “share the opening sentence (or so) of the book you are reading this week, or just a book that caught your fancy and you want to highlight.”
MY BOOK BEGINNING
The yellow-and-black Checker cab nosed its way down Second Avenue in the rain. A newsboy in a sodden cap wove in and out through the slow-moving cars, hawking copies of the New York Sun; a man in a Plymouth exchanged coins for a newspaper as the drivers behind him honked.
Last week I featured Helen Rappaport’s Caught in the Revolution: Petrograd, Russia, 1917 – A World on the Edge and this week it’s a little fiction with Kitty Veldis’s 2018 historical novel Not Our Kind. In my recent Sunday Salon post I guessed I’d either love this novel or hate it. With about two thirds of it under my belt I’m enjoying it. (Although my cat Orion looks like he could care less about what I’m reading and prefers I go back to giving him scritches.)
One New York City morning in 1947 recent Vassar grad Eleanor Moskowitz is in a cab en route to a job interview when another cab rear-ends her. Shaken up and now sporting a bloody lip, she scrambles to find a payphone to cancel the interview. After calling the passenger in the other cab, Patricia Bellamy, takes pity on Eleanor and invites her back to her elegant Park Avenue apartment to wash up. Over lunch served by the Bellamy family’s Polish cook she hits it off with Margaux, a usually troublesome 13 year old polio survivor. Impressed by Eleanor’s demeanor, intelligence and recent experience as a teacher at an esteemed girls’ school Patricia offers to hire Eleanor as Margaux’s private tutor. Taken aback at first, she’s soon won over by both Margaux’s enthusiasm and the position’s rate of pay.
Such an arrangement looks like a win-win, but in 1947 it’s fraught with risk. Eleanor is Jewish, and an undeniable undercurrent of antisemitism permeates America, including its largest and most cosmopolitan city. Either subtly or not so subtly it’s always there, jaundicing relations between Gentile and Jew. Each morning Eleanor must give her last name as “Moss” to the incredulous doorman in order to enter the Bellamy’s “restricted” apartment to teach Margaux Latin, Shakespeare and mathematics. Worst of all, she must contend with Patricia’s husband Wynn and his antisemitic prejudices. But despite these challenges under Eleanor’s gentle and talented tutelage Margaux blossoms. Before long Eleanor finds herself swept up into the Bellamy family’s orbit, leading to both unexpected pleasures and dangers.