Book Club: A Kiss From Mr Fitzgerald

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Author: Natasha Lester
ISBN: 978-0-73363463-5
RRP: $29.99

Historical novels aren’t always my thing and generally when I think historical I head back to the 18th and 19th centuries rather than the early part of the 20th.

A Kiss From Mr Fitzgerald is set in the middle of the 1920s, with prohibition in force and a major change brewing. Lester has painted a vivid picture of a New York life in the 20s that makes me look at all the things we take for granted in the 21st century. There are times that I look around now and am thankful that I was born in the last quarter of the 20th century rather than the beginning of the 21st. Reading this book makes me appreciate the freedoms I can enjoy thanks to the pioneering women of the early 20th century and glad I was born in the second half of the 20th century rather than the first.

I guess that regardless of the times you are born into and the times you live in there will be good things and not so good things.

Evelyn Lockhart is born into a middle class New York family in a time when the purpose of her education was to help her find a wealthy husband and run a household, unfortunately that wasn’t enough. Evelyn wants to go to college, she wants to do something important with her life, and when she happens to come across a young woman giving birth by the side of a river all alone she finds her calling. Evie Lockhart decides she wants to be a doctor.

a kiss from mr fitzgerald

I loved Evie, she was a woman before her time and she was determined; she had strong beliefs and refused to be swayed. In a time where women of her class spent all their time trying to catch a husband Evie had a man waiting to propose but wanted more than that life could offer her. Witnessing the death of a woman alone in childbirth brought out the desire in her to help other women, to put a stop to these avoidable deaths.

This is a time when the first female students where still studying medicine and female doctors were still unheard of. Evie could have been a nurse but that wasn’t enough for her. She had the smarts she just needed to be able to prove herself and get through summer school to be able to apply.

If it wasn’t enough that she had to work twice as hard to get into college she still had to go up against an entire college of men who didn’t think she should be there, and a society who ostracised her. Her family refused to support her decision, therefore cutting her off and forcing her to pay her own way through college.

Evie Lockhart is an inspirational woman whose courage and determination changed the face of childbirth, one mother at a time. It wasn’t easy and she had to fight for every single opportunity, she had to work harder and do better than everyone else in her course because her gender put her at a disadvantage and through it all she never gave up.

This book is a tale of fiction and Evie doesn’t exist but there was a first woman to go to medical school, and a first female obstetrician and they would have been supremely inspiring women. I can’t help but love a story of women who paved the way for the freedoms I enjoy today.

A Kiss from Mr Fitzgerald isn’t just about Evie’s battle to become a doctor, it’s also a story of her personal life and the struggles she faced to support herself and make choices she could live with. A story of her whole family and the different paths they were on.

New York society and the hypocrisy of it all played a big part in the story too. I love looking back on a time that I will never be able to experience, a time that it seems women as a gender began their coming of age.

There were elements of this story that absolutely broke my heart, and the thought of all obstetricians being men was alien to me. I remember in the lead up to my first birth being extremely put off by the thought of a male obstetrician, never thinking about there being a time where that was the only option.

Natasha Lester has done a magnificent job of bringing to life a time that I was unfamiliar with and writing characters that evoke strong emotional reactions – not all of them positive. Overall this book was an engaging read withe some interesting twists and a touching emotional journey.

If all Lester’s writing is of this calibre I will definitely be keeping an eye out for her other books.

A Kiss from Mr Fitzgerald is Book #8 for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2016.

Natasha Lester can be contacted on NatashaLester.com, Twitter and Facebook.

Thanks to Hachette 20 of our Beauty and Lace Club Members will be reading A Kiss from Mr Fitzgerald so please be aware there may be spoilers in the comments.

A Kiss from Mr Fitzgerald is available April 26, 2016 where all good books are sold.

20 thoughts on “Book Club: A Kiss From Mr Fitzgerald

  1. With all the social commentary and realism of a Jane Austin novel, A Kiss From Mr Fitzgerald, by Natasha Lester is the captivating story of one young woman’s brave fight against the expectations and hypocrisy of her time. In her love life, in her choice of profession and in her determined pursuit of what she thinks is right, Evie is a real heroine.

    Set in the 1920s an era when the “flappers” of the time were trying for a new kind of social freedom, in speech, in dress and in how they behaved, many young women, like Evie were starting to push boundaries. Not satisfied with marriage being the ultimate prize a woman could aim for and not content with a future sitting around taking tea and sewing lace handkerchiefs, Evie decides she wants to help other women by becoming a doctor.

    Much to her family’s dismay, Evie rejects the imminent proposal of her childhood friend, the very rich, eligible but ultimately frivolous, Charles Whitman. Instead with the help of Charles’s handsome older brother Thomas, she secretly starts attending university science classes, in order to become eligible for admittance to medical school.

    Of course as is inevitable in these types of romantic dramas, Evie makes it into Columbia University’s medical school but her ruse is found out and she is cut off by her family. So, forced to support herself, and with few other choices, Evie auditions for and becomes a Ziegfeld girl on Broadway.

    Its a great story which weaves in and out of Evie’s dual life as a conscientious medical student by day and an infamous Ziegfeld girl at night; as well as the dual relationship Evie has with the two Whitman brothers – the increasingly debauched Charles, who now seeks revenge, and Thomas the respectable Upper East Side banker who Evie is falling in love with.

    Well written and enjoyable, A Kiss From Mr Fitzgerald, gives us a glimpse of a bygone era, and the obstacles many women overcame to lead a happy and fulfilling life. I really enjoyed this book and will definitely be looking out for more books from this very talented author.

  2. “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife”. Jane Austen summed things up well for the menfolk but the question remains, “What is to become of a single, middle class woman living in New York in the roaring twenties?” The answer to that can be found in the third novel by Australian author, Natasha Lester where she writes about a strong and inspiring heroine who took the road less travelled.

    Evie Lockhart is the star of A Kiss from Mr. Fitzgerald, a historic romance novel set in the same era as The Great Gatsby. It’s a fictional drama that feels honest and authentic thanks to a series of complex and well-sketched out characters (and in some respects, Lockhart reminds me of Elizabeth Bennet). Evie is a lady who is determined to break down a few social barriers and prejudices so she can realise her dream of becoming New York’s first female obstetrician. The fact that she also supports herself by dancing as part of the Ziegfeld Follies on Broadway is remarkable.

    The story is one you can easily imagine as a film. The writing is evocative and draws together a heady mix of speakeasy bars, gin and jazz. The costumes also sound beautiful and in one case even include a gorgeous little Chanel number. But A Kiss from Mr. Fitzgerald is more than just a pretty face, it also manages to have both style and substance.

    There are a number of interesting threads to this story. At the outset it seems that the conservative Lockhart will be forced into a life of tea, sewing and looking after her wealthy husband. But the fact she eschews this cosy life of luxury for some hard toil in order to fulfil her own aspirations is just fabulous. The twists and turns in the plot also keep things exciting and you will be rooting for Lockhart every step of the way. She is an amazing heroine who was well ahead of her time.

    A Kiss from Mr. Fitzgerald is a well-researched and exquisitely-written piece of historic fiction. The story is an inspiring and relatable one that will make you stop and appreciate that you’re living in the 21st century. In all, this is an intelligent and sensitive tale that is strong enough in depth, character and feeling to be considered a classic love story.

  3. It’s the roaring twenties in New York, full of gin, jazz and the prosperity of a changing world.

    And its the start of the female revolution – although slowly. Women openly wear makeup and have hitched up hemlines. They are starting to enjoy the freedom to vote and work. But not for Evelyn Lockhart. Evelyn is forbidden from pursuing her passion to become one of the first female doctors. Becoming a Doctor will mean challenging her life and importantly her family.

    Evelyn’s sister Viola and her very conservative parents; the childhood best friend she is expected to marry are all scandalised with Evelyns desire to be a doctor. As is the way in novels her family disown her so, in order to support herself through medical school, Evie auditions for the infamous Ziegfeld Follies on Broadway. The dramas grow!

    I really enjoyed this story. It engaged and made me think about how tough women had it in the early 20th century. Evelyn is a likeable character and her trials are well told! Natasha Lester has a talent for telling interesting stories and bringing the reader into a different world. I book is a page turner and I enjoyed every moment. A great read!

  4. Wow.. what an absolutely brilliant book.

    Set in New York in the 1920s, the main Character Evelyn is a woman of amazing courage and fire. After watching a woman die in childbirth near her home, she decides that she wants to become a doctor. No easy feat back in those days. She shows amazing courage and does whatever it takes…. And it takes a lot! I felt like I was learning a lot about the period and opened my eyes to live in the 20s

    I enjoy books that make me react in some way and this book does just that. It made me reflect upon what an easy life we have and how far women really have come in the past 100 years.

    I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone!

  5. I fell in love with Evie straight away, a woman who knew her own mind and was determined to succeed no matter what. Even now woman find they have to make choices love or career. A very enjoyable read for the weekend, and made me realise how lucky we are right now. Natasha has delivered another intriguing read. Would give it 4 1/2 stars out of 5..

  6. I’ve just finished A Kiss From Mr Fitzgerald, and I thoroughly enjoyed this story.
    Evelyn ‘Evie’ Lockhart is everything I admire in a female character – strong, inspirational, determined, and always wanting to push herself that little bit further to get where she wants to go in life, regardless of the hurdles.
    I haven’t read any of Natasha Lester’s books, but I am going to check out her other books because I loved this author’s writing style.
    Her descriptions of everything from the fashions of the bygone era, to New York’s landscape, to obstetrics, are highly detailed, and you can tell that Natasha has researched these topics extensively.
    I haven’t read a book of this genre in a while, and I really enjoyed being taken back to the ’20’s and reading about the struggles women faced just based on their gender.
    I really felt for Evie, she certainly did it tough, but it was so great to read that her struggles paid off in the end.
    I would love to see this book adapted to film, or television series, as it would be brilliant.
    I would definitely recommend this book to others (and have actually already promised to lend my copy to a teacher from my children’s school). I loved the cover on the proof copy I received, but the cover depicted above is simply stunning, and I’d purchase the book for that cover alone!
    Thank you very much for the opportunity to read this book.

  7. I thoroughly enjoyed reading A Kiss from Mr Fitzgerald, a Historical Romance, but it will tempt readers of other genres.
    Set in the Male Dominated world of Medicine in the 1920’s, this is the story of Evelyn Lockhart and her desire and determination to become a Doctor, an Obstetrician .
    After being disowned by her family for wanting to do an unseemly profession, Evie (Evelyn) auditions for Ziegfeld Follies so she can pay her rent and College fees.
    This story demonstrates the discrimination a female had to endure in a changing world. Not everyone agrees with society that a woman should not be a Doctor. Evie has support from areas she did not expect.
    There are quite a few different threads that converge into a believable conclusion.
    Natasha Lester shows the depth of her research into this novel, scenery, fashion, Academic, Commercial, Prohibition and the Nightlife.
    I enjoyed reading about the early 1920’s in this book and will definatly be keeping an eye out for future books by this author.

  8. I found “A Kiss From Mr Fitzgerald” quite slow to start, but involving and interesting once it hit its’ stride. Part of the problem, I think, was the prologue. It was totally unnecessary, and added nothing, but meant that in the opening pages I was going yes, yes, we know she gets past this stage. Get on with it. The prologue simply removed the tension around a couple of significant plot points.

    Evelyn Lockhart wants to become a doctor. An obstetrician, at that. In 1920s America, this is a shocking ambition. But Evelyn is willing to endure a great deal to achieve it.

    It must be said that I sometimes felt the novel underplayed how difficult things would have been for Evie (as she prefers to be known). Although some of the challenges she faces during her training are well drawn, it seemed to me that the extent of the social challenges she would have faced – particularly late in the novel – are glossed over. I suppose it would have made the novel far more gritty, and less escapist, had Lester given this more weight.

    Lester has presented us with a cast of strongly drawn characters; most are vivid and realistic, and despite living in a different era, you’ll probably feel you’ve met some people just like them. This is one of the things that makes the novel so enjoyable – the relatable characters make you care about what is going to happen.

    Lester did use some rather clichéd literary devices – I really dislike the “pregnant after having unprotected sex once” trope. Yeah, it happens, but not as often as the literary world would have you believe! This is a personal bugbear, so maybe it stuck out to me more than it would to other readers. I also felt that, apart from the extraordinary sexism of the time, Lester didn’t really use the historical background as much as she might – it was a time of significant change, but much of this is ignored or glossed over. It’s true that Evelyn lives in a world that allows her to ignore much of the upheaval, but as she’s contributing her little bit to the social upheaval, I might have expected a little more awareness of it.

    Overall, though, this was an enjoyable and involving novel, although a little on the light side. It was nice to read about a heroine whose challenges were a little out of the ordinary, and Lester’s writing style is very readable. Readers who want something a little different but not too heavy will enjoy this.

  9. Evie sounds a lot like me knew what she wanted and nothing would stop her from achieving her dreams, was so difficult for women back then to make it in a mans world we were discriminated against something terrible, this book was extremely well written and I loved that she achieved her dreams and found happiness would highly recommend this book

  10. A Kiss from Mr Fitzgerald is the first of Natasha Lester’s books I have read. I loved it and will be looking for her other books.
    The story is set in 1920’s New York.Lester has researched the era very well. I could feel the vibe of living through the time of prohibition and felt empathy for low standing women had in that society.
    I read this book while holidaying with my yound teenage grad daughter. It brought up many points for discussion. We had great chats about how the expected roles for women have changed over time. We had wonderful discussions about womens strength and fortitude and the need for her to be strong and independent.
    Lester’s fictional story is set against the reality of the times.
    The heroine, Evelyn Lockhard, has a vision for herself that is beyond what is considered proper and dignified for a young middle class woman of that time. She is perpared to do whatever it takes to be accepted in the male dominated field of medicine and obstetrics.
    The story is about her struggle against the norms of society. It is also about the stong bonds that women form and their support for each other.
    Lester draws strong characters. I felt strongly about Bea, the wonderful woman from Zigfields. The dreadful, misoginist Charles made my skin crawl.
    It is a great historical story, as well as a touching romance. The happy ending reduced me to tears.

  11. I was really intrigued to read A Kiss From Mr Fitzgerald, as it is based around society nearly 100 years ago and the struggle being a woman. It’s not based on a particular individual’s true story but is written based on a solid foundation of research of the era, and in the back of the book there is a great description of what things are actually real and the sources the author used. Despite the well researched background, this it is still an easy read, so don’t be worried if you don’t like reading history books (I’ll admit that is me) as it is not like that at all – rather it accurately depicts the time it is set and gives you some insight into life as a female (though many of the concepts won’t be foreign to you eg. The struggle women faced trying to become doctors, expectation of women to settle to just marry, etc).

    From the start of the book I really liked the main character Evie. The whole story is told from her perspective and she is a very determined and persistent individual who stands up to follow her dreams despite facing many challenges and having almost all the people she once cared about standing against her. There are quite a few other characters who feature in the story – some of these are likable and some are not, yet some become more likable by the end. For example Evie’s sister Viola is not a very likable person during the first half of the book, but later she comes much more likable as she makes some amends with their relationship.
    I found the book was written in an easy to read style that takes you through many emotions as you follow Evie’s hard journey to achieve her goals in life. These emotions probably are more negative than positive given the challenges Evie faces and the disciplined life she lives while she works for her goals. There is a point when Evie makes a major relationship decision that defines her life journey (at least for the next few years) and it is so heartbreaking to read, and also hard to comprehend the cruel mindset of society at this time that left her with no choice but to make this decision.

    I found the end was a little hard to believe – it was a happy ever after type ending, but it seemed a little abrupt and a little too good to be true, yet I suppose sometimes it is good to read a book with a very conclusive ending that doesn’t leave you with a lot of questions you will never have an answer to.

    Overall I really enjoyed reading this book and I will be looking out to read more books by Natasha Lester.

  12. Thank you so much for the opportunity to read this book. A truly captivating book that I could not put down!! I loved the story line within this book. It tells the story of Evie who has lived a somewhat privileged life in New York but always felt there was something more than afternoon tea parties, dinners and balls. After coming across a young woman giving birth by a lake, she felt compelled to help her. Unfortunately the woman dies during the process, but the baby survives. This event drives Evie want to become a female Obstetrician, which in the 1920’s is unheard of, and very much frowned upon by society. Her drive to succeed and the obstacles she faces make it difficult for a female, however she does persist and supports her studies by becoming a Ziegfeld girl. Of course there is a romance intertwined within this book, but that too is not an easy path for Evie to follow amid the scandal and protocol expected of the times.

    I am in awe of the amount of talent here in Australia and Natasha has done her research well. It was fascinating for me to read what women giving birth had to endure in the 1920’s compared to today. A brilliant story by a wonderful Aussie author. Highly recommended.

  13. A Kiss From Mr Fitzgerald was a stunning read from beginning to end. I haven’t read a book based in the early 19th century for a very long time, so it was indeed a very refreshing read.
    The theme of the novel was very powerful and one that many, if not all women can relate to and appreciate. A theme about women always being underneath men and not being able to achieve what any man can.

    Evie Lochkart was a gorgeous character and one that I really admired and felt for throughout the novel. Her sheer courage and determination to fight for what she wanted was truly admirable and I was cheering at every point in the novel when she achieved something. She deserved everything she sought out to do and I was so proud of her.

    Evie’s friends were beautiful and I really enjoyed getting to know Lil, Leo and Bea. Three wonderful companions of Evie and a strong support system for her.
    A loved reading about her performances at Ziegfeld’s – it would have been a great show to watch! The descriptions of her costumes sounded magnificent! I also enjoyed reading about Evie’s mission to be becoming an obstetrician. It was heartbreaking knowing that despite her academic excellence and knowledge for medicine, she was being treated like an incompetent. I was overjoyed when she topped her year after her exams and proved to everyone (even her own family) that she could really be anything she wanted to be.

    It was wonderful knowing that Evie could have a family of her own as she made a wonderful mother to Mary and Lucille and was very deserving to be one despite her hiding to many what her plans were. But when I read that Evie decided to adopt her little sister, my heart melted.

    Evie’s relationship with Thomas was beautiful and I was hooked from the moment they met. I was shocked at one point when I thought their relationship had certainly ended, but I was over the moon at the end when he professed his love for her and put behind him what had happened between them. A true love story and one that I will not forget!

    This novel was an absolute joy to read and one that I could not put down. Natasha Lester is a very talented author and her writing style is perfection. It was very easy to read and grasp – and get hooked on! Highly recommended!

  14. I was rapt to recieve A Kiss from Mr Fitzgerald to read and review for Beauty and Lace. Most if not all of the books I have been reading lately (since having my kids!) have been modern, set in the present day. So to read a historical novel and set in such a vibrant time as the Jazz Age in New York was a real change of pace and I dare say a treat! Appealing to my historical education, this novel is thoroughly researched and historically accurate, but nevertheless remains accessible and eminently readable.

    I loved the exploration of women’s rights and societal norms set against the glittery light of 1920’s New York, full of style and glamour and New Age delights. Evie’s pursuit of a medical career against seemingly all the odds was inspirational and her dedication and determination admirable. While we may have come a long way, thankfully, since then unfortunately there are still barriers to break down and glass ceilings to smash.

    The descriptions of 1920’s NYC were fascinating and have only fuelled my hope and desire to experience the Big Apple myself one day. I love losing myself in another world and the stark differences between current day Australia and the prohibition years in the USA.

    Easy to read and engaging throughout, I enjoyed the romance also and was pleased Evie really achieved her most desired ambitions as well as attaining personal happiness in the end, however unlikely it seemed at the ouset in that societal setting. I will be recommending this novel to all friends and family and seeking out other works from Natasha Lester. Thanks to Hachette Australia and Beauty and Lace for this cracking read!!

  15. A kiss from Mr. Fitzgerald

    I’m not normally into historical style books although I must say I thoroughly enjoyed this book and am secretly wishing for another ☺

    I found Evelyn to be a captivating character and I just could wait to find out what happened between her and Tommy.

    It was very interesting to read about the struggles many women experienced being unmarried/with child or just ambitious. But I didn’t feel like I was reading a tedious history book just a sweet story.

    The book I felt was a bit slow to start but after the first few chapters I just couldn’t put it down and ended up reading it in only a few days ☺

  16. Natasha Lester you held my interest in this intriguing story right from the start as I fell in love with Evie and Thomas, grew much dislike for Charles, grew to slowly like Viola and wished I was out partying withLil and Leo. The story has many spins which when put together make the story what it is. Relevant to Evie and her challenges in become a Doctor, relevant to her many differing relationships with the Registrar, Ziegfeld, student Drs and interns, her parents, hotel bellboy and the Sisters of orphan Mary and then adopting Mary and her own child. To give so much in her life and experience much is a true testament to Evie’s character. I loved reading about that era and the many differences. Do I feel Evie has contributed to changes made in allowing our flexible times? Yes. A must read and thank you Natasha. I am a fan. 🙂

  17. The copy I received to review of Natasha Lester’s “A Kiss from Mr Fitzgerald” was an uncorrected draft proof which clearly still required some editing and as such I cannot be sure that the book I read was the book that will be released for sale. Having said that I absolutely loved the copy that I read.

    Evie Lockhart is alive in the 1920’s in Massachusetts, she is from a well to do family with a mother who wishes to cement her place in society by ensuring her daughters, Evelyn (Evie) and Viola, do their duty and marry well and settle down as wives of men of society. Viola appears more than willing to accede to her mother’s wishes, Evie clearly feels there is more to life than endless high teas and embroidery. Mother wishes Evie to marry Charlie Whitman, the younger son of the family next door, and so ensure her future, to Evie Charlie is the boy she climbed trees and played with as a child.

    When Evie comes across a girl she knew from school, Rose, on the banks of a river giving birth alone she instinctively goes to help but is shocked by the reaction of both Charlie and her father (who was a doctor before coming into an inheritance) to the girl’s plight.

    There and then she decides that she wants to study medicine and help girls like Rose so they don’t have to give birth alone, treated like pariahs for being single and pregnant. But this is the 1920’s, hard for a girl to get into university, impossible to get into Medical School. Her parents make it clear that they will not support her, Viola and Charlie are both horrified that she wants to follow such an inappropriate course in life. But support comes from two unlikely sources, Charlie’s older brother Thomas, and his mother Mrs Whitman.

    Evie moves to New York where Thomas introduces her to Leo and Lil, speakeasy’s and Jazz, and Evie manages to make it into Medical School. With no support from her family Evie is forced to study by day, and work in the infamous Ziegfield Follies at night, and in her spare time (!) she develops a relationship with the baby she delivered on the banks of the river, named Mary by the orphanage in which she has been placed.

    Along with the trials and tribulations Evie must endure from her fellow medical students, who don’t believe a woman should be at university let alone studying to be a doctor, Lester also explores the personal ups and downs of Evie’s life as she struggles to break the mould of the hypocrisy, restrictions and expectations of the world that she is growing up in.

    As well as being a very enjoyable read, it is clear that Lester has done her research in writing this book. Although Evie is not based on a real character the book is written at a time that women were struggling to break into the male dominated world of university and medicine, women of substance were expected to marry well, and be meek and mild, it was accepted that men had affairs, but there was no support for the girls who became pregnant as a result of those affairs and prohibition was in place in America.

    I would highly recommend this book.

  18. I thoroughly enjoyed reading a “A Kiss From Mr Fitzgerald”. I experienced every single emotion while reading and ended the book the book with a tear.

    Evie and Thomas were characters I couldn’t help but admire and love. Every battle Evie faced in becoming an obstetrician reminded me of how lucky my children and I are to be born in a era where women can do anything they want. She makes many sacrifices that an ordinary person would not make. I wish my girls were old enough to read this book so they can appreciate the choices they take for granted.

    A well written book with many twists and surprises along the way. I highly recommend reading this wonderful book.

  19. This book brings back an era that is long gone and makes you realise how our ideas and conceptions have changed since then. At those times women were expected to be home-makers and mothers would be arranging their daughter’s marriage with a a wealthy man.
    I adore the courage of Evie Lockhart, who decides to become a doctor and not follow the society norms of marrying and sitting at home sewing clothes.
    This book is well written and portrays the 1920 era very well . I could sense the environment and the scene the book was set in . This book made me appreciate the opportunities women have in this day and age and I feel better that women can enjoy studying and making a career and have no pressure of getting married in their young age.

    This book started slow for me and I struggled to keep reading it in the beginning but mid way through the book the story picked up and got interesting for me.

    I found the character of Evie Lockhart really inspiring . She followed her dreams, and she was determined to achieve success. She did not follow the norms and beliefs of society.

    I also enjoyed the delicate romancebetween Thomas and Evie.
    It was quite an enjoyable read and transported me to a bygone era.

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