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