08 January 2019

Bess and Frima | Book Review


Bess and Frima, best friends from the Bronx, find romance at their summer jobs at Jewish vacation hotels in the Catskills—and as love mixes with war, politics, creative ambitions, and the mysteries of personality, they leave girlhood behind them.

When Bess and Frima—best friends, both nineteen and from the same Jewish background in the Bronx—get summer jobs in upstate hotels near Monticello, NY, in June 1940, they have visions of romance . . . but very different expectations and needs. Frima, who seeks safety in love, finds it with the “boy next door,” who is also Bess’s brother. Meanwhile, rebellious Bess renames herself Beth and plunges into a new life with Vinny, an Italian American, former Catholic, left-wing labor leader from San Francisco. Her actions are totally unacceptable to her family—which is fine with Beth. Will their young loves have happy endings? Yes and no, for the shadow of world war is growing, and Beth and Frima must grow up fast. As their love lives entangle with war, ambitions, religion, family, and politics—all kinds of conventional expectations—they face challenges they never dreamed of in their struggles for personal and creative growth.

Publisher: She Writes Press
Release Date: August 21, 2018


At the heart of Alice Rosenthal’s historical novel is a friendship between Bess and Frima. Through the differing trajectories of their choices—rebellion versus convention—the two together depict an interesting picture of life in the 1940s. They experience the effects of romance, war, changing ideologies, and more, their growth individually and relationally driving the story from beginning to end. It does move slowly overall, but I did enjoy my time with Bess and Frima. For the historical reader, it could be just the enjoyable read you’re looking for next.


Thanks to TLC Book Tours, I received a complimentary copy of Bess and Frima and the opportunity to provide an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review, and all the opinions I have expressed are my own.


Alice Rosenthal was born and raised in 1941 in the same Bronx neighborhood as her protagonists, though a generation later. After receiving her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from NYU, she married, divorced, and settled in the Village-Chelsea area of Manhattan, where she maintained her lifestyle by copyediting for academic presses. In 1976, she moved to San Francisco and began a new worklife teaching ESL at City College of San Francisco. She loves reading, gardening, baking, cooking, making things with her hands, and shmoozing with her friends and family. She is the author of the novel Take the D Train, as well as articles published in the San Francisco Chronicle and Jewish Currents magazine.


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