Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney is a delightful book about an 85 year old woman on New Year’s Eve in 1984. Lillian lives on her own in New York and adores the city so she sets out to eat at her usual restaurant to celebrate the passing of the year. Having eaten too many biscuits before she started her journey she isn’t immediately hungry and so she walks to other locations in the city that are important to her and reminisces about her life since she moved there in the 1930s.
Lillian was once an advertising copywriter for Macys (a large department store in New York) and she eventually became the highest paid woman writer in advertising. This story, where she is continually having to fight off discrimination, is told as part of the narrative and are introduced to the life of ayoung professional woman in the early twentieth century.
Lillian’s trip around the city is not uneventful. She meets lots of people, with all of whom she instantly builds a rapport. They include a pregnant woman about to give birth, a family who ask her to join them for a meal, a chauffeur who has no client, a gang of young men who wish to rob her and a party of artists. She has views on everything and seems to have no fear. She adores the city and talks about how it has changed in the time that she has lived there.
Lillian’s trip around New York is a celebration of her life and the connection she still has with people despite her age. Lillian is fearless, full of energy, interested in others and pleased with her life so far and she is of endless interest to others who have affection for her.
The advertising history of Lillian’s life is based on the true story of a woman who did most of the things attributed to Lillian and who wrote most of the text which is ascribed to her – the journey through the city is the author’s own invention and is a good way to frame the life story and also to celebrate New York as a city.
I found this book delightful and loved getting to know Lillian and learn of her history.