Saturday, February 21, 2009

Book Review - Bookends: Two Women, One Enduring Friendship by Leona Rostenberg and Madeleine Stern

Old Books, Rare Friends did so well when published, fans of the book asked for more. Bookends is meant to be a more personal and in-depth look at the friendship between these two extraordinary women. I believe it is a perfect complement for the first book but would not stand well on its own (where as Old Books, Rare Friends does). While it covers a lot of the same ground from the first book, it is not repetitive. Both books alternate between the two different points of view of each women. So if in the first book, a trip to Europe was told from the point of view of Rostenberg, in Bookends Stern would share her impressions of the same event. They both discuss the romantic relationships they experienced in their youth and also expound on why they chose not to marry. There is a chapter dedicated to the dogs who served as their faithful companions throughout their lives and the difficulty they experienced in realizing the time had come to stop having a canine family member. There is a beautiful chapter dedicated to their mothers and the close relationships they both experienced with them. Two chapters address the changing world they live in and the process of aging in such a world. I could relate to their lamenting the onslaught of intimidating new technology. But I felt the deepest sadness as they outlined all the ways in which the rare book world has changed and in many ways left them behind. They were in no way found to be irrelevant or disrespected but the inevitable change of the times left them questioning and unsure about their place in a world they loved so much. I do recommend reading Bookends. I did not find it to be a matter of fact, I still wanted to know more about these two ladies and after consulting the internet was saddened to find that they had both passed away recently (Rostenberg in 2005 and Stern in 2007). Their legacy continues to live on in a musical based on the two booksellers as well as a proposed documentary that I will be on the lookout for.