This is essentially a poor little rich girl story, about a plump, socially awkward half an orphan, half-Jewish teenager in NYC and Boston in the late 1940s. The book surprised me, as I was expecting a more hateable heroine. In fact, one of the things that saves her, is that she is not brilliant, not beautiful, and not particularly sensitive or insightful. She is just a troubled teenager, who happens to be worth a ton of dough but is basically emotionally isolated while having to navigate the death of one parent and realizing the other will never be there for her either.
An interesting subtheme for me, the product of Eastern and Western European Jews are the differences and dislike between the two populations. The protagonists' mother and wealthy step-grandmother are assimilationist German Jews who want nothing to do with the Russians and their ilk. They are members of a country club that mimics the gentile clubs that would never accept them, even throwing an annual Christmas party.
It's a good read, but if you're looking for politics pick it up more for a distinctions between classes of Jews than for a larger statement on class, which is what I thought I was getting. As it turns out, I didn't mind. I like when a book surprises me--by having a protagonist who is nothing special and by ending the book without her having had a major revelation.
It was obvious that Judy would never be idle until she was downed by old age or a terrible disease. And as for rich, she didn't have it in her. No matter how much money she had invested in AT&T or Eastman Kodak, no matter how large her bank balance, she thought poor. She didn't have the flair to throw away bread crusts and socks worn at the heels. She couldn't buy a ring for herself merely because she liked the look of the gem. She could never have owned thirty pairs of shoes, the way my mother did, nor spend $45 on a cotton dress to wear in the city in August when everyone was away. Judy thought in terms of saving, not spending, which I discovered was the big difference. Almost, in fact, as big as the difference between your German Jew and your Russian Jew. My mother was a spender, and she had such fun--oh she had an absolutely lovely time spending oodles of fresh, sticky bills tucked away in their Mark Cross wallet until she was ready to snap them out. p.205-206