Mary's Reviews > Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney
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really liked it
bookshelves: audible, bookclub, re-reads, 2019-shelf, 2019-favorites
Read 2 times. Last read January 16, 2019 to January 23, 2019.

2019 - re-listened for bookclub. must say, I loved it even more the second time around (it's the first book I'm adding to my 2019 favorites shelf!).

Xe Sands' narration is brilliant. She includes a wonderful interview with Kathleen Rooney at the end of the book that gives helpful insight into both the importance of narration and the development of the book. Rooney based Lillian on real-life Margaret Fishback; much of the material (including many of the poems) came from Margaret's life. I've spent more time in NYC since that early 2017 listen (my daughter now lives in Manhattan) and I have to say ... walking through that city is one of my favorite things to do.

I have a greater appreciation now, too, for Lillian's civility. In an interview with Michelle Johnson (, Rooney talks about this:

Johnson: In addition to walking, civility is a high value for Lillian. Is that due to the copywriter she’s based on, Margaret Fishback, a concern of yours that you’ve shared with Lillian, or simply a character trait appropriate for her?

Rooney: Fishback valued civil behavior, too, and wrote a witty guide to manners called Safe Conduct: When to Behave and Why. It came out in 1938 and is sadly out of print, but the advice in it holds up because good manners are timeless.

Also, Margaret’s—and therefore Lillian’s—esteem for civility is a trait that I admire and strive to share. Courtesy and politeness are sometimes derided as fake or phony. (Sidebar on this point: I despise when people claim that they have to give [a certain politician] credit because “at least he’s honest,” as if the only way to be honest is to be blunt, hateful, rude, and crass; that’s not honesty, I’m afraid, that’s being an asshole and it’s disgusting and dangerous.) Or graciousness gets dismissed as formal or distant, but to me that’s a misunderstanding of the power of civility. True civility means to meet people in the way that you’d hope to be met—with generosity and goodwill and a belief in equality: that everyone you encounter has something to offer.
2017 - Absolutely delightful. On New Year's Eve 1984, 85 year old Lillian (once the highest paid woman in advertising) takes us on a walk through Manhattan, visiting places that hold memories for her and telling us her story. Along the way, she meets a cast of interesting characters and the way she interacts with them helps us understand her better. Bottom line, she's a great character, as is the city she takes us through.
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Reading Progress

January 2, 2017 – Shelved
January 2, 2017 – Shelved as: to-read
January 20, 2017 – Started Reading
January 20, 2017 – Shelved as: audible
January 26, 2017 – Finished Reading
January 16, 2019 – Started Reading
January 23, 2019 – Shelved as: bookclub
January 23, 2019 – Shelved as: re-reads
January 23, 2019 – Shelved as: 2019-shelf
January 23, 2019 – Shelved as: 2019-favorites
January 23, 2019 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-5 of 5 (5 new)

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Penelope So glad to see you liked this book. I just found out I won it in a Goodreads giveaway.

Mary lucky you - I think you'll love Lillian!

Penelope Mary wrote: "lucky you - I think you'll love Lillian!"


Marilyn One of my favorites!

Mary Marilyn wrote: "One of my favorites!" ... mine too - love that I found so many new things to appreciate in the short two years since I first read it!

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