Friday, January 29, 2016

Have A Lovely Weekend.

Phillipe Mercier, Sense of Hearing, 1689
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Reading New England: Peyton Place by Grace Metalious (1956)

I hope that all is going well with you. It's been a bit quiet here, mainly because of a reading slump, and with home remodeling, real life has gotten in the way, too. This past weekend with the blizzard, I had a great reason to get back to reading.

I'm participating in the Reading New England Challenge at Emerald City Book Review. For January, the task has been to read a book set in New Hampshire. My choice--the infamous novel, Peyton Place by Grace Metalious (1956).

The name of Peyton Place has become such a part of our vernacular. I've been curious to know about this scandalous story that became such a huge hit. In reading about the book and its publication, I was surprised to learn that there was a period when it was estimated that one in twenty nine people in the United States owned a copy of Peyton Place.

Peyton Place has something for everyone--the ironies of human nature, coming of age, sex, murder, incest, abortion, a dramatic trial, small town politics, secrets, and lies. I found some brilliant writing, but in exposing the underbelly of an idyllic New England town, there was a lot of extraneous material, too. The novel felt a bit like pulp fiction with its salaciousness, at times a first rate novel, and at times like it was trying a bit too hard. But I couldn't stop reading.

The most prominent story line features attractive career woman, Constance Mackenzie, who owns the local dress shop and has been raising her daughter, Allison. Constance has been living under the guise that she's a widow. She's terrified that the town will find out that Allison is the product of an affair with a rich man in New York City whom Constance never married. She also fears Allison's reaction when the time comes for Allison to learn the truth. 

Peyton Place is also Allison's story. Allison grows up feeling like a bit of an outcast. Some of the best scenes in the book are about Allison. An aspiring writer, she spends time alone and feels a connection to the beautiful countryside and woods around Peyton Place.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the tracks stands the part of town with the shanty type dwellings where the mill workers live. Selena Cross, a classmate of Allison's, shares a one room shack with her mother, stepfather, and brother. Selena endures years of abuse from her violent, alcoholic step-father. She finds a way to put a stop to his actions once and for all which results in a sensational trial that divides the town and where secrets and lies are exposed.

The author of Peyton Place, Grace Metalious, lived an equally sensational life. She never conformed to what a housewife was supposed to be in the 1950s. She seldom did housework and dressed in dungarees and men's flannel shirts most of the time. She had a troubled marriage and was known to lock her children out of their house in order to devote more of her time to writing. Peyton Place brought Metalious fame and fortune as well as fleeting friends and lovers who only wanted her money. She could never handle her celebrity and drank heavily. Metalious died at age 39 from cirrhosis of the liver. Before she died, Metalious, on her deathbed, signed over what was left of her estate to her British lover. 

I'm glad I had a chance to read Peyton Place. The novel is full of interesting characters, especially the women, and the story has all kinds of twists and turns. I recommend this novel.

Grace Metalious (1924-1964)

Friday, January 15, 2016

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros: Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont

Happy Tuesday! I'm taking part in First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, hosted by Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea in which bloggers share a bit about what they're reading or planning to read soon.

I'm returning to an author that I love, Elizabeth Taylor, the British novelist, not to be confused with the actress, although I've read that she loved having the same name as the actress. At a book sale last year, I was excited to find several of Taylor's novels. One of them was Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont (originally published in 1971).

From Goodreads:

"On a rainy Sunday in January, the recently widowed Mrs. Palfrey arrives at the Claremont Hotel where she will spend her remaining days. Her fellow residents are magnificently eccentric and endlessly curious, living off crumbs of affection and snippets of gossip. Together, upper lips stiffened, they fight off their twin enemies--boredom and the Grim Reaper. Then one day Mrs. Palfrey strikes up an unexpected friendship with Ludo, a handsome young writer, and learns that even the old can fall in love." 

The opening:

"Mrs. Palfrey first came to the Claremont Hotel on a Sunday afternoon in January. Rain had closed in over London, and her taxi sloshed along almost deserted Cromwell Road, past one cavernous porch after another, the driver going slowly and poking his head out into the wet for the hotel was not known to him. This discovery, that he did not know, had a little disconcerted Mrs. Palfrey, for she did not know it either, and began to wonder what she was coming to. She tried to banish terror from her heart. She was alarmed at the threat of her own depression."

What do you think? Would you keep reading?

Friday, January 8, 2016

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros: The Nine Tailors by Dorothy Sayers

Happy Tuesday and Happy New Year! I'm taking part in First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, hosted by Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea, in which bloggers share a bit about what they're reading or about to read.

I've never read anything by Dorothy Sayers, so I was excited to find this Lord Peter Wimsey mystery at a book sale last year. And the story begins on the afternoon of New Year's Eve.

From Amazon:

"The nine tellerstrokes from the belfry of an ancient country church toll out the death of an unknown man and call the famous Lord Peter Wimsey to investigate the good and evil that lurks in every person. Steeped in the atmosphere of a quiet parish in the strange, flat fen country of East Anglia, this is a tale of suspense, character and mood by an author critics and readers rate as one of the great masters of the mystery novel."

The opening:

"'That's torn it!' said Lord Peter Wimsey.

The car lay, helpless and ridiculous, her nose deep in the ditch, her back wheels cocked absurdly up on the bank, as though she were doing her best to bolt to earth and were scraping herself a burrow beneath the drifted snow. Peering through a flurry of driving flakes, Wimsey saw how the accident had come about. The narrow, hump-backed bridge, blind as an eyeless beggar, spanned the dark drain at right angles, dropping plump down upon the narrow road that crested the dyke. Coming a trifle too fast across the bridge, blinded by the bitter easterly snowstorm, he had overshot the road and plunged down the side of the dyke into the deep ditch beyond, where the black spikes of a thorn hedge stood bleak and unwelcoming in the glare of the headlights."

What do you think? Would you keep reading?