Published by William Morrow ISBN 9780062446169
Trade paperback, $15.9, 448 pages
My book club read Hazel Gaynor's two previous historical fiction books, The Girl Who Came Home and The Memory of Violets, both about strong women who dealt with difficulty and we liked both of them very much.
Gaynor's new novel is The Girl From The Savoy, set in London just after WWI. Dolly Lane has left her small hometown, and service in a wealthy family's home with her friend Clover, to take a job as a chambermaid in the vaulted Savoy Hotel.
Dolly is running from her past and Teddy, the man she has loved since they were children, who was tragically injured in the war and no longer remembers who Dolly is. There is another secret that Dolly is running from, one that is hinted at and then slowly revealed as the story unfolds.
On her way to first day at the Savoy, Dolly knocks into a man, Perry, and the papers he is carrying are scattered. Dolly helps him pick them up and they have an interesting conversation. When she sees him throw the sheets of music he has written in the trash, she takes them with her.
Dolly dreams of stardom on the stage as a dancer and actress, and she and Clover attend the theater often, sitting in the cheap gallery seats with hundreds of other girls who have the same dreams. When Dolly sees an ad for a songwriter's "muse", she answers it and finds that it is Perry.
She becomes his muse and meets his sister, the famous stage actress Loretta May. Loretta takes Dolly under her wing, but she is hiding a terrible secret as well, one that will change everything.
Sometimes historical fiction has a contemporary feel to it, which can take the reader out of the story but The Girl From the Savoy felt like a book actually written in the 1920's. It would not have surprised me if someone had told this book was written almost one hundred years ago. The language, the descriptions, it all felt very much of that time. Kudos to Gaynor for achieving that.
I loved being immersed in the world of the glamorous, world-famous Savoy Hotel, and seeing what that world looks like from the viewpoint of the working class people who keep it running. Gaynor must have done a great deal of research to get this just right.
The fact that so many young ladies at the time yearned to be actresses and dancers surprised me, for some reason that never crossed my mind that it was the aspiration of so many people, as it is today. I guess it is a timeless dream.
Dolly is a terrific character, a young woman who has not only the desire to build a life she wants, but she has the gumption to make it happen for herself. She overcomes tragedy through sheer dint of will.
There is one plot point that a careful reader will be able see coming and I'm not sure how I feel about that. It seemed a bit too convenient and contrived for me.
Overall I liked The Girl From The Savoy, but it wasn't my favorite of Gaynor's books- that award goes to The Memory of Violets.
My review of The Memory of Violets is here.
My review of The Girl Who Came Home is here.
Hazel Gaynor's website is here.
Thanks to TLC Tours for putting me on Hazel Gaynor's tour. The rest of her stops are here:
Tuesday, June 7th: BookNAround
Wednesday, June 8th: Jenn’s Bookshelves
Thursday, June 9th: bookchickdi
Friday, June 10th: A Bookish Affair
Monday, June 13th: A Chick Who Reads
Tuesday, June 14th: 100 Pages a Day…Stephanie’s Book Reviews
Wednesday, June 15th: Savvy Verse & Wit
Thursday, June 16th: Back Porchervations
Monday, June 20th: Dreams, Etc.
Tuesday, June 21st: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Wednesday, June 22nd: 5 Minutes For Books
Thursday, June 23rd: Kahakai Kitchen
Friday, June 24th: Into the Hall of Books