The Palace of Strange Girls

( 3 )

Overview

Blackpool, England, 1959. The Singleton family is on holiday. For seven-year-old Beth, just out of the hospital, this means struggling to fill in her 'I-Spy' book and avoiding her mother Ruth's eagle-eyed supervision. Her sixteen-year-old sister Helen, meanwhile, has befriended a waitress whose fun-loving ways hint at a life beyond Ruth's strict rules.

But times are changing. As foreman of the local cotton mill, Ruth's husband, Jack, is caught between unions and owners whose ...

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The Palace of Strange Girls

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Overview

Blackpool, England, 1959. The Singleton family is on holiday. For seven-year-old Beth, just out of the hospital, this means struggling to fill in her 'I-Spy' book and avoiding her mother Ruth's eagle-eyed supervision. Her sixteen-year-old sister Helen, meanwhile, has befriended a waitress whose fun-loving ways hint at a life beyond Ruth's strict rules.

But times are changing. As foreman of the local cotton mill, Ruth's husband, Jack, is caught between unions and owners whose cost-cutting measures threaten an entire way of life. And his job isn't the only thing at risk. When a letter arrives from Crete, a secret re-emerges from the rubble of Jack's wartime past that could destroy his marriage.

As Helen is tempted outside the safe confines of her mother's stern edicts with dramatic consequences, an unexpected encounter inspires Beth to forge her own path. Over the holiday week, all four Singletons must struggle to find their place in the shifting world of promenade amusements, illicit sex, and stilted afternoon teas in this touching and evocative novel.

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Editorial Reviews

Gloss Magazine
"Panoramic portrait of an English family in the 1950s... Charming."
New Books Magazine
"A cleverly crafted work, effortlessly moving between grand design and minute detail using both humour and pathos to stunning effect."
Easy Living
"This might just be the most delightful book you read this year."
Women's Weekly
"I can't recommend this book highly enough— a brilliant read."
Northern Echo
"A great debut novel with a terrific sense of time and place."
Nottingham Evening Post
"A moving and well-written debut novel."
Belfast Telegraph
"An evocative tale."
Publishers Weekly
Day's debut novel, inspired by her childhood, is a dated story of four days in the lives of an English family on summer holiday in 1959. WWII vet Jack Singleton is using the holiday in the seaside town of Blackpool to decide his future. A foreman at a cotton mill, he is torn between two job offers: manager of Prospect Mill or union representative. Jack is hiding his predicament from his perfectionist wife, Ruth, while the couple's older daughter, 16-year-old Helen, is obsessed with new, fashionable clothes and finding a boyfriend. Sickly seven-year-old Beth simply wants to escape her overprotective mother. During the brief holiday, the family faces many dilemmas when Jack's wartime adventures come back to haunt him, Ruth's obsession with buying a new house tests her marriage, and the girls deal with treacherous friendships and unwelcome sexual advances. While the plot moves quickly, the number and variety of scrapes the family navigates in only four days strains credulity. Period slang and references are doubtless authentic, but will make the book a difficult read for Americans. (Sept.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780446545860
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • Publication date: 9/9/2009
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Sallie Day grew up in England. where her father ran a cotton mill (so she knows her "weft from her warp.") This is her first book.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 3 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(1)

4 Star

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 23, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Nice debut novel set in 1959

    The Palace of Strange Girls is Sallie Day's debut novel. Day grew up in England and her father ran a cotton mill, so it stands to reason why the father in this book also works in a cotton mill. Strange Girls revolves around the Singleton family on their holiday in July 1959. By all outward appearances they are your typical family living in the recession of the late 50's. Ruth, mom and wife, runs her house the way all housewives should: with a dust mop and financially iron fist. Husband/father Jack is dependable and hardworking. Teenage daughter Helen obeys her parents every command, and youngest daughter Beth tries to be normal with her abnormal childhood. Ruth tries her best to make her family as status quo and typical as possible, but there are secrets underneath the pretty polka-dot facade, and she can't keep them hidden if she doesn't know what they are.

    It took me a while to be attracted to Strange Girls. The beginning felt sluggish and unformed. By the middle I was used to the flashbacks which help paint the hidden secrets behind the Singleton family, and I was able to start really enjoying the story. The characters were interesting and individual; I enjoyed the tense atmostphere surrounding Ruth, and the pity I felt for Beth who is just trying to be a fun little girl with her I-Spy book. The voice has a nice shift to it depending on which character you're reading about. Each chapter title is an I-Spy item with description, which is both adorable and lighthearted, but turns appropriately serious for the later conflict.

    I liked the Singleton family and their flaws and the people that surround. I could clearly visualize Blackpool and the boardwalk and smell the ocean salt. I thought it was a nice, easygoing story, though the end felt incomplete, and the epilogue served as a convenient wrap-up for a few loose strings. I enjoyed the tension between the characters, but felt that it wasn't fully utilized in the beginning. The flashbacks were good, but also felt like another story that could have been written separate from Strange Girls,one that I probably would have liked better. Overall, I enjoyed Sallie Day's debut novel and can really see her potential, but it felt like someone who hadn't been writing for that long. I have a feeling her next work will be more polished and I look forward to seeing what she does. 3 stars.

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  • Posted October 3, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A GOOD READ

    THE PALACE OF STRANGE GIRLS
    Sallie Day
    Grand Central Publishing
    ISBN: 978-0446-54586-0
    $13.99 - Paperback
    352 pages
    Reviewer: Annie Slessman

    THE PALACE OF STRANGE GIRLS is Sallie Day's debut novel. Set in post WWII the late fifties establishes the background of this story of British families, the division of their station in life and how each reacts to the secrets they hold.

    The Singleton family consists of father, Jack, his wife, Ruth and their two daughters, Helen and Beth, sixteen and seven respectively. On a holiday at the shore, the Singletons find themselves faced with truths that will eventually define their future.

    An interesting class study unfolds within this story and brings with it few surprises. What class distinction meant in the fifties is still alive and well in today's society. How the Singletons deal with this class distinction is what makes this story a good one.

    Jack yearns for more than his marriage offers him while Ruth only wants to rise above her classification. Helen, a typical sixteen year old girl, wants to be considered desirable by the young men around her. Beth on the other hand, wants only to complete the requirements of the I-Spy Club.

    There are stories interwoven within this one that lead a reader to the satisfaction that their time reading this work was well spent. While the story's premise isn't a new one, it is well written and certainly worth the read.

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  • Posted July 28, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    This is an enjoyable historical family drama

    In 1959 in England, the Singleton family of four goes on vacation at the seaside town of Blackpool. There the father, WWII vet Jack has a difficult decision to make between job offers as manager of Prospect Mill or being a union representative. He conceals his concerns from his demanding wife, Ruth who wants them to buy a new house. His sixteen year old daughter Helen hopes to find a boyfriend soon, but believes to do this she needs the latest fashion and freedom from her mom's strict control. His other child seven year old Beth has health issues having just been released from the hospital, but just wants some free time to enjoy the shore, fill in her "I-Spy" book as she tracks everyone and most important escape from her demanding mother's diligence.

    This is an enjoyable historical family drama that stars four fully developed characters; all with differing needs and desires that come to a head during the four day vacation. The interrelationships ring true though the solutions at the end of the Singleton family vacation seem to quick and unlikely. Ironically the father and the two kids blame all on the mom due to her demanding manner though she uses her martinet orders to hide her fears from her loved ones. Fans will enjoy Sallie Day's fine trip back to 1959 England.

    Harriet Klausner

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