Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Peyton Place by Grace Metalious

Whilst I was still at secondary school, my sister was completing her English Literature degree.  She did a module called American Bestsellers, and one of the great books she introduced me to after that module was Peyton Place.  In the spirit of not feeling guilty about rereading favourites, I decided to give this one another go, despite having read it at least three times already.

Published in the 1950s, Peyton Place was one of the first books to 'lift the lid' on suburbia and pop the skeletons of ordinary closets one by one.  It hit a bit too close to home for lots of readers at the time and became very controversial - no one wanted to admit that their small towns were anything less than perfect.

The story centres around three women.  Constance Mackenzie had a child without getting married first and has spent her whole life trying to hide this from her neighbours.  Selena Cross is trying to make something of herself but is hampered by being from the wrong part of town and having a cruel step-father.  Allison Mackenzie wants to write but feels suffocated by her environment.  In the course of the novel there is murder, rape, incest, abortion and lots of other things that have made many write the book off as trashy or sensationalist.

And the book is trashy, but in the best possible way.  It's trashy in the I-can't-wait-to-see-what-happens-next kind of way.  The whole book is written with a brutal honesty, and there's a lot to be said for that kind of writing.  There's also a lot of stuff on women's rights that can be contradictory at times - one of the women has to get raped before experiencing sexual pleasure (which doesn't seem very forward thinking to me) but there's also arguments about sexual freedom and the freedom to pursue a career away from men.

If you've read this book, let me know what you thought of it.  If you haven't, put it on your wishlist straight away!

Score: 5 out of 5


  1. Trashy in the best possible way... that's it, exactly! I couldn't put it down.

  2. I wasn't aware of the book, only that there once was a popular TV series/soap opera that focused on small town scandals. The book sounds interesting.

  3. The book seems intense..will try to get my hands on this one! Gr8 review!


  4. I never read the book, but I have seen the movie several times :)

    I seem to remember there was a sequel, Return to Peyton Place...

  5. JoAnn, glad you enjoyed it too :)

    Susan, Komal, TheBookGirl, definitely read it if you get a chance. I couldn't put it down.

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  7. I'm not sure if I've even watched the movie of this or just seen clips but I must read this book. Small towns are astounding-- the one I work in astounds me but I love the hilarity of it all.

    As a little kid, I loved the song Harper Valley PTA--Have you heard of it? Such a hoot!! And Peyton Place is mentioned.

    Here is a a vid: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aOZPBUu7Fro

    Dig the groovy dobro playing and Riley's hairdo!! hahahahha

    btw, this song was big for years, I was listening to it in elem school in the 70s not in 1968-- I'm not that old!!