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1920s London. Two women, two very different lives.
Dolly Lane is a chamber maid in The Savoy Hotel but dreams of being a stage star. She regularly auditions, hoping to become a chorus girl but wonders if her chance will ever come. The post-war years have not been good to her and she tries to better herself in the only way she knows how. Surrounded by glamorous opulence, she inhales the atmosphere and feels the music in her soul.
Loretta May is the star who tabloids were made for. She oozes confidence and class and young women aspire to be just like her. She is hiding a secret that she longs to tell but she can't find the courage to come clean. She is concerned for her composer brother, Perry, and his emotional well-being, following his return from the war. Together they hatch a plan to find a muse who may unlock his talent.
Can a maid from The Savoy be the driving force needed?
The roaring twenties are the backdrop for this meticulously researched novel from New York Times bestselling author, Hazel Gaynor. It opens with Dolly seeing her boyfriend, Teddy, off to war in 1916 and moves forward to the post-war decade, where men and women are still struggling to find their place in an ever-changing era. Loretta is a shining star, yet behind her sharp tongue and glittering personality, lies a lonely girl with an ever-growing dependency on gin and opiates. The two protagonists are a million worlds apart, yet both have a deep love for the stage. While Dolly is used to being in the throngs of the gallery, saving her pennies to afford the tickets to see West End shows, Loretta has been born into a comfortable life, where everything is handed up to her on a silver platter. Under normal circumstances they would never meet, let alone become friends. Perry is the link that brings them together and music is what keeps the bond strong.
Each chapter begins with a quote from its content and these snippets are just wonderful. Loretta's words are both sharp and affirming, shedding light on who she really is. Every girl dreams of being Loretta May, yet do they consider what is behind all the sequins and rouge? Dolly is lucky to be employed by The Savoy, as there are not many positions available for a working class girl. As she cleans the rooms of the rich and famous, she feels vulnerable yet motivated. The hotel is a perfect place to star-spot and dream big dreams. The author brings the reader through the plush rooms of The Savoy, with its grand lobby and luxurious dining rooms and the scent of entitlement almost wafting off the pages. In contrast, we are shown the flip-side of the coin; servants quarters, cranky housekeeper and secret dancing on wooden floorboards after dark. The traditional upstairs/downstairs divide is there, but with a fresh angle. These are women you recognise. They may be from an bygone era, but their stories are still very real today. Dreaming of a better life, wanting something that money cannot buy, being in the right place and the right time...
Historical fiction can be hard to get right. It requires an overwhelming need for attention to detail, massive amounts of research and a need to know when to end the tale. This author has managed to get the balance just right. Her writing is fresh, witty and warm. Her characters are believable and endearing. Loretta is someone who will cause many a wry grin from readers, with her fantastic array of one-liners. Her porcelain veneer hides a multitude of emotions, whereas Dolly is younger, more gullible and always on the verge of trouble. London is a character in itself, with the smog, the trams and the fashionista draped through each chapter. Sub-plots are discreet but still hold the attention of the reader. The Girl From The Savoy is a lot more than it seems. Yes, it is fine example of historical fiction. Yes, it is a perfect way to escape at the end of a long day. Yes, it has magnums full of pzazz. But there is more to it than that. It examines the role of women in a difficult era. They were now released from their war-time roles of munition workers, nurses, ambulance drivers and more. They had to surrender their independence when the fighting ceased. These women had to crawl back into their disguarded skins and muddle along. This novel sheds some light onto their frustration, their uncertainty and their need to find a new role in life. Musical theatre was accessible and something they could escape into, whether on stage or in the galleries.
This is a novel about music, dance and dreams; post-war glamour and style; dizzying hedonism and flashing lightbulbs. It is also the story of women; their limits, their lifestyles and their influences. The starched uniforms vs. the sharp-bobbed flapper girls. This is escapism at its finest.
The Girl From The Savoy is published by Harper Collins and is available in TPB and ebook format. You can order your copy, with FREE WORLDWIDE POSTAGE, here. The ebook can be ordered via amazon link below: