I had the joy of reading this for New Books Magazine which was not a hard ship, last year I had to do a review of The Falling Man by Don DeLillo last year reviewing is something I could definitely get into more, how does one go about it with all the big publishers? I may have to do some research into that, if anyone knows please let me know. Sorry I digress… onto The Palace of Strange Girls by Sallie Day.
Do you remember the old I Spy books you used to get? Well these feature, one in particular, in the novel greatly as in some ways they help to tell the tale and are in fact the title chapters. The Palace of Strange Girls is the story of the summer holiday in Blackpool 1959 for The Singleton family. There is seven year old Beth who is just out of hospital, she is wonderfully written by Day, and who first appears in the book saying ‘bugger, bugger’ which for some reason really made me laugh. Helen is her older sister who has a very healthy (though unhealthy to her parents) interest in independence and boys. Their parents, mother Ruth who is both uptight and strict as well as a bit of a killjoy, and their father Jack who has a big secret all the way in Crete and is depressed.
What should be a nice sea break away from the Mills and Mines back home turns into a family breaking down and rebelling against one another in any way they can. Amongst the cream teas, circus acts, promenades and sandcastles lie’s some deeper darker undertones and actions that show a family falling apart. Sallie Day has been compared to Kate Atkinson with this novel and I think as a storyteller the comparisons are not far off, both have great prose and pace and both are great tellers of how humans are and what makes them who they are. I didn’t like ‘Behind The Scenes at the Museum’ which people seem to be comparing this too, this is a great book, I can see the resemblances however I don’t think its fair to compare Day in that way as this is HER novel and not a copy of anyone else’s. The one negative, the title, though it is in the book its not as exciting or as mysterious as the title suggests. This is a great debut regardless of that.
So today has been busy. For lots of reasons some of which I cannot divulge (the BIG meeting) but some I can (what will probably be just a dull blog hahaha). I have been reading like a maniac. I am very privileged to be someone who gets paid to do reviews of books, I love books anyway and so it’s not really a hardship. I do this for New Books Magazine, and free ones for Waterstones all good on the CV (fingers crossed another paid job in a very literary mag is coming soon) and as you know I like books.
The current read is Sallie Day’s ‘The Palace of Strange Girls’ which is happily finished and on the bedside table now. It is a really good read and though I can’t give you a copy of my review I will say it’s a very good read and would be a good addition to any bookshelf. Bookshelves… I so need to get some at the moment in my flat there are 4 piles of lots of books and another 6 flat pack boxes. I can’t resist. You know this. Mind you I have been very good on the book buying front of late. They are comparing The Palace of Strange Girls to Kate Atkinson’s ‘Behind the Scenes at the Museum’ I personally didn’t like that book, though I love all the authors others, so I would say its better.But more of that when I actually review the book.
The other thing I have been doing is brainstorming ‘The Bent Book Group’. This hasn’t been given the official ‘go ahead’ green light but I am desperately trying to make my editor see why I want to do it, any good arguments are most welcomed, I need all the help I can get! I am thinking how to do something from a monthly mag. It is proving difficult, my thoughts are a forum on the Bent website and maybe a group on myspace and facebook where people and give their feedback, if any of you can think about this and how else it could work again suggestions welcomed.I think first author would like to feature is the lovely Mr Paul Burston, and then the delightful Stella Duffy, we shall see. The idea is then to also have a running interview or piece on the author and why they write there favourite books etc, what I basically want is to be Mariella Frostrup on The Book Show, which would be my dream job. So a creative, if a little dull to read back I am sure, day!