The Girl From the Savoy by Hazel Gaynor is the first book that my newly created book club read for the month of June. One of my best friends Tori suggested that we start a book club, and since I’ve never been in one (which is weird now that I think about it) I thought it was a great idea. Tori picked the book for the month of June.
I will admit that if Tori hadn’t picked this book, I never would have read it on my own. As much as I love history, I’m not big on historical fiction – especially ones that are sent around WWI or WWII. That being said, I really enjoyed this book.
Sometimes life gives you cotton stockings. Sometimes it gives you a Chanel gown …
Dolly Lane is a dreamer; a downtrodden maid who longs to dance on the London stage, but her life has been fractured by the Great War. Memories of the soldier she loved, of secret shame and profound loss, by turns pull her back and spur her on to make a better life.
When she finds employment as a chambermaid at London’s grandest hotel, The Savoy, Dolly takes a step closer to the glittering lives of the Bright Young Things who thrive on champagne, jazz and rebellion. Right now, she must exist on the fringes of power, wealth and glamor—she must remain invisible and unimportant.
But her fortunes take an unexpected turn when she responds to a struggling songwriter’s advertisement for a ‘muse’ and finds herself thrust into London’s exhilarating theatre scene and into the lives of celebrated actress, Loretta May, and her brother, Perry. Loretta and Perry may have the life Dolly aspires to, but they too are searching for something.
Now, at the precipice of the life she has and the one she longs for, the girl from The Savoy must make difficult choices: between two men; between two classes, between everything she knows and everything she dreams of. A brighter future is tantalizingly close—but can a girl like Dolly ever truly leave her past behind?
The book starts off in the early 1920s with our main character Dorothy (Dolly for short) Lane, who is determined to make it onto the stage in live theatre. She wants to be a star. The only problem or major hinderance to this is that she is “just” a maid. Each chapter alternates between characters’ perspectives – Dolly, Loretta and Teddy. Dolly the maid, Loretta the star and Teddy the war veteran.
I found that the book started strong and then started to drag for the first 200 pages. It got a little repetitive with Dolly’s struggles of being a maid, not having a lot of money, and people telling her that she’ll never amount to anything. By contrast the last 200 pages flew by. The pace picked up, things started happening for Dolly that pushed her forward to realize her dreams, and other pieces of other puzzles started to fall into place.
Since this book is set fairly recently after WWI each character in this book has personal tragedy that they have to carry with them – be it people they’ve lost, things they suffered through etc. With Dolly’s tragedies (and there are many) they are hinted at and then later explained as the book continues. She has a memory, or a wisp of a thought and it gives the reader a little glimpse, a hint of what happened, but you have to read more to find out. A very nice tactic used by the author.
One of my favourite lines from the book is by Teddy who says:
“It’s the flaws that give things character, Mrs. Lane. Everyone talks about the teapot that dribbles. Nobody talks about the teapot that pours perfectly. If I were a teapot, I know which I’d rather be.”
Overall, this was a very good book, with memorable characters that you just truly want to succeed because they have all suffered greatly at some point. I would recommend it to anyone.