Review #29: Peyton Place by Grace Metalious

26 Apr

Peyton Place is a classic soap opera set in an uptight New England town. It’s closely tied to Valley of the Dolls in my mind – both were groundbreaking, trashy novels about the scandalous realities of a community.  This book infuriated New England because one of their own, Metalious, born and raised in Manchester, New Hampshire, dared to write about the imperfections and scandals brewing beneath New England’s perfect surface. This book has become an enduring part of pop culture through both film and television adaptations.

There has long been speculation about how true this book actually is. There are many similarities between Metalious and the protagonist Allison – both grow up in New England, both end up writing about their pasts, etc. All I know is, when the screenwriter for the movie asked Metalious if the book was based on her own life, she asked him to repeat the question. And when he did, she threw her drink at him.  I’m going to take that as a definitive no.

I can’t put my finger on what’s so satisfying about this book. There’s something  stereotypically “New England” about it – characters are supposed to hide their ambition, never flaunt what they’ve earned, and lead a simple, moral life. It’s frustrating, because almost all of the tragedies could have been avoided if someone did something. Did anything. But the characters staunchly refuse to interfere in each others lives, preferring to whisper behind each others backs. And by refusing to meddle – they are refusing to save each other.

The major players are Constance Mackenzie, who gave birth to her “illegitimate” child Allison in New York, then returned home to Peyton Place, hiding the secret of Allison’s birth for years. Allison, a bookish child, is ultimately betrayed by her home town when they refuse to speak up for someone in need. The Cross family includes Allison’s best friend Selena, her mother and Allison’s maid Nellie, and their abusive father Lucas. Notable other characters include Tony Markis, the Greek outsider who comes to town to be the principal and marries Constance, and Dr. Swain, who performs (and admits to performing) an abortion.

The end is fairly spectacular, when all the storylines come come to head in two trials – one against the local Mill owner who buys his innocence, and one against Selena for killing her abusive father. Even though the town is divided over the trials – the perfect veneer doesn’t crack. People go on, pretending nothing is wrong, shunning those who create problems. And because of that, everything stays the same.  Even though the gossip about the reality of Peyton Place is lurking just beneath the surface.

Check out the trailer for the television show below. Ryan O’Neal, Barbara Parkins (also in Valley of the Dolls!) and Mia Farrow star.

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3 Responses to “Review #29: Peyton Place by Grace Metalious”

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  1. HelloKatieO’s #CBR4 Review #29: Peyton Place by Grace Metalious « Book It. - April 26, 2012

    […] Plot details and the wonderfully soapy television series trailer found after the jump…. Share this:TwitterEmailFacebookDiggRedditTumblrPinterestLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. […]

  2. HelloKatieO’s #CBR4 Review #29: Peyton Place by Grace Metalious « Cannonball Read IV - April 26, 2012

    […] Plot details and the wonderfully soapy television series trailer after the jump…. Share this:ShareTwitterFacebookEmailDiggStumbleUpon Posted by HelloKatieO in 4 stars – a great book and tagged book reviews, books, CBR4, chick lit, Grace Metalious, hellokatieo, New England, Peyton Place, reviews, soap opera […]

  3. Lessons Learned and Wisdom Left for Future Generations by Misty Manistee | Beyond Prose - October 21, 2013

    […] great and wonderful books were found on the shelves including the steamy “Peyton Place by Grace Metalious, which didn’t inspire me to do anything except read it again. […]

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