Published back in 1956, this novel broke the bounds of what was acceptable and became a runaway best seller.
Previous to it’s publication, books and films revolved around women being the objects of desire, rather than possessing any, and small town America was felt to be safe, sleep and benign. And then this book came along. It caused great shocks and was banned in several states, but it also managed to spawn a sequel, a movie and a TV series.
Reading it now, it feels both trashy and well written, if that’s possible. It’s kind of a lark to read it now, when a lot of it’s themes and events are more openly talked about, but there;s something about it that still feels a little shocking, all the same.
Peyton Place is the story of a town, with insights into all the types of characters and small town mentality that go with it. It mostly follows the lives of Constance, her secretly illegitimate daughter Allison and Allison’s friend Selena, who lives in a shack settlement. It has all the drama you could wish for, with no holds barred. It covers drunkenness, violence, pre-marital sex, drunk driving, murder, domestic violence, abortion and murder. So it’s all very dramatic, which makes it kind of amusing, and reading about all these subjects in a story written in the 50’s feels subversive, even now.
I liked how the characters were well drawn. Although it’s shocking, none of it feels entirely unrealistic, and everyone has their story and their motivations. It’s not just shocking for the sake of it. The three central women are the most interesting, and I really liked them, and wanted to see things work out for them. It’s a cracker of a book, and for those of you who love your vintage literature, this book is definitely for you.
Read It If: you like books like Valley Of The Dolls or Confessions Of A Failed Southern Lady (my review is HERE), if you’re a Desperate Housewives fan, or if you like your fiction fun and subversive.