Thursday, October 4, 2007

Peyton Place

So, I'm a little late. It's been a bad day.

In an effort to get away, even if only mentally, from my oh-so-wonderful day, I decided I'd sit down and finish my book for book group tomorrow night. We're reading Peyton Place.

I'd read this before, ages ago, possibly even as far back as high school (when dinosaurs still roamed the earth). I remember wondering why it was considered so salacious. Of course, I'd already pilfered my mother's copy of Wifey (and holy cow, does THAT one bring up some interesting Google searches!) and had discovered Judith Krantz. Peyton Place seemed kind of tame in comparison.

Re-reading it now, though, after having lived in small New England towns, it seems different. When I read it as a teenager, I thought things like that didn't happen in small towns, that the book was dramatizing things, making scandals more outrageous and titillating than it really was. Oh for the blinders of youth.

If you haven't ever read Peyton Place, briefly, it's about a small town in Vermont. It involves a woman trying to hide the fact of her daughter's illegitimate birth, a young girl's sexual abuse by her step-father, abortion, alcoholism and a host of other issues, all of them talked about, none of them really dealt with, just swept under the rug until things explode one August. The tension builds over the few years the book encompasses, culminating in an excellently-written scene, a maelstrom of chaos and desperation, that had me spellbound.

When Peyton Place was initially published, it was condemned as trash. In 1956, I can see how that would happen. But now, it seems like a sad commentary on the horrible things that go on behind closed doors. People always sing the praises of small towns, saying how safe they are, how much better it is than living in a city. But there are so many hidden stories in small towns, stories that often are not reported, not acted upon.

This is not the most comprehensive of reviews because I don't want to give away the entire plot of the book. Growing up in a small New England town, with it's fair share of scandal and sadness, the book really made me thing - think about things that I went thru, think about abuse suffered by one of my best friends, think about all the things I overheard my parents discussing, issues that were never really addressed, just gossiped about and then glossed over. It doesn't paint a pretty picture of small town life.

Go read it, if you never have. It's an amazing book.


Ruth Dynamite said...

People are people no matter where they live. The scandalous secrets, once exposed, are simply magnified in a town where everyone knows each other.

I think I'm ready to pick this up again myself. Thanks for the suggestion.

Miguelina. said...

I've never read the book, but Vanity Fair had an great article a few years back about the author and the scandal caused by the book. Fascinating stuff.

Great review, by the way.

Pinks & Blues Girls said...

Thoughts to ponder on this steamy Friday. I also heard the song "Harper Valley PTA" on my car radio this morning. Seems that small town secrets create such power, pain... and pleaure.

I will pick up Peyton Place again!

Sharon - Pinks & Blues Girls

Mrs. Chicky said...

I've always wanted to read that book but wondered if it wasn't a little out of date. Sounds like it has very contemporary themes. I'll have to pick it up.

Major Bedhead said...

It's not out of date at all, Mrs. C. In fact, I kept getting brought up short when they referenced the war or the year. There are a couple of dated exclamations (like "Brother!") but for the most part, it's held up incredibly well.

Fairly Odd Mother said...

Never read it before; but now, I will.

Tricia said...

I've now got it on my list. Thanks!