The Palace of Strange Girls
By Sallie Day
(Grand Central Publishing, Paperback, 9780446545860, 352pp.)
Publication Date: September 2009
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Blackpool, England, 1959. The Singleton family is on holiday. For seven-year-old Beth, just out of the hospital, this means struggling to fill in her 'I-Spy' book and avoiding her mother Ruth's eagle-eyed supervision. Her sixteen-year-old sister Helen, meanwhile, has befriended a waitress whose fun-loving ways hint at a life beyond Ruth's strict rules.
But times are changing. As foreman of the local cotton mill, Ruth's husband, Jack, is caught between unions and owners whose cost-cutting measures threaten an entire way of life. And his job isn't the only thing at risk. When a letter arrives from Crete, a secret re-emerges from the rubble of Jack's wartime past that could destroy his marriage.
As Helen is tempted outside the safe confines of her mother's stern edicts with dramatic consequences, an unexpected encounter inspires Beth to forge her own path. Over the holiday week, all four Singletons must struggle to find their place in the shifting world of promenade amusements, illicit sex, and stilted afternoon teas in this touching and evocative novel.
Sallie Day grew up in England. where her father ran a cotton mill (so she knows her "weft from her warp.") This is her first book.
"Panoramic portrait of an English family in the 1950s... Charming."
"A cleverly crafted work, effortlessly moving between grand design and minute detail using both humour and pathos to stunning effect."
-New Books Magazine
"This might just be the most delightful book you read this year."
"I can't recommend this book highly enough-- a brilliant read."
"A great debut novel with a terrific sense of time and place."
"A moving and well-written debut novel."
-Nottingham Evening Post
"An evocative tale."