Sunday 23 October 2016

Fiction: The Girl From The Savoy by Hazel Gaynor

Harper Collins, €16.99

Anne Cunningham

Published 13/06/2016 | 21:00

The Girl From The Savoy by Hazel Gaynor
The Girl From The Savoy by Hazel Gaynor

Hazel Gaynor’s third novel is a story of four characters in England in the 1920’s. Against the glitz and glamour of the Jazz Age, and set in London’s most luxurious hotel, as well as in a hospital facility for injured soldiers, this is as much a tale about the harrowing after-effects of The Great War as it is about Dolly Lane.

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Dolly’s life as a maid in Lancashire makes her yearn for something more. Her childhood sweetheart has returned from the war, torn and shell shocked, with no memory of his life before the trenches, or indeed of Dolly. She leaves for London, certain that life must have more to offer than the drudgery of her work in Lancashire. When she lands a position as chambermaid in London’s Savoy, she is still left vaguely dissatisfied. And so she answers a newspaper advertisement, seeking a “muse” for a musician who’s suffering from an acute lack of inspiration.

Meanwhile, Loretta May, star of the London West End stage, struggles with the thought of revealing her debilitating illness to her beloved brother and to the show business community. She realises her days are numbered, but her lethal cocktails of gin and morphine enable her, every night, to ensure that the show must go on. For now.

Gaynor’s painstaking research of 1920’s London is as meticulous as her narrative and dialogue. Her contrasting depictions of life among the bright young things and their previous lives just a few years earlier, is utterly convincing. As her characters look forward with hope — or some of them, at least — each one shivers in the shadow of their own individual, war-torn past. But the past is another country. Isn’t it? Sumptuous, gorgeous, authentic and surprising, Hazel Gaynor has written another hit.

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