I was unsure what to expect with this book – as 2 friends had read it recently (both whilst ill with the flu) and one had enjoyed it and the other struggled through – and I didn’t know which category I would fit in to!
Here is the Amazon blurb:
“Dolly Lane is a dreamer; a downtrodden maid who longs to dance on the London stage, but the outbreak of war takes everything from her: Teddy, the man she loves – and her hopes of a better life.
When she secures employment as a chambermaid at London’s grandest hotel, The Savoy, Dolly’s proximity to the dazzling guests makes her yearn for a life beyond the grey drudgery she was born into. Her fortunes take an unexpected turn when she responds to an unusual newspaper advert and finds herself thrust into the heady atmosphere of London’s glittering theatre scene and into the sphere of the celebrated actress, Loretta May, and her brother, Perry.
All three are searching for something, yet the aftermath of war has cast a dark shadow over them all. A brighter future is tantalisingly close – but can a girl like Dolly ever truly leave her past behind?”
I started reading this a few weeks ago – and I have to say I found it a bit dull to start with. Due to the era and setting it reminded me of the ITV drama series Mr Selfridge ( in particular the start of the final series which was so boring we ended up giving up on it) and in fact Harry and the Selfridges store both get a mention a few times throughout the book!
At the weekend I posted in my Reading Challenge Facebook group that I was unsure if I could face plodding through it – or whether I should quit! The general consensus was that life is too short to be reading something you’re not loving (mostly by friends I had ‘encouraged’ to persevere with The Goldfinch and have never forgiven me!!) I ummed and ahhed – but then due to a particularly unpleasant medical condition I have had to spend a large chunk of the last 3 days in the bath – so decided I’d finish it off.
Each chapter is told by a different person – Dolly, Loretta or Teddy – but not in strict rotation, and probably weighted in the order I’ve written them rather than evenly. Dolly is likeable enough, Loretta a bit annoying, and you don’t really get to know Teddy. In fact I would say you don’t really get to know anyone that deeply emotions-wise at all thinking about it now.
Given the population of London in the 1920s was £7.4million people (yes, I just Googled that) there are some completely implausible coincidences – but I guess that happens lots in books.
Obviously I liked the plentiful gin references. One favourite line being ‘ Gin is an acquired taste, but once acquired rarely lost’ – so true!!
I’m glad I finished it (because I hate being beaten by anything) but I definitely wouldn’t sing its praises from the rooftops. It’s very ‘plodding’ at times – and quite a lot of the descriptions, whilst I am sure are completely historically researched and accurate – also seem to be incredibly repetitive – it almost felt like they were copied and pasted between chapters and then someone forgot to change them slightly to freshen them up.
But hey – I’ve ticked off ‘A book set in a hotel’ from my reading challenge!