Thursday, August 4, 2011

Review: Strings Attached by Judy Blundell

Strings Attached
by Judy Blundell
March 1, 2011
Borrowed from Library
Amazon Page
Goodreads Page
Grade: A-

Synopsis (from publisher): From National Book Award winner Judy Blundell, the tale of a sixteen-year-old girl caught in a mix of love, mystery, Broadway glamour, and Mob retribution in 1950 New York.

When Kit Corrigan arrives in New York City, she doesn't have much. She's fled from her family in Providence, Rhode Island, and she's broken off her tempestuous relationship with a boy named Billy, who's enlisted in the army.

The city doesn't exactly welcome her with open arms. She gets a bit part as a chorus girl in a Broadway show, but she knows that's not going to last very long. She needs help--and then it comes, from an unexpected source.

Nate Benedict is Billy's father. He's also a lawyer involved in the mob. He makes Kit a deal--he'll give her an apartment and introduce her to a new crowd. All she has to do is keep him informed about Billy . . . and maybe do him a favor every now and then.

As she did in her National Book Award-winning What I Saw and How I Lied, Judy Blundell traps readers in a web of love, deceit, intrigue, and murder. The result? One stunner of a novel.

Review: This book. You guys. This book. It made me want to live in 1950s New York City. To be a struggling actress wearing New Look dresses and running from audition to audition with breaks at Woolworth’s for a cup of soup. The setting the author creates and the historical details she includes are absolutely magnificent. They draw the reader into a bygone world of showgirls and the mob, children vaudeville stars and putting on white gloves before going to town. She moves easily from Manhattan to the less glamorous poor parts of Providence, Rhode Island and evokes both in all their gritty detail.

The main character, Kit, grew up as one of the ‘Corrigan Three’ - triplets who grew up endorsing products and traveling to county fairs for appearances, and she’s ready to hit the acting big time in New York. Or so she thinks. One of my favourite parts of this book is how realistic Kit’s character is. Even though she’s seventeen and trying to live on her own in the big city, she doesn’t know nearly as much as she tries to pretend she does, and her attempts to prove her adulthood run into difficulty when she accepts help - and an apartment - from her ex-boyfriend’s mafioso father. The favours he calls in start to become a little scary, leaving Kit to try to extricate herself from the web without ruining her stage career.

Woven throughout are flashbacks to Kit’s childhood and the wreckage of the family that she thinks she’s left behind in Rhode Island. The history is just as interesting as the current events though an attentive reader is required as the narrative jumps back and forth on little warning. Nearly everything that happens during Strings Attached is a result of family history, and while Kit is the main character, the Corrigan family comes close to usurping her role.

Many of the attitudes displayed by characters are very much ‘of the times,’ and while the author never endorses them, modern readers may be surprised by the vehemence of some characters when referring to other ethnicities, homosexuality, or women.

I’d definitely give my recommendation to this book especially for readers interested in historical fiction or theatre or those in search of an interesting and evocative family drama.

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