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Review: The Girl from the Savoy by Hazel Gaynor

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The Girl
from the Savoy

Hazel Gaynor

Genre: Historical
Paperback 448 Pages
Publication: June 7, 2016
by William Morrow

Sometimes life gives you cotton stockings. Sometimes it gives you a Chanel gown. . .

Dolly Lane is a dreamer; a downtrodden maid who longs to dance on the London stage, but her life has been fractured by the Great War. Memories of the soldier she loved, of secret shame and profound loss, by turns pull her back and spur her on to make a better life.

When she finds employment as a chambermaid at London’s grandest hotel, The Savoy, Dolly takes a step closer to the glittering lives of the Bright Young Things who thrive on champagne, jazz and rebellion. Right now, she must exist on the fringes of power, wealth and glamor—she must remain invisible and unimportant.

But her fortunes take an unexpected turn when she responds to a struggling songwriter’s advertisement for a ‘muse’ and finds herself thrust into London’s exhilarating theatre scene and into the lives of celebrated actress, Loretta May, and her brother, Perry. Loretta and Perry may have the life Dolly aspires to, but they too are searching for something.

Now, at the precipice of the life she has and the one she longs for, the girl from The Savoy must make difficult choices: between two men; between two classes, between everything she knows and everything she dreams of. A brighter future is tantalizingly close—but can a girl like Dolly ever truly leave her past behind?


Two young women, both with big dreams and losses incurred during the war, come together. The premise intrigues me. Given the similarities in their dreams and the difference in their class, there was potential for the story to make parallels between Dolly and Loretta's lives to show how love, war, and ambition intersect with class biases and the culture of the time to influence the young women's lives. However, the author takes far too long to set up the context. It isn't until close to midway in the novel that Dolly and Loretta's paths cross or the plot starts going anywhere. Despite Dolly's big dreams, we don't see them take direction until she meets Loretta. For a novel that does a better job of portraying the culture of the society and the relationships of its individuals, I recommend The Great Gatsy. (Albeit, it examines a different social class across the pond from The Girl in the Savoy.)

It seems as if the author wasn't sure where she was headed with the novel for much of it. Many of the initial scenes shown do not serve to build the story and could easily have been omitted. On the other end, there were characters and plotlines that were not developed enough. For example, Mr. Snyder's character represents the good darker sides of stardom, and he could have served as a good foil to Perry's character. However, Mr. Snyder was only given two key moments, neither of which led anywhere to reinforce the character traits he exemplifies. Again, a good opportunity to build the world is wasted.

Generally, I'm not fond of multiple perspectives because they're difficult to do well. Every perspective that is added takes away space that could have been used to further develop the main perspective. The Smell of Other People's Houses is another recently published work that does a fantastic job intertwining the stories of the protagonists (read my review here). The Girl from the Savoy does not handle this as well. For example, many of the revelations about Dolly and Loretta end up being revealed to the other later in the novel. Time spent with Dolly and Loretta's perspectives could have focused on their internal conflicts and the emotional damage dealt to them while hinting at what happened. (Just Listen by Sarah Dessen is a fantastic example of a work that successfully hints at a past trauma while building to the big reveal.) As for Teddy's perspective, I honestly didn't see a point to it except to show us what Dolly and Teddy had. What we learn with could have just as easily been shown through Dolly's perspective while further building her character and keeping the story focused on the two starring women.

Overall, The Girl from the Savoy is a decent enough read if you're looking for a historical fiction novel to pass away the time. It is unique from novels like The Great Gatsby in that it is set in London post World War I, though the setting / culture isn't developed enough for me to be entirely conscious of the differences in culture. However, it isn't one that I would go out of my way to recommend.

A copy was provided by Harper Collins for review

Rating: 2 stars

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