Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Peyton Place, Grace Metalious, Julian Messner Inc, 1956, 372 pp

Coming in at #3 on the bestseller list for 1956, is this novel of what were considered scandalous doings in a small New England town.  I was never allowed to read it while still living at home; once I was away from home I lost interest. I was only nine years old the year it was published and my mother did her best to keep me away from what she felt were inappropriate books (translation: sexual) during my preteen and teen years. 

Well, the book does have the word pecker on the second or third page. It deals with premarital sex, illegitimate children, sexual abuse of young girls by fathers, abortion (!) and awakening of sexual desire in teenage girls. That is a lot of hot stuff for mainstream fiction in 1956. But Jackie Collins it is not. The writing is dense in an attempt at a literary style and the story moves slowly until well into the second half.

For its time though, it played a part in the opening up of the stodgy tone which fiction had taken on  in  the early 1950s, yet the writing still suffers from that influence. Peyton Place has been made into a movie twice: in 1957 with Lana Turner and in 1964 with Mia Farrow. I have never see either movie but think they would be worth watching. From 1964 to 1969 the story ran as a primetime TV drama serial in soap opera format; never saw those either. I imagine it was television which brought the term "Peyton Place" into well known American parlance, as in, "That neighborhood is a regular Peyton Place." 

I was a junior in high school when the TV show started to run. Even then I would have had to sneak around to watch it, but by that time I had my own soap opera going on in real life.

(Peyton Place is available in paperback by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)

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