Friday, February 10, 2012

Book Review: Strings Attached by Judy Blundell

Dial, 2011; 313 pages; ISBN 0545221269
My Goodreads Rating: 5 stars

Like What I saw and how I lied by Judy Blundell, Strings Attached is another perfect read for someone who not only enjoys 20th century historical fiction, but also the old Hollywood glam days (see my review for What I saw.... here). In my book, it deserves every single star out of the five I gave it.

The main character, Kit (Kathleen) Corrigan, is a triplet, and along with her sister Muddie and her brother Jaime, they have been accustomed to performing and doing small endorsements almost since birth as the Corrigan Three (pushed on by their dad; their mom died giving birth to them). But Kit dreams of acting and dancing on Broadway. Despite her self-proclaimed bad luck, she manages to secure a small-bit part in a "stinkpot" show and pretty soon she is off to NYC to continue pursuing her dreams. Kit is 17, she's dropped out of high school and her boyfriend and brother have both enlisted in the army.

Once in New York she gets a chorus line girl job, but she's far from the Broadway lights still. That's when Nate Benedict comes knocking. He is her boyfriend Billy's father. He is also a lawyer who may or may not have ties to the mob. Nate offers Kit an apartment and a job as a Lido doll, which is a big step up from being a chorus girl. But the deal comes with some strings attached (even though Nate doesn't present it like this). Since Billy will be visiting before he is shipped to Korea, Nate wants to set up Kit so that Billy has something to live for. But Nate doesn't know that Kit and Billy broke up before he left for training. Kit is torn between her intense love for Billy, whether or not she wants to get back together with him, her desire to make it big in New York, and some things from the past that she shares with Mr. Benedict. Actually there is a lot of back story that gets slowly revealed throughout the book. Although the main story is happening in the fall of 1950, some chapters are prefaced with a month and date from the late forties, or even late thirties in some instances. So although the story is about Kit, it's also about her family, the Benedict family, and her neighbors in NYC.

Here's a quote that I thought really captured the mentality of Kit and other Americans during the late 1930's:
"In those hot summers, full of flies and white skies, corn and pigs, I learned what America was - people looking up from their work and trouble and hoping someone would tell them a story, sell them a dream. And I saw what it was like to be looked at, and came to like it."
I thought the story telling was excellent, the writing exceptional, and the historical details both accurate and intriguing. Kit is a flawed character, but that's what makes her more authentic. She has talent and wants to succeed. She is beautiful, but she doesn't realize how beautiful she is. She is naive, but she isn't stupid. I'm a sucker for anything from this era of history, so maybe that affected my interest in the book, but I also think that Blundell did an amazing job with weaving the story and making me care about the characters. I both liked and disliked many of them. I was also surprised by several turn of events, so I was never bored nor did I ever feel like I knew where the story was headed precisely. The author has a very subtle way of weaving these details in. If you enjoyed What I saw and how I lied or Ten Cents a Dance by Christine Fletcher or Bright Young Things by Anna Godbersen, you'll like this one.

Photo: From website

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