The Girl From The Savoy by Hazel Gaynor

The Girl From The Savoy is a charming story set in early 1920s post WWI London where eager to forget the pain left by war for a little while, many found distraction in the glitz and glamour of the dawning jazz era of the theater, obsessing over each new starlet to grace the stage.

Housemaid Dorothy Lane is no different. Joining the gallery girls in the high seats at every show she can attend, she dreams of seeing her own name on the marquee outside, the spotlight following her as she dances across the stage.  Hoping it will lead her one step closer to her dream of becoming the next great theater star, she moves to London, taking a job as a chambermaid at the famous Savoy Hotel.

A chance encounter on a rain soaked street on the way to her first day at the Savoy sets her on a path she’d dreamed but never really thought possible – friendship with current sweetheart of the stage Loretta May, muse to a composer on the brink of greatness, and time spent in the company of the up and coming Bright Young Things. And an audition. As her dreams become reality, Dorothy has to choose between the future she’d always hoped  for – and the past she thought she’d lost forever.

I have to admit it took me a couple tries to read this book. The first few pages just didn’t grab my attention. Thankfully I finally committed and pushed through,  quickly becoming engaged – and very happy I did.  Author Hazel Gaynor does an excellent job of exposing the hidden wounds of war- the emotional scars left on both the soldiers and the families and loved ones left behind. It’s easy to compare the diagnosis of ‘shell shock’ given to the emotionally damaged soldiers of that era to the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) our soldiers deal with today,  making this story set in the glitzy and glamorous 1920s jazz age theater of West End London very real and relateable in today’s world.

 

 

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As Bright As Heaven by Susan Meissner

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I am drawn to Historical Fiction because I am in awe of the level of suffering and loss past generations have endured and yet pushed through. I love reading and learning about their struggles and determination to overcome. We would not be here today to complain about our petty issues if not for our incredibly strong and brave ancestors.

This newest book from Susan Meissner, with her unmatched talent for weaving history through fictional story, is currently my favorite of this category.

In As Bright As Heaven, the outrageous amount of death and loss caused by the Spanish Flu pandemic during WW1 was brought to life through the Bright family. Moving from their safe and quiet life in Quakertown to take over an aging uncle’s funeral home in exciting Philadelphia, the family sees nothing but promise in their future. As they settle into city life, new schools and friends for the girls, new career and financial freedom for mom and dad – an unseen fog of death, a.k.a. the Spanish Flu, is creeping closer, destin to destroy life as they have ever known it.

I had to wait a while after finishing this book before discussing or reviewing. It took some time to reconcile the overwhelming presence of death through the book.

As difficult as it may have been, Susan has taken this little known part of history and wrapped it in a page turning family saga that will stay with you long after the final page.

Highly recommend.

*An estimated 50 million people died from the Spanish Flu, 1918-19. The nagging voice of conspiracy theorist continues to whisper in the back of my mind – could this have been an early, and horribly successful, attempt of germ warfare? Significantly more people died during this time from the influenza than causality of WW1 (1914-18).