Here, amid the cocktails and the jazz, two women with very different pasts try to forget the devastation of the Great War and forge a new life in a city where those who dare to dream can have it all.
Dolly Lane is The Savoy’s newest chambermaid, her prospects limited by a life in service. But her proximity to the dazzling hotel guests fuels her dreams—to take the London stage by storm, to wear couture gowns, to be applauded by gallery girls and admired by critics . . . to be a star, just like her idol, Loretta May.
The daughter of an earl, Loretta has rebelliously turned her back on the carefully ordered life expected of a woman at the top of society’s elite. She will love who she wants, and live as she likes. Outwardly, her star burns bright, but Loretta holds a dark secret. She alone knows that her star cannot burn forever.
When an unusual turn of events leads Dolly’s and Loretta’s lives to collide, they must both learn to let go of their pasts in order to hold on to what they most desire.
The Girl from the Savoy had a very 'Upstairs, Downstairs' feel to it. The guests and the staff were in the same building, but they were in whole different worlds. I will probably never get to experience the Savoy in any fashion for more than a day. Were I to get a job there, I would probably be sacked the first day, because I don't play well with "holier-than-thou's". And, yes, I do have to ask how much a room would be, so I probably will never be able to afford it.
This is one of several books I've read recently set around the time of WWI. The Girl From the Savoy happens to be set mostly after the war, with remembrances by the various characters to years past. During the war, women had taken over a lot of the jobs previously done by the men who had become soldiers. More opportunities existed than ever before. Women did not have to get married simply because 'it was done' or because there were no other options.
Dolly is a small town girl who sent her young man off to the war. He came home. He had all of his limbs and organs. But he had PTSD (or shell shock, as they called it then). He did not remember her. And after an extraordinary attempt to help him remember, Dolly realized the chances of him ever remembering her were slim, and she went to London to 'seek her fortune'.
She got a job as a chambermaid at the Savoy Hotel. As the head porter told her, "You do not exist," after berating Dolly for showing up in the lobby (to clear a large water spill). Dolly knew this was not the life she wanted for herself...at least not as a career.
Dolly had an interest in the theatre, and she was offered a private audition by the scum-sucking skuzzball of an American agent who was staying at the hotel - oh, he wanted her to perform...but not necessarily on the stage. Back in the day, trying to coin the term 'sexual harassment' would bring you blank stares or derisive snorts, depending on your audience.
I could go on for days (trust me on that) with 'favorite moments' from The Girl from the Savoy. Ms. Gaynor gives us a wonderful, engaging story. The characters had their strengths...and their weaknesses. There was at least one charming synchronicity, or a cleaning up of old business (for lack of a better term).
I identified with Dolly because I, too, have been told that I had no future in theatre and should find something else to do. It set me back, but did not keep me down. (Eventually I did about 30 plays over a period of 6 years.) But Dolly would not have gotten as far as she did without the tutelage and friendship of Loretta May, a famous stage actress. I loved that she was willing to pass on her talent to the next generation as it were.
Reading The Girl from the Savoy has definitely whet my appetite for more books by Hazel Gaynor! I hope she keeps writing for years (and years!) to come!
MEET THE AUTHOR
Hazel Gaynor’s 2014 debut novel The Girl Who Came Home—A Novel of the Titanicwas a New York Times and USA Today bestseller. A Memory of Violets is her second novel.
Hazel writes a popular guest blog ‘Carry on Writing’ for national Irish writing website writing.ie and contributes regular feature articles for the site, interviewing authors such as Philippa Gregory, Sebastian Faulks, Cheryl Strayed, Rachel Joyce and Jo Baker, among others.
Hazel was the recipient of the 2012 Cecil Day Lewis award for Emerging Writers and was selected by Library Journal as one of Ten Big Breakout Authors for 2015. She appeared as a guest speaker at the Romantic Novelists’ Association and Historical Novel Society annual conferences in 2014.
Originally from Yorkshire, England, Hazel now lives in Ireland with her husband and two children.
Find out more about Hazel at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.
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(Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the author and publishers via TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest review. This post contains affiliate links.)