A small town affair

Photo by Kate Westervelt
“Peyton Place” by Grace Metalious

Grace Metalious redefines the mid 1950s with her blockbuster novel “Peyton Place.”

In 1956 Grace Metalious, a New Hampshire native, rocked the country with her provocative novel “Peyton Place,” a story that exposed the true light of her own New England town. The novel redefined the role of women in society and helped fuel the feminist movements of the century.

Metalious gives her readers a fly on the wall experience as they witness the lives of two main characters from adolescence to womanhood. The novel engraves itself deep into the heart of its reader with stories of sex and violence. “Peyton Place” chronicles the story of Selena Cross, a poor girl with all the responsibility in the world and Allison Mackenzie, a rich girl whose own father she idolizes, despite the fact that she has never met him. Their friendship is torn at the seams by the circumstances of poverty and wealth.

The novel is not short on provocative topics, especially for the time period it was written. From the 1930’s through the 1950’s Peyton Place is turned upside down with a series of horrific events. Metalious touches on subject matters such as abortions, rape, addiction and incest. Her novel reveals the ugliest affairs Peyton Place has to offer and the most courageous events the community will ever know.

The town itself comes to life with such character the reader would swear he or she was the main protagonist. Readers are sure to find a true page turner as they learn of the recent small town gossip and who is responsible for it. As Selena and Allison are forced into adulthood years before their time, Peyton Place watches to see what will become of the two girls and the company they keep.

Metalious does nothing less than capture her audience with descriptive text that nearly paints the reader a picture. She describes the seasons, as any true New Englander would, with such detail the reader can almost hear the crunch of autumn leaves or feel the fierce cold of old man winter. Each season plays a major role in moving the story’s plot along in a way that few authors can.

“A vivid, vigorous story of small town and an expert examination of the lives of its people- their drives and vices, their ambitions and defeats, their passivity or violence, secret hopes and kindness, their cohesiveness and rigidity, their struggles and oftentimes their courage,” claims the Boston Herald.

Metalious begins with an epic depiction of the last days of summer in New England, before the bitter cold of winter creeps in.

“Indian summer is like a woman. Ripe, hotly passionate, but fickle, she comes and goes as she pleases so that one is never sure whether she will come at all, nor for how long she will stay…One year early in October, Indian summer came to a town called Peyton Place.”

Readers will find a timeless piece of literature buried deep within the text. “Peyton Place” evaluates the framework that holds a small town together and the people who come undone in the process.

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