SHORT & SWEET REVIEW: SEARCHING FOR GRACE KELLY BY M.G. CALLAHAN

Note, the format of my Short and Sweet reviews differs in that they simply comprise the book blurb and a short response (hence, the short and sweet).

Searching For Grace Kelly has a glowing endorsement by Laura Moriarty (The Chaperone), and since I was a fan of that book, I decided to follow her recommendation. The novel is targeted at fans of Mad Men, The Paris Wife and The Best of Everything. However, it is not about Grace Kelly at all – more about the search for elements of Kelly – her poise, sophistication and dream-come-true lifestyle. Here’s the blurb:

For a small-town girl with big dreams in 1955, there is no address more desirable than New York’s Barbizon Hotel – the place where Grace Kelly lived when she first came to the big city. Laura, a patrician beauty from Connecticut, arrives with a magazine internship and dreams of becoming a writer ; hopelessly romantic Dolly is working the secretarial pool and looking to be swept off her feet; and Vivian, a red-headed British bombshell, yearns to make it as a singer while working nights as a cigarette girl.

As the young women become friends, they embark on a journey of self-discovery that will take them from the penthouses of Park Avenue to the Beat scene of Greenwich Village to Atlantic City’s Steel Pier – and into the arms of very different men who will alter their lives forever.

The glamour of 1950s New York often makes for a compelling read, but it’s even more so when contrasted with the seedy side. Author M.C. Callahan shows us the good and the bad of New York as three very different characters take steps towards finding their place in the city and the world. Young and passionate, brimming with dreams and hope, they believe that fitting in sometimes means being someone they’re not. It’s a hard lesson. The characters of Laura and Vivian get the most attention, while Dolly seems a little underdeveloped at the expense of the others.

Callahan draws out themes of identity, independence, belonging, friendship, parental expectations, and women’s roles in society, delivering a story that has elements of sadness, reality and hope. It’s easy to relate to because we’ve all been there – stepping out into life, full of dreams. The prologue is interesting because it invites feelings of tension and hope (from “Oh no” to “Maybe all turn out in the end”) that linger throughout the book. The identity of the character is kept from the reader in the prologue, but to me it was clear all along who it was.

Overall, a good sense of place and a believable depiction of self-discovery (in which happy endings don’t come to all), makes this a worthwhile read.

Available from good bookstores. My copy was courtesy of Hachette Australia.