04 June 2011

Strings Attached by Judy Blundell

I loved What I Saw and How I Lied - as a teen novel it was fresh-looking, brilliantly insightful and beautifully written. That Judy Blundell had managed to come up with a story that was set in the past but that spoke so eloquently to the present was something I was a little afraid she wouldn't be able to replicate. Well, I needn't have fretted: Strings Attached is another wonderfully sophisticated, complex novel.

Set in 1950, but with the past told in snapshots that piece together like a jigsaw, this is the story of smart-mouthed redhead, Kitty Corrigan. With a tangled history that binds her more securely than she dreams, she runs away from a broken romance to find fame on Broadway. But success as an actress is hard to find and, lying about her age, she becomes a nightclub dancer, all the while trying to ignore the complex presence of her ex-boyfriend's father and the plans he has for her life. Kitty's hunger for love, for life and for success blind her to almost everything, especially to the fact that actions have consequences and that very little in life comes for free.

I loved this book, as it's a real novel (woo hoo, no magic, no vampires!), a real story, with three-dimensional characters and a nail-bitingly tense mystery. Sleaze and sex ripple through the book, but Kitty is - for all her would-be sophistication - an innocent abroad and none of the sex is overt. All the period details are delicious (Mad Men watchers? Read this now!) and the claustrophobia of an America waiting for the bomb to drop or the Reds to take over is satisfyingly evoked. The nod to David Levithan in the acknowledgements is just, though this is not a carbon copy of his style at all, as Ms Blundell is far too much her own writer for that - a writer with style, panache, a real ear for dialogue and a heart for story.

With the hedonistic world of clubs, dancers, gangs, McCarthyism and mobsters evoked with all the stark depth of Film Noir, String Attached reads like a movie, one that flickers in your head long after the story is done.

The one thing I'd have changed? The title - it really didn't work for me...



Noga said...

Ach, you beat me to it. It's next on my list after the new Mal Peet. I'm not reading your review until then.

Leonie said...

OK! Though I've tried not to give too much away... I'll be interested to know what you do think when you get to it.