Glamour, guys, and dolls
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 10 June 2011
Judy Blundell is an excellent author of fiction for young adults - her writing is immediate, compelling, lively, with an authentic personal voice which animates her lead character, Kit Corrigan, and gives the novel a vibrancy and glitter that suits the story well. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, despite the fact I am nowhere near the age it is aimed at.
The racy style aptly describes the glamorous ideals of a young woman aiming for the stars, her hopes and emotions, but there is a darker side to the tale, embracing the comparative poverty of pre- and post-war America, crime and corruption, and the gangster world. Despite trying to break away, Kit gets caught up in the web of her Irish family history and its relations with the Italian mobsters of Providence, Rhode Island. As she begins to realise her dream of dancing and acting on the New York stage she gets drawn further into the murky depths of the seamier side of clubland as her dancing role as a Lido doll gets caught up with the mob rivalry of New York and beyond.
But at the heart of the novel is the dramatic love story of Kit and Billy, a relationship fraught with the tensions created by their families. As a triplet, losing her mother at birth, Kit is brought up haphazardly by a dilatory Dad and a strict aunt who is hiding her own secret. Kit learns both the pretty and the poor as her father trades on the triplets in advertising and dance shows, but remains a struggling Irishman in the tattier part of town. The friendship between Kit, her brother Jamie, and Billy, the son of Nate Benedict, a corrupt lawyer involved with the Italian mob, develops through a series of vignette chapters, flashbacks describing Kit's growing up, which Judy Blundell cleverly entwines with the main theme of Kit's complex life in New York at the age of seventeen-eighteen, whose rise towards fame is dependent on Billy's father.
This novel is both tender and brutal, glamorous and seedy, moral and amoral. The author weaves a number of strands into making this an effective coming-of-age story, from the Catholic upbringing of the Irish Corrigans to the stars and glitz of Manhattan in the early fifties. She has researched her background well, her references - whether to stars, films, and radio, or the Rhode Island landscape - is sound and convincing, and the period American voice rings true. She writes well and keeps tabs on all her strings, attching them carefully and accurately in every chapter without losing a thread.
Although aimed at the 16-25 age range, I think Strings Attached can be enjoyed by women of any age who are girls at heart, who love stories recalling the American Dream of the fifties, glamour while walking on the wild side. Judy Blundell has created a memorable character in the feisty, ambitious, red-headed Kit Corrigan who will live on in readers' minds long after they put down this emotional roller-coaster, satisfying story.
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