INSIDE PEYTON PLACE: The Life of Grace Metalious by Emily Toth

INSIDE PEYTON PLACE: The Life of Grace Metalious

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KIRKUS REVIEW

An overblown biography of the ""Pandora in blue jeans"" who wrote Peyton Place, featuring clumsy attempts to present Metalious as a feminist hero/victim. Born into a working-class, part-French-Canadian family and raised in industrial Manchester, N.H., through the Depression, un-beautiful Grace DeRepentigny grew up with a literary, creative bent but also with an absent father (divorce) and heavy conditioning in the ""feminine mystique"" (Toth quotes frequently from Betty Friedan). So, though she wrote compulsively in secret, she wound up as the teenage bride of classmate George Metalious, soon the mother of three. And while George went to college after the war, unconventional loner Grace kept writing--""but for a woman to have such a purpose in the early fifties was very odd, if not un-American, subversive, even Communist."" Still, Grace persisted, and--thanks to two savvy women (a reader and publisher Kitty Messner)--Peyton Place suddenly brought the late-'50s ""party years"". . . when Grace married her manager/lover Carl, sampled Hollywood, and became a talk-show guest. From then on, however, it was mostly downhill: writing difficulties, alcoholism, a second divorce, money troubles (a shady agent)--virtually all of which Toth unpersuasively attributes to the conflict between creativity and femininity. Nor does the characterization of Peyton Place as a ""feminist book"" hold up; and, throughout, Toth seems to ignore the existence of all those other bestselling women writers in her efforts to make Metalious' rise and fall a generalized feminist tragedy. Still, nostalgic Peyton Place fans may be interested in the details here on the editing process--how the ""less sexy, less commercial, and more idealistic"" original was subtly transformed. And some of the PR/media miniutiae may interest historians of publishing hype. Mostly, however, a strained exercise with drab particulars.

Pub Date: Sept. 4th, 1981
ISBN: 1578062683
Publisher: Doubleday