Visiting Peyton Place

Peyton PlaceLea Wait, here, admitting that I just read Grace Metalious’ Peyton Place for the first time.

Yes, it was published when I was only ten, back in 1956, but I certainly heard about it then, and afterward. After all — it was a scandalous bestseller. I read Lady Chatterly’s Lover when I was twelve (my grandmother’s paperback copy, clearly and excitingly printed “Banned in Boston”! on the front), so, if anything, it’s reputation would have made it more enticing. But somehow my family (and local library) considered it “trash.” Not worth reading. I don’t remember seeing copies, despite its notoriety.

A few years later the movie version of Peyton Place was filmed in Camden, Maine, just up the coast from where I live. I didn’t see the movie, either. I don’t remember missing it.

But recently I saw a reference to Peyton Place in a book on writing. It was cited as having excellent pacing and plot, and characters who were believable New Englanders. I decided only sixty years after it was published, that I had to read it.

And – yes. I liked it. It wasn’t trash. Those horrible descriptive sex scenes I somehow thought were in the book? Not a one. Although a peak through a window gives us a glimpse of the rape and incest one teenaged girl must endure. Honestly – pretty tame stuff by today’s standards. Yes, there are awakenings, and domestic violence. Secrets behind middle-class doors. But, rather than being shocking, the plot seemed to me very realistic.  All families have secrets. And in a small town … people know some of them.

Peyton Place is a long book, but a “fast read.” The sort book groups gather to dissect.

It is almost  a sociological study of a small town and the relationships of the classes within that town.

Peyton Place.Worth  a read. And a visit.

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4 Responses

  1. A fun blog, Lea, and one that brings back memories. I first read Peyton Place in the late 60s when I was teaching at Proctor Academy in Andover, NH, a boy’s school about a mile beyond the (presumed) Potter Place setting where the poet Donald Hall still lives. We were all titillated by it at the time–and you’re right: on rereading, it seems almost bland in relation to modern popular novels, And not trash at all, but carefully constructed. Thanks for a bit of nostalgia.

  2. I read it when it first came out–it was quite the thing at our high school. I remember enjoying it but thinking it was a bit trashy. Now I’ll have to read it again. Great post.

  3. Lea, one of my favorite books, which I have reread several times. It was certainly touted as scandalous back in the 1950s, but it is a very well-constructed and fascinating look at small towns and their secrets.

  4. Loving everyone’s comments, here and on my FB page. Clearly a lot of early editions ended up under beds and/or covers to be read with flashlights. Our world has certainly changed since then!

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