Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Strings Attached - Judy Blundell

A couple of years ago, I read Judy Blundell's debut What I Saw and How I Lied (review). Although I didn't LOVE the book, I thought it was good - it gave a good impression of the time of which it was set, 1947, and there was so much mystery, I felt I HAD to read on to find out what would happen in the end.

I heard about Strings Attached around the blogosphere as What I Saw and How I Lied was one of those books which everyone was talking about or reviewing. It seemed interesting so I reserved it at my library quite a while ago, but I only received it at my local library recently.

Synopsis: 1950 America. Having fled her family in Providence, Rhode Island and cut her relationship off with the hot-headed Billy, whose enlisted in the army, Kit arrives in New York City with nothing. She becomes a chorus girl in a low-budget Broadway show but nothing lasts long in this city. Suddenly, Nate Benedict, Billy's lawyer father, appears in her life - offering her an apartment, a job and an introduction to a new, better life. But this is New York, where nothing in life comes for free which Kits learns the hard way.

Review: I think there is an unanimous decision from everyone that has read this book that Nate Benedict is a total, utter creep. Exactly the type you would not like to meet in a deserted, dark back alley somewhere. He is a slimy character that has an interesting first impression that doesn't last long.

I started this book a little apprehensive. I enjoyed What I Saw and How I Lied for the mystery, intrigue, history and romance but it didn't leave an ever-lasting impression on me like other books have done so in the past. In fact, I felt a little underwhelmed at the time. I read it because I wanted to find out what happened in the end but not because I was sucked in like in other books. The same really happened for this book, but I think I was much more sucked in this time round. 

Kit is an interesting character. She comes from a poor background growing up with only her father, aunt Delia and her two twins (she's one of a triplet). After a serious argument following her brother and Billy joining the US army, Kit decides to leave and pursue her own dreams of becoming a star on Broadway. She goes get a part in a minor musical as a chorus girl by herself but it's a job where it is clear she cannot live on forever. Enter stage right, Nate Benedict who turns up one night after a show, taking her to a suitable apartment before inviting her to accompany it. Without realising, this man gives Kit a place to live and a great job working as a dancer at a popular club as well as even new fashionable clothes. It is clear Kit owes him and when something bad happens and someone from their past turns up in New York, Kit realises that she shouldn't have accepted the easy way.

At times I loved Kit, especially her voice when describing her experiences in New York. Blundell really creates an atmosphere that lets the reader experience the glamour and paranoia of 1950's America with the threat of a nuclear bomb from the USSR (Russia). These different atmosphere's really contrast with each other to show the positive and negative sides to America at this time. There is the lovely descriptions of Kit's feelings when she is dancing or of a theatre or when she goes ice-skating at the Rockefeller Centre (oh yeah). But then, she is made to go into an air-raid shelter as New York prepares for if a bomb did hit. And then, there is the perhaps less legal activities of Nate. It's funny because when I think of the 1950's America, I think of suburbia and James Dean and the creation of teenagers. But the atmosphere that Blundell brings feels like America in the 1920's/30's with gangs, Communism, violence and the glamour of New York City.

Kit is a good protagonist but I never felt fully connected to her. She seems very selfish and once again some of the choices she makes seem unrealistic. Apart from those moments, she was a great voice to have for the narrative. She did seem older than seventeen (my own age) but I admire her for what she does. She leaves home for a huge, unfriendly city at 17! I couldn't do that yet.

The writing was average for me, it mostly helped create a great atmosphere for me. The chapters are in the past and present which is stated at the beginning of the chapter. This was good to start with and it was quite balanced. However, I found nearer the end when more things needed to be revealed for the final ending that there would be multiple and uneven chapters in  the past which meant when it returned to the present, it was a tad confusing at times.
The alternative time settings added a little suspense and were a great way to find out about Kit's life before 1950. This, I found, created the mystery for me in the story and ultimately, I was so surprised by the ending. It's very sudden and to be honest, I think it could have been built up more.

I did enjoy Strings Attached, certainly more than What I Saw and How I Lied. However, this, for me at least, wasn't perfect at all. Despite that, I think I enjoyed it more than I realised. Kit was a great lead, even if I didn't feel for her at times, and there are some awesome secondary characters such as Hank and Nate succeeded in creeping me out. Blundell creates a world of suspense and intrigue where everyone is hiding something, even Kit. I loved the romance of the story and of the world and of course, the atmosphere of 1950's America. So what did I learn from this novel?  In this world nothing in life certainly in never free - there is always some debt to be paid. This is well worth a read if you love historical fiction.

I give it a 3.5 out of 5

Author's Website:
Pages: 313
Publisher: Scholastic
Challenges: Historical Fiction

Related Posts:
Review: What I Saw and How I Lied

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