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The Palace of Strange Girls

3.3  ·  Rating Details ·  246 Ratings  ·  56 Reviews
Blackpool, England, 1959. The Singleton family is on holiday. For seven-year-old Beth, just out of the hospital, this means struggling to fill in her 'I-Spy' book and avoiding her mother Ruth's eagle-eyed supervision. Her sixteen-year-old sister Helen, meanwhile, has befriended a waitress whose fun-loving ways hint at a life beyond Ruth's strict rules.

But times are changin
ebook, 0 pages
Published September 9th 2009 by Grand Central Publishing (first published January 1st 2008)
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I was a bit disappointed with the style of writing of this book. I loved the era and setting of the late 50s in a seaside holiday resort and liked how each chapter began with a paragraph from an Eye spy at the seaside book which brought back a lot of memories of my own childhood just a few years after this book was set, it was really well researched and descriptive, very evocative of the years of austerity and change in the 1950s and brought it home how much things have changed in such a short t
Sallie Day's debut novel The Palace of Strange Girls has just the kind of physical presence that catches my eye. With 352 pages, it has a nice weight to it, and the cover contains a retro photo, much like Laurie Graham's novels. Fortunately, that vintage photo wasn't only used for artistic appeal; the story takes place in the summer of 1959 during the Singleton family's vacation at the beaches of Blackpool, England.

The Singletons are four: father Jack, a foreman at the local cotton mill; mother
Mar 12, 2012 Lainy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Time taken to read - 1 day

Blurb From Goodreads

Blackpool, 1959. The Singleton family is on holiday. Seven-year-old Beth is trying to avoid her mother Ruth's eagle-eyed supervision, while her sixteen-year-old sister Helen has befriended a waitress whose fun-loving ways hint at a life beyond Ruth's strict rules. When a letter arrives from Crete, a secret re-emerges from the wartime past of Ruth's husband Jack that could destroy their marriage. As Helen is tempted outside the safe confines of her m
Jo Barton
May 16, 2009 Jo Barton rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Singletons are in Blackpool for their annual wakes week holiday from their mill town of Blackburn.They stay in the same hotel and do the same things every year, except this year is different. Jack must reach an important decision about his future, Ruth is worried about their two daughters: Helen is 16 and wants to leave school and see more of life, and 7 yr old Beth is recovering from a serious illness. Written against the back drop of the 1950's, this is a story of thwarted desire,unfullfil ...more
Michelle Frumkin
Jan 03, 2017 Michelle Frumkin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A sweet, nostalgic take on a time quickly passing away. For one week, the Singleton family takes to the seaside at Blackpool. They are all feeling stifled in their own way: a little girl overprotected by her unhappy mother. A teen-age sister growing up fast. A father with a secret. And the only industry they know --- textiles --- is crumbling around them. It is one week of crinoline skirts, seaside carnies and an ISpy adventure. Lots of spiky and try-hard characters, a salty setting, and fun per ...more
Jan 27, 2012 Roberta rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
The Palace of Strange Girls racconta la vacanza estiva del 1959 della famiglia Singleton. Come sempre Jack, Ruth e le loro figlie, l'adolescente Helen e la piccola Beth, passano le vacanze all'Hotel Belvedere a Blackpool, una cittadina costiera dell'Inghilterra, ma quest'anno la famiglia ha qualche problema di troppo.
Oct 23, 2016 Ipswichblade rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great period piece of life in 1950s Northern England during a family holiday in blackpool
Grace Harwood
Jan 15, 2013 Grace Harwood rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked this book - but more towards the end than the beginning, so it's one that's worth sticking with. Like other reviewers of this book, I found the real strength of the novel was the vivid evocation of the fifties, the detailed research which has obviously gone into it and which is apparent in so many ways - for example, the detail with which the cotton industry is described and the manner in which Blackpool of the 50s is brought to life via fashions/music etc. I wasn't too sure about the ch ...more
Alayne Bushey
The Palace of Strange Girls is Sallie Day’s debut novel. Day grew up in England and her father ran a cotton mill, so it stands to reason why the father in this book also works in a cotton mill. Strange Girls revolves around the Singleton family on their holiday in July 1959. By all outward appearances they are your typical family living in the recession of the late 50’s. Ruth, mom and wife, runs her house the way all housewives should: with a dust mop and financially iron fist. Husband/father Ja ...more
Mar 08, 2011 Marianne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It’s summer, 1959, and we join the Singleton family for their annual week-long holiday at The Belvedere in Blackpool. On the surface, all seems well with Jack, Ruth and their daughters, seven year-old Beth and sixteen year-old Helen. But despite appearances, none of them is truly happy. Beth, not long out of hospital, just wanting to fill in her I-Spy book and fit in, is being smothered by an overprotective Ruth. Helen is basically a good girl but really longs for a bit of freedom: deceit may be ...more
Kirsty Darbyshire
Nov 05, 2011 Kirsty Darbyshire rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle
The Singleton family from Blackburn spend their 1959 Wakes Week, the local shutdown holiday, in Blackpool, along with plenty of others from their hometown. This story is a week in the company of upwardly mobile housewife Ruth, her husband Jack who is harbouring his own secrets and ambitions, sixteen year old Helen who is impatient to become a youth of the sixties, and seven year old Beth who is recovering from a serious illness and is being very coddled against her will as a result. I loved it. ...more
Feb 20, 2013 Lynda rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It was difficult for me to relate to The Palace of Strange Girls by Sallie Day. As an American woman firmly entrenched in modern culture, this novel set in the late 1950's in a seaside town that the writer compares to Atlantic City challenged me in a few ways. First, I found Ruth, one of the main characters to be abusive and cruel to almost everyone in her life. I immediately disliked her and that remained throughout the novel. This is difficult as the most reprehensible characters ususally have ...more
Feb 08, 2017 Jenny rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed the setting of a 1950's seaside holiday, and to some extent it made sense that the book only really focused on this family's 1 week summer holiday. However, it felt that many of the storylines weren't developed such as why did Jack marry Ruth, why was Ruth the way she was, would Jack really have done what he did with the consequences it had, would he have really made the future plans he did? Would Helen have kept quiet about what happened? And most importantly, in light of the title of ...more
Julie Failla Earhart
The Singleton family is enjoying a two-week, seaside vacation in Blackpool, England, during the summer of 1959. Seven-year-old Beth, recovering from a major operation is determined to fill in the entire blanks of her new I-Spy book. Sixteen-year-old Helen desperately wants to break free of her mother’s hawk-eyes and strict rules. Mother Ruth is doing her best to keep her girls on a short leash and maintain a modicum of dignity while Father Jack tries to relax amidst impending turmoil in his pro ...more
Sep 26, 2012 Joanne rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really can't decide if I liked this book. I didn't dislike it, but I was quite happy to move on to my next read. Although, saying that I was a little disappointed when it ended and didn't feel like we were given a very good, or satisfying, ending. I definitely still had a few unanswered questions.

I thought that the use of the I-spy book throughout the novel was very well done, as well as using the cotton industry throughout which I actually found really interesting. One of my favourite scenes
Megan Westfield
Nov 24, 2009 Megan Westfield rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Palace of Strange Girls is a lovely, refreshing book that brings the reader into the internal struggles of the four members of a British fabric-mill family during their 1959 summer holiday in Blackpool, a gaudy, seaside tourist town.

Author Sallie Day effortlessly leads us back and forth through the minds of each Singleton family member, weaving an exploration of the relationship between happiness and desire. Seven-year-old Beth’s body, frail from a harrowing heart surgery, is no match for he
Jul 12, 2014 Kay rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The year is 1959 and the Singleton family are taking their yearly holiday in Blackpool at the same hotel they go to every year. Ruth runs this family with a rod of iron and makes every decision, no matter how small, down to how many days her sixteen year old daughter must wear her skirt before she is allowed to change it. Helen ,who at 16 is bored and restless becomes friends with a flighty, flirty waitress who shows her a different side to life. Seven year old Beth is recovering from heart surg ...more
Nov 12, 2009 Laura rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Set in 1959, this book tells the story of a family who's holiday in Blackpool seems to have exacerbated all of their problems.

I read an interview with the author and she said that she writes blind, she doesn't plan a novel out before writing it. I think this could be where my problem with the book stems from. There were a lot of different stories running throughout and sections felt disjointed.

It was obvious that the book had been carefully researched but I found all the historical information
May 13, 2011 Caitie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Well, it's definitely not the most delightful book I've read this year. I didn't find it to be delightful at all, actually. Nearly all the characters were hard to like (view spoiler) ...more
Jayne Charles
Jul 24, 2011 Jayne Charles rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This started out rather hard to follow and overly wordy, but settled down by chapter two. The picture it painted of Blackpool in the late '50s was vivid and believable, and the characters well drawn. I liked the way the author observed small but telling details (eg at one point in the story Ruth has a pebble stuck in her shoe but is too angry to stop and shift it), this provided illumination without the need for acres of description. I wouldn't call the story 'delightful' as is claimed on the co ...more
Colleen Gallagher
Jul 27, 2015 Colleen Gallagher rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyed this book which is set in Blackpool during the 1950's Wakes Week. A two weeks holiday I remember fondly from my childhood, as everyone I knew went to Blackpool or Skegness! A story of a family, middle class cotton mill management who were caught during the modernisation of mills and foreign imports.
Atmospheric, good descriptive script clearly showing the working class attitude to the holiday freedom aloud once a year. The introduction of the Tiger woman as a freak show then an ordinary
Gina Boyd
This is a sad book despite its relatively happy ending.

I think this is the first time I've read something set in England in the late 1950s, and it was very interesting to me to see how differently it's portrayed than my idea of America at that time. England was still feeling the effects of WWII, and while I know that in my head, this spells it out in the little, subtle ways of everyday life.

The writing is strong and the descriptions and characters are vivid. The pacing feels right, too, as you
Jul 24, 2009 Julie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Point of Views of all the members of the singleton family, with flashbacks to certain memories . I liked the story and like learning about all the weaving/ cotton/ fabrics and loom terminology. The chapter where things all changed with in the story was Chapter 11-- Seaside at Night. I liked the I-Spy theme throughout the book.

Jack wants to tell his secret and daughters want to grow up. They have been coming to the same hotel for holiday for the last 17 years. Ruth wants the best things in life.
Paula Sealey
Aug 24, 2009 Paula Sealey rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I loved the atmosphere created by the writing of Sallie Day. I could just imagine myself in an old fashioned Blackpool hotel in the late 50's. However, there was sometimes too much incedental detail, and it detracted from the story.

While the story appears to be have no particular plot, I warmed to each of the characters, and wanted to read on and discover what happened to them all. I thought the use of the 'I-Spy' book throughout was lovely too, although I must be too young to remember them!
Dec 11, 2013 Teresa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: britain
I might have been worried about undrrstanding the 50s setting of Blackpool but the context represented here were so vivid that I eas able to approach it as a rapt observer. It is the story of a millworker family on summrt holiday. Each member of this family has his own place in the narrative and each threads helps to build the sites and smells of the sea and time. It was such a refreshing read. I wish I had learned a bit more about the illness of the youngr girl Beth, but nome of that affected m ...more
Morninglight Mama
Jan 16, 2016 Morninglight Mama rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This is a fantastic character-driven novel, narrated in such a way that each of the four family members at the center of the story get their own time in the limelight, as unflattering as it may be. The setting of 1959 England isn't familiar to me personally, but so many features of the seaside resort remain the same through time and place. The complexities of the relationships are portrayed with honesty and grit, causing the characters to be multi-dimensional, showing their pains, their fears, t ...more
Jan 05, 2010 Darcy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Palace of Strange Girls was a random pick-up from the library. It was a great vacation read (especially since it mostly takes place while the characters are on vacations themselves). It is complicated and messy, but still retains the likeability and charm of the characters who get into the sticky situations. My only beef with it is I wish there was more of the actual "Palace of the Strange Girls" in it or the Tiger Woman. She was the ideal character - scary yet fragile, tough and vulnerable, ...more
Dec 26, 2009 Beth rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
English vacation week for family where Mother fnatically scrubs & cleans; youngest daughter Beth is considered fragile with a bad heart and convalesing from operation. Older teenage daughter wants to escapse from her Mother's tight rules and husband/father is in life crisis of wishing for "the old days" of wartime when he truly loved Eleni. Each secretly rebels at the strictures they feel that hol their lives in check and finally move on to an improved life, just not as improved as they woul ...more
May 18, 2011 Linda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely adored this book, so much so that I read it in two days. Having been to Blackpool on several occasions when I was a young girl around the time this book was set (1959), I could really relate to it, I could almost smell the fish and chips. Don't expect great excitement, it was observations and nostalgia and a lovely young main character called Beth, who is obviously a survivor. If you are a child of the 50's/60's you will love this book. Come on Sallie, we need another like it.
Mar 02, 2010 Brenda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really liked the book. A great story in the year of 1959 (my birth year) set in Blackpool England. Each person in the family has their own story going on within the greater theme, and it all wraps up at the end in a rather odd way. Not bad, just kind of odd. The author is trying in her way, to inspire readers to start breaking a few rules and to start fighting back. The book kept my interest all the way through, and I finished it in 2 days.
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