Friday, 27 July 2012

Contemporary Summer: Review of Debutantes by Cora Harrison

Debutantes by Cora Harrison
Publisher: Macmillan
Released: August 2nd 2012
My Rating: 3 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

It’s 1923 and London is a whirl of jazz, dancing and parties. Violet, Daisy, Poppy and Rose Derrington are desperate to be part of it, but stuck in an enormous crumbling house in the country, with no money and no fashionable dresses, the excitement seems a lifetime away.

Luckily the girls each have a plan for escaping their humdrum country life: Rose wants to be a novelist, Poppy a jazz musician and Daisy a famous film director. Violet, however, has only one ambition: to become the perfect Debutante, so that she can go to London and catch the eye of Prince George, the most eligible bachelor in the country.

But a house as big and old as Beech Grove Manor hides many secrets, and Daisy is about to uncover one so huge it could ruin all their plans—ruin everything—forever.
(from Goodreads)

Debutantes really made me feel like I’d been transported back to the 1920s! I loved the dynamic between the four sisters and all the great descriptions – if you like historical fiction, then this book is for you.

Daisy, Poppy, Violet and Rose were all likeable girls (though Violet could get on my nerves at times) but I think my favourite was Daisy. She wanted to be a famous filmmaker and really didn’t care too much about dances and marriage – though she did worry about her eldest sister Violet, who was determined to marry rich so she could support herself and her sisters. I liked the way Daisy worried about Violet and did her best to help her and make her as happy as she could be. I also loved her enthusiasm for film and photography, and she had a real eye for capturing images that would really grab an audience’s attention. She could also be quite funny too, and even sarcastic at times – I think she and Rose made me laugh the most. However, she could exaggerate a bit sometimes as well – okay, the family weren’t rich anymore and had little money for clothes and outings, but it wasn’t exactly “soul-destroying poverty”. They still had servants! But I guess it was a difficult time for them all and I can understand why the sisters felt trapped and hard done by. Violet especially felt the effects of their poverty because she could remember a time when the family was still wealthy, and was desperate to get out of there and settle down somewhere else. Poppy was probably my second favourite, and I liked the way she spoke her mind and the sweet relationship she had with Baz – she didn’t want to marry for money, but for love and seemed to have a lot of things planned out already. I also liked her relationship with Daisy and how she supported her towards the end when things got difficult.

One thing I really loved about Debutantes was the descriptions and detail – you could tell the author had researched the era thoroughly and it really paid off. I liked the way the dresses were described and how the girls talked about all the latest fashions at the time and how they felt their clothes were outdated and needed to be changed. Violet spent a lot of time altering dresses trying to make them look new and in-style and it all seemed very realistic and really added to the whole 20s atmosphere. I liked the focus on 20s fashion and hairstyles but I think Daisy’s films and photographs were also explained well and described realistically and I could almost picture Daisy with her old-fashioned camera, making her silent films with her black and white images!

Justin, the youngest son of the Earl of Pennington, was the main love interest in the story...and this was my main problem. It’s not that I didn’t like Justin, because I did. He was quite funny, good-looking and just pretty cool for a 20s guy. But the thing is, I couldn’t really work out whose love interest he was. I mean, we find out for certain it was Violet he liked at the end, and I’m sure most people reading the book would know this from the start, but to me it didn’t feel that way at all. He spent most of his time with Daisy, he chatted with Daisy, he told Daisy his plans for the future – I found it extremely odd that it should be Violet that he liked when the most he did was dance with her and have a few awkward conversations. Looking back, I do see all the hints and expressions that explain his feelings for Violet, but I don’t know. I just didn’t feel the connection with them. I felt he got along better with Daisy, and while he and Violet may have had some love-hate thing going on, I just didn’t get any real romantic vibes from them. Still, I enjoyed his parts of the story and I don’t think this really affected the book in a big way. In fact, judging from other reviews, I think I’m the only one that thinks this anyway, so definitely don’t let it put you off reading the book.

The plot was enjoyable, though for me, very predictable. I had guessed the twist at from the start and couldn’t fathom why it took the girls so long to figure it out. I guess people in the 20s weren’t used to such things and it didn’t seem like the obvious option as it would now. However, I did really enjoy the story and felt it was well-paced and easy to read. My favourite part was Daisy’s filming of “Murder in the Dark” – Murder in the Dark was a game I actually used to play when I was younger, so I got quite excited when it was mentioned. I used to love that game, morbid as it was! And I felt Daisy had created a great story to go with it and I sort of wish I could have actually seen her film, since it sounded so good.

Overall, Debutantes was a great historical read and gave me an insight into life in the 20s. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what’s in store for the sisters next! (And isn’t the cover just gorgeous?)
Visit Cait's blog for her review of Epic Fail by Claire LaZebnik!


  1. the cover is amazing!! i'm so glad to hear you liked this one, I've been waiting to read it for awhile!

  2. You've made me even more excited for this one! And after reading your review, I have to say again---it does sound like a retelling of Little Women! Especially with the love interest that seems like he's into one sister, but ends up with a different one! :) I can't wait to read about the film and fashions!

  3. This sounds like a pretty good read. I like books set in the 1920's although they are sometimes a little samey. Must check this one out soon, though! :)

  4. Oooh I definitely need to read this! I've been wanting to look into more historicals lately and I think the 20's is a great place to start :D Despite your few issues with it, it really sounds like a great read and I love how rich the atmosphere seems. Love when you can clearly tell the author has done their research. And yes! The cover looks gorgeous! Awesome review!


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