Grace Metalious (September 8, 1924 – February 25, 1964) was an American author, best known for the controversial novel Peyton Place.
She was born into poverty and a broken home as Marie Grace de Repentigny
in the mill town
of Manchester, New Hampshire
. Blessed with the gift of imagination, she was driven to write from an early age. After graduating from Manchester Central High School
, she married George Metalious in 1943, became a housewife and mother, lived in near squalor — and continued to write.
In 1956, she captured the attention of an editor with Peyton Place
, which became publishing's second "blockbuster" (following Gone with the Wind
in 1936). Reviled by the clergy
and dismissed by most critics as "trash," it nevertheless remained on the New York Times
bestseller list for more than a year and became an international phenomenon. The dark secrets of a small New England
town made juicy reading for millions worldwide. Peyton Place appears to have been a combination of Gilmanton, New Hampshire
, the village where she lived (and which resented notoriety), Laconia, New Hampshire
, the only nearby town of comparable size to Peyton Place and site of Metalious' favorite bar, and Alton, New Hampshire
, the town where a few years previously a daughter had murdered her incestuous abusive father. Hollywood
lost no time in cashing in on the book's success — a year after its publication, Peyton Place
was a major box office
Metalious — the "Pandora in bluejeans — was said by some to be a dreadful writer and a purveyor of filth, but her most famous book changed the publishing industry forever. With regard to her success, she said, "If I'm a lousy writer, then an awful lot of people have lousy taste, and as to the frankness of her work, she stated, "Even Tom Sawyer had a girlfriend, and to talk about adults without talking about their sex drives is like talking about a window without glass.
Her other novels, which never achieved the same success as her first, were Return to Peyton Place (1959), The Tight White Collar (1961) and No Adam in Eden (1963).
Metalious died of alcoholism
on February 25, 1964. "If I had to do it over again," she once remarked, "it would be easier to be poor. Before I was successful, I was as happy as anyone gets. She is buried in Smith Meeting House Cemetery in Gilmanton, New Hampshire.
In 2006, Sandra Bullock
was slated to star in and co-produce a biopic of Metalious' life.
In 2007, the city of Manchester, the Manchester Historic Association, and the University of New Hampshire at Manchester honored Metalious with an in-depth examination of her life and most famous book. The celebration, which included lectures, readings of her work, and showings of the movie, marked the area's first public acknowledgment of its native daughter.