- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Orion; Reprint edition (3 Mar. 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1409120236
- ISBN-13: 978-1409120230
- Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 2.3 x 20.3 cm
- Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars See all reviews (98 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 131,075 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
West End Girls Paperback – 3 Mar 2011
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More About the Author
In this affectionate and witty memoir [Tate] tells of her brief foray into the fantastical, untamed and gaudy world of prostitution. (DAILY EXPRESS)
The memoir is beautifully written, occasionally rather shocking, but is hard to put down, and can be very funny indeed. (MUSEUM OF LONDON FRIENDS NEWS)
A vivid and compelling memoir recounting the real lives, loves and friendship of 1940s Soho and its working girls.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
I read this in three days, I couldn't put it down, never wanting my train journeys to end!
Barbara Tate tells the story of her time working with Mae, a prostitute in 1940's Soho and the friendships she developed along the way. Barbara has a knack of bringing the characters to life so vividly that you can picture them in your mind and want to befriend them, and you feel privileged to be so close to them and there world.
This book will make you laugh (Out Loud as I did on the train earlier today) and cry in parts, but it fills you with admiration at the strength of the human spirit.
This book is just waiting to be filmed..... I can hardly wait!
God bless you Barbara for bringing us this story of your short but memorable time in Soho, and the colourful people you met along the way.
You have acheived your goal and painted a perfect picture....only with words!
Compared to today's world the Soho night-town, despite all our parents warnings, was really a vulgar innocent. The night-town crew of street girls, pimps and petty gangsters more-or-less kept to themselves, and the passerby was seldom molested or manhandled, and Barbara's posthumous book catches all the cheekiness and seediness of this long-ago world.
For those Londoners who were there, and those who just want to catch an authentic flavour of the time 'West End Girls' can be highly recommended as a thoughtful, well-written, and amusing doorway into post war Soho.
It starts well, with her leaving a cruel grandmother and setting up on her own in a bedsit, working at a firm producing hand-painted furniture. She then gets an evening job in a bar, and eventually a job as a maid to a prostitute called Mae. The early descriptions of Mae's filthy "hustling flat" in a deserted building are compelling. She is also clear-eyed about the way the "ponces" preyed on women, giving them the illusion that they are in a relationship while taking all their money. (Has that changed? I doubt it.)
I am sure that the details she gives of how a prostitute carried on her trade (with a two-way mirror, and bound and gagged clients left in the waiting room) are true to life, but I feel that she has taken anecdotes she's heard and woven them into her own story. And not all these anecdotes are as "hilarious" as she thinks them. The middle of the book is padded out somewhat with these anecdotes.
She says that she wrote the story in 1977 - dictating it to her husband. After a few rejections, she found a publisher, and an editor who cut the manuscript and gave it more "flow".
I wonder how much of what we read is the work of editors? It reminds me of the books by "Miss S" about her life as a prostitute - both the flatness of the prose and the peppering with "amusing" escapades.
The end, where we learn of the sad fate of Mae, is truly tragic.
Barbara Tate tells an extraordinary story of her experiences as a "working girl's" maid in the post war years, when she was only 21, and a virgin at that. The Soho she describes is a vanished world and, for all its crime and colourful characters, has a villagey feel, long since gone. Similarly with the advent of the 1960s, reliable contraception and freer attitudes to sex, I suspect that the oldest profession in the world has changed somewhat.
Contrary to what some critical reviewers say, I think this is well written and entertaining. It carried me along and the characters really came alive to me. What it lacked, however (and the reason for four stars rather than five) was any sense of deeper reflection on the part of Barbara Tate about herself and her attitude to what she was dealing with on a daily basis. Despite her own sexual inexperience, she apparently was willing to be not only a voyeur of the sexual activities of her employer but actually became involved in some of the sadistic aspects. This sits uneasily with her background, and ambitions. Even allowing for the charismatic Mae's ability to talk people into anything I was surprised at Barbara's willingness to go along with all this. She seems to have accepted what was going on including some dreadful drug abuse without too many qualms. I suspect that the author's unhappy upbringing left her lonely and desperate for friendship which the delightful Mae provided in spades. The warmth of Barbara's love for Mae is touching even when it becomes evident that Mae is little more than a spoilt, needy child.
But the book remains a rollicking good read and a real eye-opener - all human life is here!
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A capturing story from beginning to end and it's hard to believe our author was never tempted to work on the other side. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Paul Nicholls-Whiteman
I actually ended up skimming through to the end. My fault, I had hoped for something a bit different, more of a general account of Soho life in the fifties - in fact it's a highly... Read morePublished 5 months ago by CMD
Fascinating story, well written. Previously had no idea about Soho life in 40s and 50s.Published 6 months ago by Dave Headley
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