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West End Girls Paperback – 3 Mar 2011

87 customer reviews

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Product details

  • 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 (87 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 50,915 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

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)

Book Description

A vivid and compelling memoir recounting the real lives, loves and friendship of 1940s Soho and its working girls.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By L. R. Fisher on 13 Mar. 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Barbara Tate gives us an insight into the life of the prostitutes of Soho in the late 40s and 50s. It's an easy, page-turning read, but it's short on detail - it seems a bit bland, generic and emotionless. Maybe she's just not a great writer. She says she has fictionalised her story somewhat.

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.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Chris on 11 Aug. 2010
Format: Hardcover
I read a review for this book in the Sunday Times and decided that I would be interested in reading it, frequenting Soho often myself. The review was positive, but wow. I am not exaggerating when I say that this is probably one of the best books I have ever read in my life... And I read a lot of books.

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!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Archivalist on 31 Aug. 2010
Format: Hardcover
For those of who who remember the 1950's and early 1960's London Soho with its day world of Italian restaurants and excellent veg shops, and it's night world that respectable people and children could only safely glimpse through the window of a passing car Barbara Tate's book is a nostalgic reminder of a world long past.

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.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Phil Harding on 9 Oct. 2011
Format: Kindle Edition
Barbara Tate has described what really used to go on behind the scenes for the prostitution trade in Soho. This is an illuminating and honest insight into Britain's social history without feeling the need to add all the erotic details. Too many people judge prostitutes as low-life when in truth they are little different from anyone else; just forced by circumstances to choose a "different" trade. Well done Barbara Tate!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By hm13 on 23 Dec. 2011
Format: Paperback
Absolutely brilliant. Hard to put down and the ending answers all the questions you want answered. Such an interesting insight into those times and beautifully told. A book I wouldn't hesitate to read again.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By hiljean VINE VOICE on 26 Mar. 2012
Format: Hardcover
Like other reviewers, I was attracted to this book by the good reviews I had read, and I was not disappointed.

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!
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