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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 6 November 2010
Armistead Maupin reminds us once again that a family can be what you make it. The characters in his series, Tales of the City, have been a formed-family since they first appeared in print some thirty years ago. The Barbary Lane collective house, headed by Anna Madrigal, had been home for many years to a disparate group of people who had lived, and loved, together. Introduced first in Maupin's five "Tales" books, the characters have aged appropriately as Maupin himself has aged. AIDS and other diseases - mental as well as physical - have taken their toll on the former residents of the Lane, but Mary Ann Singleton, Brian (missing from this book), Michael and Ben, as well as DeDe and D'Or and Anna Madrigal herself, have found life - and love - have continued.

Of course, the older generations above - original residents of Barbary Lane - have been joined in recent books by Shawna and Jake, as well as other characters. The younger generation have certainly enlivened the lives of the older group, as well as becoming part of the Barbary Lane Family.

In "Mary Ann in Autumn", Mary Ann has returned to San Francisco from her home in the wealthy suburb of Darien, CT, fleeing both the demise of a bad marriage and the frightening diagnosis of uterine cancer. She had left her Barbary Lane "family" twenty years earlier, returning only for a short visit to Anna after her stroke a few years previously. Now Mary Ann has returned, seeking solace from her many friends. Maupin writes well - as usual - of the feelings of the older generation and the worries that age brings us. Ill health, death, and the uncertainty of relationships are written about in Maupin's masterful hand. This is a beautifully told story of a "family" that can't be torn apart because they have chosen to be a family. No matter the geographical distance between "family members", the long-held bonds of love hold everyone together. All families should be so lucky.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 16 December 2010
I can't really criticise Armistead Maupin for being a little indulgent towards his literary 'children' in later life. He's protected the spirit of the earlier novels well and resisted the temptation to change our perception of well-loved characters just to surprise us. So it's easy for fans to settle in and get comfortable.

The story is quite a good one: Mary Ann returns to San Francisco after splitting up with her husband and finding out she is ill. She wants to get her treatment among her old friends. There's also a classic 'Tales' mystery lurking in the shadows, but I won't tell you what that is. I think the story works itself out rather nicely, even if it is a bit far-fetched in the end. But weren't the 'Tales' always like that? I think they were.

I do think that Armistead has tried a bit too hard to make sure we know we're in 2010, so prepare yourself for an onslaught of references to Facebook, iPhones, Apple TVs and all things high-tech. Even the language is brought bang up to date, and you may find this a little uncomfortable, or at least be distracted from the story like I was. I wasn't sure that the casual profanities that litter the text added much in a literary sense.

But these are fairly minor points. In the end, Maupin has created a good yarn that's easy to read and reminds you about characters you probably loved for many years. They may have got older, but they're definitely still the same bunch of misfits that somehow fit together. Mind you, there are some new characters, and I liked Jake the trans-man (who we first saw in 'Michael Tolliver Lives'), and Shawna's boyfriend Otto, with his monkey and his unicycle. I'd like to read more about Jake in particular.

I went to a reading for this book, and Armistead in person is every bit as engaging as his stories. Hearing what he said about updating the tales makes me less critical than I might be otherwise of this novel. It's hard to not like Mr Maupin, and it would be pretty hard not to like 'Mary Ann in Autumn'.
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VINE VOICEon 15 November 2010
I devoured this book in a single sitting - it is a light, elegant and wry book with so many familiar characters and a great dose of wit.

There is a sadness underlying the frivolity - aging is a mixed blessing, after all. And the characters are certainly flawed. But it makes them more human.

Maupin has a great eye for character and that has always filled his books with life.

I hope we get a couple more to round off the series. It would be good to say goodbye properly
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on 19 December 2010
Mary Ann Redeemed - for that is what this is, things have come full circle, Mary Ann is back and in trouble. Many of the characters are back and we are once again looking at our favourite family. Not an easy read in places, be prepared for a bit of an emotional roller-coaster, some of the writing is uncomfortable, but all the better for that. One for the fans, stands on its own but far better if you have read the rest, especially the first!...
A sense of lose ends being tidied up, and a continuing journey for some of the characters. I get the feeling though this could be the last of the series there is room for more.
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on 1 December 2013
I devoured the first 6 Tales of the City books one after the other at the end of last century although I hadn't read Michael Tolliver Lives before I picked up this book. I will be going back and revisiting them all in order now (and watching the box set DVDs again) which I wish I had done before reading this book. I felt a bit disjointed as I could only remember general storylines from the Tales books and not specifics. For example, and this is crucial for anyone reading it, you need to remember Mary Ann's behaviour in Sure of You and what happened at the very end of Tales of the City as these events inform this story.

Yes, the book is set in autumn 2008, but the meaning of the title refers more to Mary Ann being 57 rather than the season. She is facing a massive crisis in both her health and her personal life and needs to reconnect with old friends and regain acceptance in order to get through the ordeal. Years ago I wanted to live at 28 Barbary Lane and was sad to discover someone else had taken the place over. I really liked how each one of the first few chapters set the scene and background for an individual character's story, and Mary Ann revisiting old locations from her 20s and reliving memories and nostalgia. It's a good mix of old and new characters and I was overjoyed to see Anna still around, although the book is tinged with sadness at her advancing age and I am dreading the book when she finally leaves us. The logical family is so special.

This book tackles contemporary issues as well as bringing the Tales characters into the Facebook, Twitter and blog age and I think Maupin handled this well, even if technology is used as a device to bring in the most sinister aspect of the tale - which is a bit implausible. I loved catching up with everyone all over again and can't wait to go back to the beginning.
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on 8 December 2010
After the unfulfilling Mary-Sue exercise that was Michael Tolliver Lives this feels so much more like a Tales Of The City book. The style and the plot are classic Maupin and I found myself devouring the book as I did with the first six.

There's a great mix of old, new and nearly new characters going through their lives. We, as readers who've grown with the series, find out favourites going through similar growing pains. There're odd ommissions and a frankly doolalley ending but I thoroughly enjoyed the books. It felt like the coda the series needed and I am really happy we got the chance to reacquaint with this world.
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VINE VOICEon 18 February 2015
Now let's get this straight I love all of Maupins Tales of The City books and this is no different. It continues the story to the present day with the characters stories brought up to date. If you are a long term fan then you will not be disappointed and it's great to find up wth Mouse and Co in older age. I feel like I have known them a long time and they are all good friends. And for those new readers Maupin writes in a nice light easy going style that is easy to get into .
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on 24 December 2015
I'm not quite sure what to make of this. I have read all of Armistead Maupins books and really enjoyed the original Tales of the City series. It didn't help that I have never cared much for Mary Ann. There's a great twist towards the end, which seems to outshine the rest of the book
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on 18 May 2013
I think I can readily assume that anyone reading this will have read the Tales of the City series. Mary Ann returns to San Francisco, her marriage over and with cancer in her uterus which needs surgery. Perhaps selfishly she seeks the solace of Michael Tolliver. The novel is partly about aging - the title after all - and illnesses of various kinds are plentiful. Even the dog is epileptic. Anna is still there - much weaker and older but still a sun amongst the planets that are the cast of these stories. Other newer characters include Jake, who is having a hysterectomy for a quite different reason. Through Jake the author explores the ignorant denial of middle America personified by Jonah, a young Mormon come to oppose Proposition 8. Maupin also looks at the other San Francisco - the crack district of the Tenderloin through the character of the street Leia [Alexandra Lemke]. I think he struggles here a bit. The creepy Norman comes back,too - and there's a dramatic ending in his case. What shines through the book is the belief in caring and loving and being human, no matter what our gender or our sex or our preferences. "The genderless neutrality of the human heart". [172]
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 7 January 2011
Although it was the 1970s when Armistead Maupin first introduced readers to the residents of 28 Barbary Lane, it grew from that newspaper serial to six bestselling novels and an award winning TV series. Thanks to the skills of Maupin the story of those people is as engaging today as it was then. What a pleasure it is to be reintroduced to Mary Ann Singleton in the insightful, compassionate MARY ANN IN AUTUMN, A Tales of the City novel.

We read Mary Ann's thoughts, "The past doesn't catch up with us.....It escapes from us. At the landing she stopped to catch her breath." Yes, catch her breath for Mary Ann is now 57-years-old. It's been some 20 years since she left her husband and daughter for New York and what she hoped would be a stellar career on television. But now luck, mostly bad, has sent her back to the place of her youth - San Francisco. There she finds refuge in the arms and cottage of her longtime friend, Michael "Mouse" Tolliver.

She ponders, assess her mistakes and eventually seems to be recouping some of her energy, appears to be almost her old self when she finds that she cannot escape her past.

Other characters who emerge and engage in this witty/touching story are Mary Ann's estranged daughter, Shawna, who is now a sex blogger; Michael's transgendered gardening assistant, Jake Greenleaf; the highly social DeDe Halcyon-Wilson; and the incredible Anna Madrigal, Mary Ann's former landlady who is now in her eighties and as irascible as ever.

Many thanks to Maupin for one more visit with the beloved characters only he could have created.

Highly recommended.

- Gail Cooke
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