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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Quite simply a joy!
I've been meaning to read this ever since the Channel 4 adaptation in 1993, which starred Olympia Dukakis and Laura Linney.

The novel was first published in 1978 after being serialised in the San Francisco Chronicle. In it Armistead Maupin captures the spirit and atmosphere of a society with liberal attitudes to sex, sexuality and drugs. As such, the book does...
Published on 30 Mar. 2010 by A. Brown

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Didn't quite see what all the fuss was about
This book was next up on the list for my World Book Night reading challenge and so I picked up a copy from my local library.

Basically imagine that movie Crash where all the characters are linked by someone else; linked by six degrees of separation but set in the '70s and that is this book.

When Mary-Ann moves in to a house on Barbary Lane, San...
Published 15 months ago by Bookboodle


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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Quite simply a joy!, 30 Mar. 2010
By 
A. Brown "oneexwidow" (Bristol) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Tales Of The City: Tales of the City 1 (Paperback)
I've been meaning to read this ever since the Channel 4 adaptation in 1993, which starred Olympia Dukakis and Laura Linney.

The novel was first published in 1978 after being serialised in the San Francisco Chronicle. In it Armistead Maupin captures the spirit and atmosphere of a society with liberal attitudes to sex, sexuality and drugs. As such, the book does not seem as dated as it might have done.

The book follows the stories of around eight archetypal characters, from the naïve Mary Ann to the wise (but mysterious) Mrs Madrigal, the openly and flamboyantly gay (Michael) to the secretive and sinister (Norman). Centred on the lodgings run by Mrs Madrigal, and the "family" of residents, this is a book about friendship, relationships and the (often unexpected) connections between people.

While some of the references may be dated and specific to San Francisco, the book is a joy to read. The short chapters and easy-going style make it eminently readable.
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31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A real Feel Good read, 17 Aug. 2000
By 
This review is from: Tales of the City (Paperback)
Found the first two on the shelves of the house in San Francisco where I was staying last week. Had just sprained ankle, so forced so sit in sun and read novels with foot on cushion all day (it was hell...) now home I hobbled to library and got out next two in series. What is it about some books - or perhaps some writers - that really makes you feel good? Can't say Maupin has actually cured the ankle, but the discovery of his books so late in my life (don't ask, honey) has certainly lifted my spirits. Another feel good book is "I Capture the Castle" by Dodie Smith (yes the 1001 dalmatians author) which came out in WW2 before you were born sweetie, but has the same way of treating adult subjects seriously and yet lightly and humourously. So glad I sprained my ankle. I think.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant! Charming! Eccentric! A camp adventure!, 29 Feb. 2004
This review is from: Tales Of The City: Tales of the City 1 (Paperback)
My son has ADD and so has not been able to read a book all the way through since a teenager. I let him borrow this fantastic novel and he quite literally sat down and read it from cover to cover in a matter of hours. Not only is Tales of the City a witty, charming and altogether satisfying read but it has also kick-started my son's interest in books again. No one but Armistead Maupin can do this.
He weaves a quite delightful story, that is both touching and hilarious. The coincidences come thick and fast but never do you get a sense of them stretching credibility. He really makes you believe in the characters, you want to believe they exist and are not just fictional people. You want to find 28 Barbary Lane on a San Francisco road map and drop by for a cup of Ginseng Tea or perhaps hope to be invited to one of Mrs Madrigal's late night soirees.
Tales of the City is a modern masterpiece. It's magical, spellbinding and will take you on an adventure you will never forget. I can't rate it highly enough. Armistead, you are a genius!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous feel-good book, 15 July 2009
By 
Daniel Park "danielpark99" (West Yorkshire, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Tales Of The City: Tales of the City 1 (Paperback)
It is difficult to add anything truly significant to the previous reviews about this classic of late 20th Century US literature other than to confirm the seminal nature of the work. Sparking a series of follow-up novels, (and a television series) this is the original "grand dame" of metrosexual literature with a bewildering yet believable series of vivd and life-affirming characters positively pulsating within the quick-beating heart of a frontier-like late-70s San Francisco.
Irrespective of where you're coming from (geographically, morally, spiritually or otherwise) you are bound to pick something positive up from this fabulous feel-good book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The good old days of SF, 2 May 2011
By 
Mr. R. A. Williams (Brighton, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Tales Of The City: Tales of the City 1 (Paperback)
Tales of the City is a fast-paced page-turner that you won't put down until you're finished, I read it cover to cover in a few hours! It's a very easy read that is straightforward and entertaining. You can effortlessly delve into this novel and escape into the hotch potch that San Francisco used to be. The character and plot development unfolds quickly and Maupin cleverly overlaps various character who come from different walks of life but we discover they all searching for the same thing. Believable characters that are easily loved. A great read, have just ordered the next few book in the series.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterful comic soap, 16 Jun. 2007
By 
Benjamin (UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Tales Of The City: Tales of the City 1 (Paperback)
Centred on 28 Barbary Lane, San Francisco, the home of Anna Madrigal, Tales of the City chronicles the day to day life of Mrs Madrigal and her assorted tenants, along with their friends and colleagues. The eccentric Mrs Madrigal considers her residents as her family, leaves them notes accompanied by a joint and serves brownies suitably fortified. The residents include twenty five year old Mary Anne, a naïve young secretary newly arrived from Cleveland; Mona, a successful copywriter working for ad agency Halcyon Communications; Brian Hawkins, a randy waiter and one time lawyer in his thirties; and Michael (Mouse) Tolliver, a thoroughly likeable lively gay twink. Among the friends and colleagues, and very much part of the story are Edgar Halcyon, head of Halcyon Communications; and Beauchamp Day, his promiscuous son-in-law and business partner; along with their respective wives. By a remarkable series of coincidences the lives of residents, friends and acquaintances connect and interweave to comic effect.

Their escapades range from the devious to the outrageous, ruthless to movingly caring; their sexual interests/orientation from straight to gay, and not always necessarily consistent; the whole providing an hilarious and touching account full of adventure.

A thoroughly entertaining, funny and fast moving read, with some endearing and very likeable characters, I highly recommended it; and very much look forward to the subsequent developments in the many sequels.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Tales of the City, 5 Jun. 2015
This review is from: Tales Of The City: Tales of the City 1 (Paperback)
Tales of the City is the first in a series by Armstead Maupin. It’s set in the mid seventies in San Francisco and follows an intertwined group of characters, some of whom rent apartments in a building on Barbary Lane, and others who are affiliated with an advertising agency.

I enjoyed this book a lot and I think what makes it so special are the characters. The author uses his words really sparingly but you get a true sense of who all these people are. Although Mary-Anne is supposed to be the main character (I think), everyone gets equal airtime and their personalities are fleshed out well. I loved Anna Madrigal, the wise landlady, and Michael Mouse on his eternal quest for true love.

You also get a real sense of time. I wasn’t around when the book was set and I’ve never been to the west coast of America, but the whole story was very evocative of this time and place. In some respects it was quite seedy – there’s a whole lot of drugs and no-strings-attached sex – and in other ways it’s really very innocent and naïve. Most of the characters are looking for love, in one way or another, and it was set in a time before AIDS and HIV had appeared.

The book doesn’t have a definite plot as such; instead it’s presented as a series of vignettes, tiny glimpses into the characters’ lives and their interactions with each other. Each chapter is only two or three pages long and gradually they build on how one person’s actions affect other. It kind of feels like a gossip column at times – kind of fluffy and escapist – but still manages to be a good read.

Also it’s worth mentioning that this book was pretty groundbreaking for the time it was written in, featuring characters of a variety of sexualities and gender-identification in a matter-of-fact way.

One of the things I thought was, if not annoying, then certainly bizarre, was how all the characters were intertwined. They don’t start off as friends, or knowing each other at all really, but gradually they all connect through a series of chance meetings and coincidences. The coincidences seemed a bit contrived in some cases. I’ve never been to San Francisco, but I’m assuming that because it’s a city, it’s … you know … big. And that a lot of people live there. So really, what are the chances that

Another thing that I found difficult to get on with was the dialogue. Personally – and this is only my opinion - I like to read dialogue interspersed with some actions to make it seem like a real scene.

Okay, here’s what Armistead Maupin does:

“What about San Francisco?"
"What about it?"
"Did you like it?"
She shrugged. "It was O.K."
"Just O.K.?"
She laughed. "Good God!"
"What?"
"You're all alike here."
"How so?" he asked.
"You demand adoration for the place. You're not happy until everybody swears undying love for every nook and cranny of every precious damn --"
"Whoa, missy."
"Well, it's true. Can't you just worship it on your own? Do I have to sign an affadavit?"
He chuckled. "We're that bad, are we?"
"You bet your ass you are.”

This happened a lot and I had no idea how much this would irritate me, but it really does! It didn’t feel like a real conversation; it was more like reading a movie script.

I’m not sure if I’ll carry on with this series. I really liked the characters and the plot was left in a good place without a cliffhanger, so I don’t feel any burning need to see what happened next. I also think that some of the innocence and naivity that I liked would, necessarily, be lost in further books because it won’t be long before HIV and AIDS and yuppies rear their heads. Maybe I’ll just leave it where it is.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Didn't quite see what all the fuss was about, 31 Mar. 2014
This review is from: Tales Of The City: Tales of the City 1 (Paperback)
This book was next up on the list for my World Book Night reading challenge and so I picked up a copy from my local library.

Basically imagine that movie Crash where all the characters are linked by someone else; linked by six degrees of separation but set in the '70s and that is this book.

When Mary-Ann moves in to a house on Barbary Lane, San Francisco we soon learn about all the tenants; the intermingling lives of themselves, their friends and associates. There's characters that you'll love and some not so much but they do all bring something different to the story.

It's a book made up of very short chapters and mostly they start and finish in the middle of a page (I really dislike this!) and I think it actually reads like a soap opera in a book which reminded me of Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann (see that review here) with the drug use, hedonistic lifestyle and promiscuity. However, there are some really good twists which I quite enjoyed and didn't see coming.

After tweeting on Twitter that this was my next read I had a few replies with nothing but praise for this book:

@rebecca_mcr1146: "I loved it! Short chapters always make me want to read more. It's a great escape from dreary England!"

@MiddleAgedCred: "You'll love it. They become family."

@rspateman: "That's a fun series. Enjoy."

@DadofChelsea: "you will in for quite the ride. Get ready for falling in love with amazing characters"

@DrKilgoreTrout: "so lucky to start from the beginning!"

So, after all this postive praise, why didn't I love it? Yes, I enjoyed reading it but I didn't think it was amazing or anything I'll probably remember in 6 months. It's a fun read and quite light hearted, and I don't think there's any serious message to be learned here so why the high praise - I can't actually answer that, you'll need to read for yourselves!
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5.0 out of 5 stars You actively miss these people when you stop reading..., 14 Sept. 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Tales of the City (Paperback)
Perhaps it's a bit of Californian bias that I select this particular book; I am a California native and it's this that makes Tales of the City all the more familiar to me. The story began as a weekly serial for the San Francisco Chronicle back in the early seventies, before I was even born. Still, generational differences don't keep one from getting sucked into the world of Anna Madrigal, Michal "Mouse" Tolliver and all those who reside at 28 Barbary Lane.
It's hard to know where to begin when describing this series. Maupin's writing is descriptive, yet it doesn't trespass the way other authors might, as they try too hard to convey their "vision" to the reader. Maupin prefers to sit back and let the reader draw - or jump to - their own conclusions. He enjoys cliffhangers, melodrama and even blatant shock tactics to keep the reader's attention, and it's these things that remind you that this world was born in the pages of a newspaper. Despite the simplicity to Maupin's work, he still manages to create the most intricate, involved world of people living, working and loving in San Francisco.
The characters, of course, are what make the book: Mary Ann Singleton, the Ohio transplant searching for meaning to her life, Brian Hawkins, the aging gigolo, Michael Mouse, the hopeless romantic looking for Mister Right, Mona Ramsey, the hippy in denial, and of course, Mrs. Madrigal, the landlady of Barbary Lane and "Mother Of Us All". With these few characters, Maupin creates an entire world that, when you close the book, stays with you. It never goes away.
The interlocking storylines, plot twists, turns and five-car pileups inspire a special kind of tolerance in the reader, for you never know when your favorite character and the villain will cross paths with one another and a complete role-reversal will occur. This is a must-read for anyone interested in the human condition.
The only downside is that you actively miss these people when you stop reading. Then you only have to pick up the books and read them again. I do it all the time.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A warm but not over paced novel, 27 April 2004
By 
David White (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Tales Of The City: Tales of the City 1 (Paperback)
Tales of the City is a novel that gently guides the reader through thetwists and turns of life in San Franscisco. Though the plot is gentle,and rairly rushed, the characters provide enough detail and colour to keepthe pages turning.
The story is spun through a myriad of mysteries and individual tales ofthe people involved, all cummulating in a splendid finale. Though most ofthe secrets are unravelled, the book still leaves enough unansweredquestions for the reader to want to delve into the next book in theseries.
I really enjoyed this book, it is a warm and colourful view of SanFrancisco in the 1970's, the characters are each unique in their ownright, yet all are brought together by the themes exposed during theirdaily lives.
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Tales Of The City: Tales of the City 1
Tales Of The City: Tales of the City 1 by Armistead Maupin (Paperback - 25 May 1984)
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