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4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 30 March 2010
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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on 17 August 2000
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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on 29 July 2016
I had heard so much about it so I thought I'd give it a go.
It can stand alone but there are follow up volumes.
It takes place in San Francisco in the mid 70s but it does not seem dated at all.
It follows the lives of a disparate group of characters all loosely connected; including a sympathetic pot growing landlady hiding a secret about herself. Then there is the lovable Michael: a gay single man known as Mouse and his roommate Mina and a recent resident of the city who hails from Cleveland. Some are gay and some are straight and many are flawed but all are entertaining.
It flows well and is easy to read.
I can't wait to read how the characters get on in the follow on volumes.
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on 29 February 2004
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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on 6 November 2016
Fantastic book - I first read these when in snippets (sent by post by a friend living in SF - no email in those days) from the San Francisco Times and again when first published - a real reminder of life in the 70's and 80's - but hey Amazon - just because I buy books by a Gay writer (not that it is relevant) - it does not mean that I only buy 'gay' products so stop focusing my 'things I may like list' with a focus on what you consider to be Gay products - anyone can read excellent and entertaining books and sexuality has got nothing to do with it!!!!!
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on 28 January 2017
This is the sixth book in the 'Tales of the City' series It comprises nine books.This is the only one which our local library could not get for me so I had to download it on to my Kindle! It is an excellent book which follows on from the previous five books! Humorous,well-written,tender but brutal where it has to be.You don't have to like San Francisco to enjoy the books.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 10 August 2015
4 stars

Written when I was a small child, set in a city I've never been to, in a decade I never knew. Why am I reading this? Because of a story about a fish called Ian.

A new book, Fishbowl, is compared to Tales of the City - a story about Ian the fish falling from a tower block, seeing people's lives as he falls. We then see more about their lives, and their connections.

Tales of the City does something similar. Without a fish. A country girl moves to the big city (San Francisco) in the 1970s. This is her story, but also the story of her friends, the people she lives with, the people she works with... and people they know.

Lots of interconnecting stories about love, death, sex and... well, just life. In a city of big bold colours and big bold statements. I found it funny, sad at times, and was quite interested in this foreign time and place.

I listened on audiobook, which would have been a tricky method of approaching this, as each small chapter (1-3 pages) features a different character. I have tried this before and this time, read the first 20 pages on a paper format to feel familiar with most of the characters first. This really helped, as I could then keep it a little straighter in my mind who was who.

Very entertaining read, part of a series written in the same style.
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on 12 August 2001
My eyes first crossed this book when I was 13 years old, I think I borrowed it from a library under the impression it was about something else. However, reading it again (at 18) has brought back all of the beautiful themes and excellent writing that made it a joy to read. The book is nothing short of amazing, with its intricate twists and plots. It is also an easy read and one that I would recommend to anyone above the age of 15, who loves reading about life. The emotion is there for all to feel and the bit that gets me is the Christmas Party at Barbary Lane, where Ms. Madrigal says that Edgar has already left. Beautiful!
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on 14 October 2001
I was recommened this book for a study of San Fransiscan culture. I read the first few chapters and simply couldn't stop reading. Not one story is dull or boring, and the whole book manages to uplift and amuse. Buy this now. You won't regret it..
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on 2 December 2015
A few months ago I put out a request for books set in San Francisco, and one book (or series of books) got mentioned over and over again. Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City had somehow passed me by - I'm really not sure how. But as soon as I started reading this first instalment, I knew I was going to be hooked.

The 'tales' belong to a wide and diverse cast. Mary Ann is new to San Francisco, moving into lodgings at 28 Barbary Lane. She's quiet and uncontroversial, very different to the other tennants living in the house. Mona seems unsure of what she wants from life and relies on sedatives to get through the day, Michael is gay, skint and looking for a good man (I loved him, especially in the scene with the jockey shorts in the bar), Brian sleeps with any woman he can find and landlady Anna Madrigal grows marijuana in the garden... plus there's an array of supporting characters each with their own secrets. Their lives are carefully and cleverly interwoven to create one world from what is essentially a series of short stories.

I liked how the scenes were snappy - most just a few pages long - and there was a lot of dialogue which added to the already fast pace. The dry humour and cutting remarks reminded me of a soap opera and have retained relevance 37 years after they were first written. Maupin lived in the San Francisco he was writing about and it shows, there's a realism in even the most outlandish of situations and that made me care about the characters and their plight.

This book is older than I am, and I imagine it was shocking when originally published (and probably still would be now to some readers!) Race, sexuality, drugs and infidelity are key to the plot and talked about openly, nothing is off limits. It was refreshing to read a book where every character is going through their own problems yet isn't overwhelmingly depressing. Somehow there's an uplifting air to Tales of the City despite the unfulfilled lives of the majority of the cast and to me that's conveyed through the genuinely touching where the characters reach out to each other.

The only negatives for me were that it took a while to get my head around so many different stories and I had to google some of the seventies American references to fully understand the story. But despite that I found myself so drawn to this wonderful world that I went straight onto the next book in the series. I need to know what happens next!

I've not read anything quite like this before. And I loved it.
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