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Customer reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
West End Girls
Format: Kindle Edition|Change

on 23 December 2011
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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VINE VOICEon 26 March 2012
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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on 23 September 2010
Like an earlier reviewer I bought this book on the strength of reading the Sunday Times review of it. It is a fascinating read and I found it quite compulsive. I read it quickly in 3 sittings. What shines through is the honesty and integrity of the author who realised that she had lived through and experienced a bizarre and unusual slice of life and then acted on her urge to communicate her experience to a wider audience.
The additional story of how the book came to be(finally) published is also very interesting
The Soho she describes is both innocent and sleazy..certainly prostitution nowadays is a much tougher/violent and bigger business than it was then...you get a 'village' feel of the area and the sense of community.

This is a very good read...don't be put off by the few disparaging comments it has attracted here.
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on 18 March 2011
Curiosity at the variety of life depicted in this book meant I just couldn't put it down. How on earth a virginal girl ended up in such a sleazy place, working for such a wild woman beggars belief. Their uniting factor was loneliness and a wicked sense of humour. Unlike other reviewers, I actually liked the writing style. Yes, it is a bit 'jolly hockey sticks' but it enabled me to build up a picture of how Babs might have thought and spoken - and it seemed appropriate to the era. It's a very easy read, so I'd recommend the book - as long as you're very broad minded .
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on 21 July 2010
With her warm heart and gentle inquisitiveness, Barbara has managed to turn Soho's prostitutes into real people. If you have seen and loved the film "Mrs Hendersons", you will love this book.

Full disclosure : I "discovered" this story and helped to get it published (I am not involved in the publishing business)

A few years ago, before I met Barbara Tate, I was given the original manuscript for West End Girls. Typed up in the 1970's on an old fashioned typewriter, bound in a rather hefty old lever arch folder, I started reading it in bed one night. At 5AM the next morning, I was still reading. There was something enthralling about the story - a real period piece, a subversive topic clothed in Barbara's deft, innocent and rather old fashioned turn of phrase. It reminded me of Alice in Wonderland, something which Barbara so often emphasised to me herself.

Barbara's wonderland was the dark underbelly of Soho, and Mae the prostitute was her queen of hearts - vivacious, spontaneous, bitchy, and very good at her job. This book is an enthralling, fascinating and unique insight into the lives, hearts and minds of Soho's sex industry in the late 1940s. I enjoyed it so much I had to get it published, I think you will too.
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on 7 October 2010
What a book! Truly addictive reading, I couldn't put this down. Fascinating true story of an amazing woman's life in & love of Soho. I read this on holiday last week, but still think about the different women she met, how they handled their work and life (or not!) and wish there was more to read! I don't think I'll be able to look at Soho in the same way again. Marvellous book, I highly recommend it!
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on 18 January 2012
This is one of the best books I have read in a long time. Many books have been written on prostitution, but I don't recall one from the point of view of the maid who was employed to look after the 'working girl'. I love the irony that Barbara remains a virgin, with little interest in men, while Mae, her employer services men from all over London, in a variety of ways. A child from a loveless family, Barbara finds herself surrounded by a new family made up by prostitutes, their maids and the men who exploit them. The women aren't painted as just 'tarts with hearts' but also as manipulative, sometimes cruel and making the best of the few opportunities life in bleak, post-war Britain held.

Like most memoirs, there is no doubt some embellishment on the part of Barbara Tate, as she was a very old lady once the book was completed and however good her memory, there are going to be some instances where her imagination has filled in the blanks. I think it's very sad that she has not lived to see this published, and isn't around to write further books, as fiction based around her adventures would be phenomenal. West End Girls covers a subject I would imagine not many people know about. It doesn't glamorise prostitution, but it also doesn't paint the women as sad, drug addicted victims. These were the days before most prostitutes were hooked on heroin or cocaine; their drug of choice being alcohol, or indeed the man who was controlling them.

I read many books and forget them instantly, but West End Girls will remain with me for some time.
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on 10 August 2010
This book is so atmospheric, so detailed, I really couldn't put it down. A fabulous account of the 'working girls' day to day lives and told from a very affectionate yet honest viewpoint. Highly recommended!
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on 7 November 2010
This book is a great little read, especially for anyone who likes London, its seedier side, or London after the second world war. The lives of the men and women of Soho are brought to life in full colour but there are no heroes and no rose tinted spectacles. The author just gives it to you straight and leaves you to make your own mind up about the business she writes about. Personally, I believe the book forms a historical record of an era when Soho and london had emerged from the war and its beauty lies in both the innocence of the author but also in the description of the work she and her boss did. At the end, you feel sad for everyone but my guess is no one was complaining at the time.

It is definietly a book of the year contender and i for one feel better for having spent a brief time in post war soho.
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on 29 August 2015
A capturing story from beginning to end and it's hard to believe our author was never tempted to work on the other side.
I enjoyed reading this and would have been happy to read more about the author in later life however as said very readable and enjoyable.
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