Tales of the City, by Armistead Maupin

>> Wednesday, September 10, 2014

TITLE: Tales of the City
AUTHOR: Armistead Maupin

PAGES: 386
PUBLISHER: Harper Collins

SETTING: 1976 San Francisco
TYPE: Fiction
SERIES: Starts a series

.For almost four decades Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City has blazed its own trail through popular culture—from a groundbreaking newspaper serial to a classic novel, to a television event that entranced millions around the world. The first of nine novels about the denizens of the mythic apartment house at 28 Barbary Lane, Tales is both a sparkling comedy of manners and an indelible portrait of an era that changed forever the way we live.

There seems to be amongst my friends a lot of love for the Tales of the City series, so I thought I'd try the first one. It started life as a newspaper serial about a group of people in 1976 San Francisco, and the action is centred round the building ran by excentric landlady Anna Madrigal. There are loads of characters, including the somewhat naive Mary Anne Singleton, newly-arrived from Cleveland; her friend Connie and neighbour Mona, both of whom are really into the swing of things in town; her friend Michael, who's out and proud, and of course, Mrs. Madrigal herself.

I thought I'd love this, but I didn't. I listened to about 2 and a half hours (out of a total 10), but I wasn't feeling it and didn't really want to continue. There were things I really liked, like just how 70s it was. I actually thought that it must have been written quite a bit later, because the 70s-ness of it was so overpowering it was almost self-conscious, but nope, the copyright is 1978, so the original serial must have come out around the time it's set.

I just felt there were way too many characters and I didn't get to know them enough to actually care much about any of them or understand who they were. Mary Anne, for instance, is supposed to be quite serious and she gave off a vibe of being reluctant to just dive into the fun, but then she goes and starts an affair with the extremely sleazy son-in-law of her boss. In fact, all the men are really sleazy, and I didn't particularly like any of the women, except for Mrs. Madrigal. Now she was intriguing, and I'd have liked to know more about her, because she seems to be a woman with some secrets. My theory is that she's trans, but I'm not quite sure what made me think that. If that's the case, I suppose that's one of the reasons why this series is so beloved, because she's a very sympathetic character. I do wish I'd liked this better.



Darlynne,  11 September 2014 at 18:22  

I had the same reaction--and the same group of friends. This book should have been perfect for me, but I just couldn't do it and gave up. Plenty of fish in the sea.

Rosario 13 September 2014 at 07:59  

Yeah, it's a shame when that happens. I had such high hopes for it, too.

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