Written by Armistead Maupin, Tales of the City was first published as a serial in the San Francisco Chronicle and later became the first in a series of books initially published in 1976 and follows a group of inhabitants of the city and their interwoven lives.While on vacation in San Francisco, naive Ohioan Mary Ann decides she never wants to go home choosing instead to move into a ramshackle boarding house run by Anna Madrigal. Also resident in the house are Mona, her gay best friend – Michael, ladies man – Brian and the mysterious Norman Neal Williams who lives on the roof.
Mona helps Mary Ann find a job at the advertising agency where she works which introduces her to owner, Edgar Halcyon, his daughter DeDe and her husband Beauchamp who also works there.
As Mary Ann’s world expands into the city’s love affair with exploration of every variety from sex to substances she starts to wonder whether she really is in the right place.Meanwhile the lives of the characters tangle and untangle as they search for meaning, their place in the world and real love.
Overall this was an entertaining, easy read with some interesting characters however I sometimes felt like it was being seedy just for the sake of it. I guess in the late 70’s things like questions of sexuality and promiscuity were a lot less out in the open and so it was a lot more shocking but reading it now forty years later it just seems kind of unnecessarily gratuitous. I also wasn’t completely bought in to some of the very convenient coincidences that brought the characters together along with some of the weirder plot developments – those around D’or in particular (which I won’t spoil for anyone who might read this).
I suppose the real question is whether when I got to the cliffhanger ending of the book I was inspired to read the next one and I have to confess that the answer was no.