Wednesday, February 05, 2020

Review: The Chelsea Girls by Fiona Davis

Title: The Chelsea Girls
Author: Fiona Davis
Published: July 2019, Dutton Books
Format: ARC Paperback, 368 pages
Source: Publisher

The bright lights of the theater district, the glamour and danger of 1950s New York, and the wild scene at the iconic Chelsea Hotel come together in a dazzling new novel about a twenty-year friendship that will irrevocably change two women's lives--from the national bestselling author of The Dollhouse and The Address.

From the dramatic redbrick facade to the sweeping staircase dripping with art, the Chelsea Hotel has long been New York City's creative oasis for the many artists, writers, musicians, actors, filmmakers, and poets who have called it home--a scene playwright Hazel Riley and actress Maxine Mead are determined to use to their advantage. Yet they soon discover that the greatest obstacle to putting up a show on Broadway has nothing to do with their art, and everything to do with politics. A Red Scare is sweeping across America, and Senator Joseph McCarthy has started a witch hunt for communists, with those in the entertainment industry in the crosshairs. As the pressure builds to name names, it is more than Hazel and Maxine's Broadway dreams that may suffer as they grapple with the terrible consequences, but also their livelihood, their friendship, and even their freedom.

Spanning from the 1940s to the 1960s, The Chelsea Girls deftly pulls back the curtain on the desperate political pressures of McCarthyism, the complicated bonds of female friendship, and the siren call of the uninhibited Chelsea Hotel.

My thoughts: I simply adore reading Fiona Davis's books - I love the way she takes an iconic building in one of my favorite cities in the world, NYC - and brings it to life, giving us the history in such an engaging story that you can't help but feel part of. This time, The Chelsea Hotel is her inspiration.

I love that once again, we are given characters that jump off the pages. While there is no dual time line, something that has been a staple in Fiona's past books, we still have a well-rounded story that follows two girls who meet on a USO tour in Italy and develop a friendship that is born out of their shared time together. Once the war is over, they go their separate ways, only to reunite on the stage in New York. 

One of my favorite aspects of reading historical fiction is learning about something I know little to nothing about. I remember learning about the McCarthy era in high school, but who really remembers everything they learned from high school? I loved how Fiona Davis brings that era back to life in her book in such a vivid way. I could feel the angst and fear that was gripping everyone as accusations and blacklisting were running rampant during this time, especially through the theater district. 

I love learning about the iconic building that Fiona Davis selects for her books. I did not know much about The Chelsea Hotel prior to reading this book and now I am determined to read more about this building as well as make a point of visiting it next time I am in the city. 

I absolutely love Fiona Davis and her writing. She is on my must-read list and I tell just about anyone looking for a good historical read to pick up her books. She is certainly a treasure I am glad to have discovered and I am anxiously awaiting her next book, due out this summer, which is about the New York Public Library - one of my favorite places to visit in NYC!



  1. A lovely review, thanks for your recommendation.

  2. I haven't read Fiona Davis yet, but I think I would love her books! I just need to get to them!


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