“San Francisco is fortunate in having a chronicler as witty and likeable as Armistead Maupin.”


Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City is the first book in the writer’s acclaimed series which has been adapted several times for stage and screen, including its most recent adaptation for Netflix. The stories featured in the first four novels of Maupin’s Tales of the City books were originally serialised in the San Francisco Chronicle (the fifth novel was serialised in the San Francisco Examiner) prior to their novelisation. The books in the series that followed that, however, were written straight for novel format.

The first volume of Maupin’s Tales of the City follows the naïve, young Mary Ann Singleton who moves from Cleveland to San Francisco. Here, Mary Ann meets a whole cast of colourful and interesting characters from her landlady Anna Madrigal to her neighbour Michael Tolliver. She is thrown into an exciting and sometimes daunting new world of cut-throat debutantes, bathhouses, and Jockey Shorts dance contests.

Due to the serialisation of the stories in Tales of the City, the chapters in this book are short and easy to read, making the novel very easy to pick up and put down whenever you have some free time to read. Their newspaper column format also makes each chapter very gripping, often featuring a cliff-hanger or an exciting revelation created to entice the reader back to the newspaper over and over again. It must have been infuriating for the original readers who had to wait for the next instalment of the story in the newspaper rather than being able to read on in the novel.

Tales of the City is a saga that is packed with romance, humour, touching moments, and outrageous and brazen yarns. It is a novel that is filled with an amazing cast of characters – some whom you’ll fall immediately in love with while others you’ll love to hate – whose paths cross over and over again in an intriguing web of stories.

Maupin’s novel which was first serialised in 1978, also successfully tackles some issues – including those surrounding the LGBTQIA+ experience – that are still being discussed in 2021.

Tales of the City is a truly entertaining, funny, shocking, and warm novel that has plenty of unexpected twists, turns, and revelations to keep you gripped to Maupin’s every word. The first volume in the series leaves the reader on a minor cliff-hanger, the perfect way to ensure they will want to pick up the next book in the series. Even with the extra knowledge – about the story and some of the secrets that the character hold – that is afforded to readers who, like me, are getting to the books later after having watched the adaptation this book will make you want to devour the entire Tales of the City novel series.


Reviewed by:

Catherine Muxworthy, Booksbirdblog

Added 26th July 2021

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Catherine Muxworthy