Armistead Maupin is a little bit of a legend. This series of books about San Fransisco was in fact serialised in the 1970s and is a vibrant, effervescent tale of a very particular city, seen through the eyes of someone new to all its delights and horrors.
We follow Mary Ann Singleton as she moves on a whim to San Fransisco and encounters all manner of interesting characters and situations. Has her eyes firmly opened to the world as it were. She is sort of an innocent abroad, not totally doe-eyed but very moral and sane in an often rather immoral, insane environment.
I love how Maupin writes her without ever looking down at, or sneering at, her morality and innocence (she’s not without experience but she is very much a naif). There’s an amazing cast of wonderful characters in this book, including Mary Ann’s eventual landlady Mrs Madrigal, and a good deal of twisty, fascinating story lines.
This book has a dark underbelly, a piercing gaze on human psychology and a way of turning everything on its head despite the frothy, gossipy tone of the writing. A thoroughly enjoyable, intelligent and engaging read, which feels like a realistic (as in not misty-eyed) window on a bygone era.
I would highly recommend it.
You can buy this in the UK here
And in the US here