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A vivid and compelling memoir recounting the real lives, loves, and friendship of 1940s Soho and its working girls Barbara Tate was 17 when she heard the whispered word that would change her life: Soho. It would take four years for Barbara to escape her loveless home but when she finally made it to the forbidden streets of Soho—just as London was recovering from the traumaA vivid and compelling memoir recounting the real lives, loves, and friendship of 1940s Soho and its working girls Barbara Tate was 17 when she heard the whispered word that would change her life: Soho. It would take four years for Barbara to escape her loveless home but when she finally made it to the forbidden streets of Soho—just as London was recovering from the trauma of the second world war—things would never be the same again. There the naive Barbara meets the beautiful and capricious Mae. When she takes a job as Mae's maid, Barbara imagines she'll be housekeeping. But down a shabby backstreet, Barbara discovers the secret lives of Soho's working girls. An astonishing world full of fierce friendships and bitter rivalries, dangerous men and desperate measures, Barbara soon learns that taking the money from a staggering supply of punters and making copious amounts of tea are only the bare essentials. She will need to be nursemaid, protector, and confidante to impossible, adorable, self destructive Mae....

Title : West End Girls: The Real Lives, Loves and Friendships of 1940s Soho and its Working Girls
Author :
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ISBN : 9781409116066
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 320 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

West End Girls: The Real Lives, Loves and Friendships of 1940s Soho and its Working Girls Reviews

  • Amelia
    2019-06-08 13:37

    A fascinating glimpse into the lives of prostitutes in the 1940s, in the form of a memoir written by (now deceased) artist Barbara Tate, West End Girls is a little bit juicy and more than a little bit poignant. "Babs" tells us chiefly about her early twenties in which, seduced in a sense by her strict Grandmother's disapproval for Soho, she became a "maid". Maid, as she (and I!) soon discovered, was not necessarily the most domestic of jobs and, nowadays, I'd imagine we'd term her a PA. Not that many PA's job descriptions include anything like the duties that fell to her! Think everything from guarding the money to installing a "secret" window for voyeurs to pet sitting, buying condoms by the bucket load, making endless cups of tea, helping move people in bondage, treating a case of crabs... just about anything you could imagine a prostitute's Personal Assistant doing. I felt deeply connected to the various women that "Babs" was "maid" for and I cried for the fate of Mae, who was a bit of a Marilyn Monroe character - full of sex appeal, incredibly impulsive and flighty but desperately looking for love from her "ponces", defending their crimes no matter what and also insecure and easily manipulated. Like... I don't know - a bright star that burns hard until it burns out - in this case, literally. I wish more was known about her death, but this is hardly a criticism of the book - you can't tell the reader something you don't know. It seems a pity that Tate passed away before her book made it to publication. It's not only that she missed the book she worried would embarrass her family become a bestseller but that in feeling so immersed in and connected to her story I am convinced she would have made a formidable writer.I'm glad to read that West End Girls was adapted for the theatre. Towards the end of the book, Tate revisits Soho and notes the irony in the usually elegantly dressed working girls being forced off the streets for the sake of public decency/"morality" only to be replaced with sex shops and adult cinemas with huge pictures of naked "actors" which are, arguably, more obviously salacious or offensive. The working girls she wrote about had their standards and their own sense of decorum. Somehow thinking of her story being in theatre as well seems as though it's come full circle.

  • Diane
    2019-05-26 13:26

    I opened this book in the store, read a couple of pages, and could barely close it long enough to hand to the cashier so I could leave. The prose is fabulous (in most parts) and I think it's a real shame that the author died before writing any more books.That being said though, the book could really have benefited from some heavy editing. There were whole sections that were wonderfully gripping, and other whole sections that were clumsy and forced. It was as if the main story was really what 'worked' for the author, but then she was told it needed to be a bit longer and she padded it out with any old rubbish.There is an editor's note at the end which comments on how the memoir was only lightly edited on purpose to leave the story true and intact - I say bollocks. Even memoirs need to read well, it's important to know what to put in and what to leave out.3 stars = I enjoyed it, but probably wouldn't read it again.

  • Penny Grubb
    2019-06-15 10:29

    An incredible tale that almost didn't make it to publication. Barbara Tate tells the story of her time as a prostitute's maid in Soho in a light engaging style that makes for easy reading. On several levels it's an amazing tale - the story itself and the insight it gives into Soho then and when she revisited later; how she came to be there at all; how the book came to be blocked when she first tried for publication (that story is added at the end). She went on to have a very successful career as an artist, coming back to her manuscript in later life. It feels as though it should be a tragedy that she didn't live to see the book in print, and yet having heard her tale, I suspect the big thing for her was to know that it was on the way.

  • Jody
    2019-06-01 10:37

    Could not put this down and read it in a matter of hours. I am fascinated by people who seem normal yet have secret aspects to their lives. Barbara does not seem jaded by her experiences and her compassion for these people touches me.

  • Micha
    2019-06-15 14:31

    An enjoyable and insightful read.I felt as though some of the characters in this book had become my friends - It's all in the way Tate portrays them I guess, maybe it's that I saw a little of myself in Barbara.The end of the book almost had me feeling like I was grieving for someone, yet you could almost see it coming - I still found myself reading on to find out what became of these people, and with each person a hope of happier times. Although it wasn't the case I would certainly read this again.Tate raises good points on how the girls who were running their businesses were pushed out of sight for seedy massage parlours to spring up and billboards with women who weren't dressed as well as the working girls may have been.After reading this book I had to hand it back to my local library (which incidentally is in a red light district) and felt a pang of loss at putting it on the counter. It was easy to feel for the characters and you felt like you really knew some of them, especially Barbara.On the whole I feel like I have caught a glimpse into another, darker yet crazy and hectic world and am happy to have 'met' those girls.

  • Stuart Aken
    2019-05-29 11:17

    A book variously described as a memoir, a biography and an autobiography, West End Girls details the lives of Soho prostitutes through the eyes of a virginal, innocent but forthright narrator (I have great empathy with the author, as I used a similar narrator in my novel, Breaking Faith, so my review could be a little biased; please bear that in mind). Written with humour and displaying an extraordinary naivety mixed with a growing worldliness developed along the journey, this memoir is full of empathy for the girls and young women the author meets, befriends and serves. Set just after World War II, the atmosphere is remarkably evocative and brilliantly brought to life by Barbara’s candid observations. If you’re a man reading this, be warned: men do not come out well from this volume. The author’s view of the gender is clearly skewed by her exposure to those men who habitually resort to the services of prostitutes, so it is hardly surprising that she has a somewhat one-sided view of us. Only later in life did she meet and marry a man who was able to balance her view and, to give her credit, she clearly realised that her former attitude was rather biased.I read this book with a growing sense of amazement at the peculiarities of the human condition and the sexual proclivities of both men and women. I’m no innocent; though my only exposure to prostitutes has been accidental contact: once whilst looking for a photography business in Southend and once whilst hitch-hiking through London. On neither occasion was I tempted to take up their offers of ‘comfort’. Barbara has introduced me to the idea of the prostitute’s ‘maid’, a sort of bodyguard-cum-accountant-cum-general dogsbody; something I had not previously encountered, even through fiction. She also talks of ‘ponces’, the Soho equivalent of the ‘pimp’, which in her era had a slightly different meaning.Her accounts of her own life and those of the women of pleasure around her are warm, detailed and almost impartial. The descriptions of Soho, especially the underbelly where these women operate, are full of observations that bring the shoddy, shabby but superficially glamorous place to life. The author was a gifted artist and this shows through in her acute observations, her ability to paint a picture with words.Her gradual loss of innocence, though she is never physically corrupted, permeates the account and allows her to provide more and more detail of actual events. However, she shows a distinctly personal view of what she can and cannot write for public consumption, so that her narrative is full of unanswered questions to which the reader suspects she has almost too any answers.Given that this is story of the lives of people engaged in a sordid lifestyle for all sorts of reasons, it manages to rise above the murk and muck to provide a picture of a warm, generous and affectionate world, albeit peppered with violence, usage and abuse.I am glad I read this, both as writer and reader, and have no hesitation in recommending it to all but those with insincere pretentions to sensitivity.

  • Ellie Dean
    2019-05-19 13:21

    Absolutely stunning writing and compelling reading. To think this actually happened and not that long ago is amazing and yet the entire story has a comforting feel. This was a very different time to what Soho has to offer today but this was Soho life .... Real life ..... And Barbara Tates portrayal of the characters who lived that life is both honest and real. What a remarkable woman she must have been. To have lived (and survived) the Soho life and then to have moved on to become a loving wife and mother is truly the real story. The book revolves around the life of Mae Roberts but truly Barbara Tate is the real heroine of this story. How I wish she had been my friend.

  • Hol
    2019-05-18 12:11

    This is a memoir of two years the author spent working as a prostitute’s “maid”--housekeeper, companion, cashier, and errand girl--in late 1940s Soho. Though the book holds interest in its unusual glimpse of postwar London, Tate shares frustratingly little of her own thoughts or feelings about this phase in her life. Afterward she became an artist and suburban wife and mother; in the Epilogue she writes, “I had a perfect marriage.” Well, good! And that’s about the level of insight you can expect.

  • Lucy
    2019-06-11 11:32

    I loved this book and couldn't put it down. Found the end quite haunting but am so glad I had the chance to read about some remarkable characters from a bygone era.

  • Cameron Callaghan
    2019-06-11 08:21

    A beautifully written account of a world I could not have imagined on my own. Without malice this woman wrote about how it was. Could not put it down.

  • Robert Pereno
    2019-05-29 14:18

    A fascinating tale of working girls during the 40s in Soho. A very easy engaging read.

  • Brenda
    2019-05-25 13:22

    Quick and easy read. Next please!

  • Dawn Rapoza
    2019-05-20 08:31

    It's hard to believe that this is the author's first book because it is written so well. I had to keep reminding myself that this is a memoir. The character portrayal and style of writing are very engaging.

  • Claudia Zeien
    2019-05-18 16:24

    Really enjoyed this first-hand account of life in Soho in the late 1940’s. A light and easy read with memorable and compelling characters. The narrative felt genuine, and the author did a good job of describing the feel of the neighborhood during that era.

  • Aiza Chaudry
    2019-06-02 16:12

    A beautiful read. It's surprising how sometimes, you find the most beautiful hearts in the most dark, putrid and horrifying places.

  • Jonathan Stephenson
    2019-05-31 13:21

    The non-judgemental approach of the author, as she relates her time as an ingénue among the more worldly and artful of London's Soho, not long after World War II, is commendable for its openness and acceptance of human nature. However, I read this book as research, already knowing a good deal about the time and place—and had expected a more in-depth insight into the edgy world around her than Barbara Tate (or her editor) delivers. Although there are snippets of detail the bigger picture of contextual history and aspects of social history that I thought would be present in this book are almost entirely missing. Eventually I realised that being closeted in the all-consuming life of prostitute's maid to Mae, certainly in terms of how many hours of the day it occupied and the limitations of its environment, perhaps meant that much of what in other circumstances would have been in an eye witness account of life in 1940s Soho, simply passed the author by. Or maybe the significance of some of what might have been in the original manuscript was lost in its editing, which would be a shame if so. The other reason for this of course is that the subject of this recollection is essentially Mae.'West End Girls' is easy enough to read, though not really edifying beyond the passive descriptions of the chaotic lifestyle that Barbara Tate was briefly part of. And, whilst the tale is told with honesty and affection the outcomes are hardly surprising. Not quite what I expected: A human interest piece rather than the resource that I was hoping for.

  • Angela
    2019-05-31 16:36

    about halfway through I decided that this was reading like a list of incidents. Perhaps that's how memoirs generally read, I couldn't say. But, I still wanted to see how it finished up and was satisfied with a well rounded ending.Interesting subject matter, and the circumstances of the author give an unusual insight into the Soho of the 50's and with it's comparison to present day.

  • Kate
    2019-06-10 08:24

    Loved it! An insightful glimpse in to this fascinating world. So glad Barbara Tate captured it all and tragic that she never got to see the success which I am certain this book will achieve. I particularly liked how much fun these ladies had in an arguably dark and unforgiving world. A rollercoaster of emotions, a really great read.

  • Anne
    2019-06-12 15:13

    An interesting insight into the life of 'working girls' in 1940's Soho. An autobiographical account of a naive young woman who gets drawn into the world working as a maid for a couple of years, before moving on to become a painter. Nicely written, it conveys a good sense of the camaraderie, harshness, backstabbing and vulnerability of the women.

  • Hannah Rose
    2019-05-19 16:14

    I gave this 5 stars because it had the ability to captivate me to read it in just 24 hours and because I'm a sucker for a real life account of a spectacular life! All I wish now was I had the chance to have a tea and a chat with Babs...

  • Sherry Mackay
    2019-06-11 09:37

    Interesting insight into 1940s London and the life of Soho prostitutes. Not sure how much the author whitewashed it but it seems surprisingly charming and her friend seems very happy as a hooker. I enjoyed it.

  • Carole
    2019-05-23 16:28

    a true story by the author who was an artist but was caught up as a maid in Soho .She is loyal to Mae and much revolves round the life of Mae and some of the other girls. It took a while to get into and is not for the faint hearted.

  • Nat
    2019-05-19 16:13

    I found the lives of the prostitues of Soho in the 1940s fascinating. This was a book full of love but also full of passion and agression. I was relieved at the conclusion, although there is always sadness attached to these bios. I'd recommend it if you like reading real life stories with grit.

  • Carlie Tottman
    2019-06-16 13:25

    Really enjoyed this book, brilliant glimpse into Soho in the 40's. Some really funny moments, mixed with some really sad.

  • Maria
    2019-06-13 16:28

    Fascinating. What a life. It's amazing that Barbara Tate got this bird's eye view into the Soho underworld without getting damaged by it.

  • Sue Styant
    2019-06-04 15:19

    Non fiction story about prostitution in 1940's London, entertaining and an eye opener.

  • Barbara Minne
    2019-06-17 15:25

    Brilliant .. True story.

  • Tiffany Chevis
    2019-05-24 09:33

    Hilarious and heartbreaking, this honest and open book lets us into a whole new world with tenderness and excitement.

  • Zanet
    2019-06-17 10:24

    A good read. Simple, funny in places.

  • Haylee
    2019-05-25 11:13

    not sure what to put but i enjoyed but felt that it was boring at times.