The Chelsea Girls
From Fiona Davis, the nationally bestselling author of The Dollhouse and The Address, 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 the twenty-year friendship that will irrevocably change two women's lives. 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.

The Chelsea Girls Details

TitleThe Chelsea Girls
Author
ReleaseJul 30th, 2019
PublisherDutton
Rating
GenreHistorical, Historical Fiction, Fiction, Adult

The Chelsea Girls Review

  • Tammy
    January 1, 1970
    A haven for artists, musicians, writers, and actors, the iconic Chelsea Hotel provides the backdrop for this fictional account of friendship and McCarthyism. The main characters meet in Naples as USO entertainers during 1945. Their friendship continues into the 1960’s. One becomes a famous movie star while the other becomes a playwright and, at times, both live at the Chelsea. During the Cold War, people in the entertainment suffered blacklisting, unfair allegations and investigations leading to A haven for artists, musicians, writers, and actors, the iconic Chelsea Hotel provides the backdrop for this fictional account of friendship and McCarthyism. The main characters meet in Naples as USO entertainers during 1945. Their friendship continues into the 1960’s. One becomes a famous movie star while the other becomes a playwright and, at times, both live at the Chelsea. During the Cold War, people in the entertainment suffered blacklisting, unfair allegations and investigations leading to imprisonment, lost livelihoods, ruined careers and some suicides. How does a friendship survive this sort of persecution?
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  • Camille Maio
    January 1, 1970
    Fiona Davis has captured the hearts of readers with the way she brings life to New York City landmarks through compelling historical fiction. Setting her sights on the Chelsea Hotel, she delves into the world of theater in the McCarthy era. As two women wrestle with wartime memories, fractured friendship, love, and trust, readers will find themselves immersed in the world that Davis created and will be eager for more.
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  • Julia Kelly
    January 1, 1970
    A dazzling story of loyalty, friendship, and betrayal in 1950s Bohemian New York amid the danger of the Red Scare. It will leave readers wishing they could spend a night at the Chelsea Hotel for a taste of Broadway glamor and a well-shaken cocktail.
  • Sarah
    January 1, 1970
    The Chelsea Girls takes a look at New York landmark the Chelsea Hotel and the devastation to the entertainment industry wrought by the McCarthy era of the 1950s, through the lens of a first time playwright and her best friend/leading actress. The book spans from their meeting in the 40s through to the 60s, told in 3 acts and alternating between Hazel and Maxine's perspectives.I thought the witch hunting behaviour of the McCarthy era was well handled, especially what the allegations did to people The Chelsea Girls takes a look at New York landmark the Chelsea Hotel and the devastation to the entertainment industry wrought by the McCarthy era of the 1950s, through the lens of a first time playwright and her best friend/leading actress. The book spans from their meeting in the 40s through to the 60s, told in 3 acts and alternating between Hazel and Maxine's perspectives.I thought the witch hunting behaviour of the McCarthy era was well handled, especially what the allegations did to people caught up in the grist mill, like Floyd. The Chelsea Hotel of the 1950s sounded like an artistic haven and a fascinating place to live, under David Bard's hectic care. However, I failed to connect with either Hazel or Maxine, they were like paper dolls in a world of fleshed out characters and scenery.I would still recommend the book because I think the McCarthy era is an under served part of American history in the historical fiction genre; and also that revisiting this era is important in a time of increasing political divisions and #cancel culture. Davis does a fabulous job immersing the reader in the era and settings, hopefully stronger leading ladies will come her way in the next one.Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an e-arc for my consideration, in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Becky
    January 1, 1970
    Wow what a story! The Chelsea Girls follows Hazel and Maxine, two young women who meet on the USO tour during WWII, performing plays for the soldiers in Naples. The girls bond over shared experiences that can only come from being in war and seeing what comes with it. When the war is over and they return to their normal lives, the girls must find their place. Hazel in New York City and Maxine in Hollywood. After learning about The Chelsea hotel from Maxine, a place full of artists from all genres Wow what a story! The Chelsea Girls follows Hazel and Maxine, two young women who meet on the USO tour during WWII, performing plays for the soldiers in Naples. The girls bond over shared experiences that can only come from being in war and seeing what comes with it. When the war is over and they return to their normal lives, the girls must find their place. Hazel in New York City and Maxine in Hollywood. After learning about The Chelsea hotel from Maxine, a place full of artists from all genres, Hazel gets a room and is instantly inspired and begins writing a play about her experiences in the war, the people she met and the stories she learned. The hotel catapults her career as a play-write, but the fear of communist influence creeps into the theater community and threatens to ruin everything they’ve worked for. This book gripped me from the beginning but truly became “un-put-down-able” about halfway through when a major twist is revealed. This book has a little bit of everything, strong female leads, drama, the glitz and glam of post-WWII New York, friendship and resilience. It sheds a light on the people who speak out when the world wants them to cave in and give up and the ramifications of the second Red Scare.I recommend this to historical fiction fans who love theater and have interest in the history behind the communist fear that gripped the nation in the late 1940s.
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  • Chris Markley
    January 1, 1970
    Fiona Davis again makes a New York architectural landmark a character in her books. This time the landmark is the Chelsea Hotel, a home for artistic types, and a refuge for Hazel after she returns from a World War II USO tour and has a falling out with her family. Hazel and Maxine are negotiating making it in theater but it is the era of McCarthy hunting communists and no one in the entertainment community is safe. The choices, many made long before the war, come back to ruin lives and careers. Fiona Davis again makes a New York architectural landmark a character in her books. This time the landmark is the Chelsea Hotel, a home for artistic types, and a refuge for Hazel after she returns from a World War II USO tour and has a falling out with her family. Hazel and Maxine are negotiating making it in theater but it is the era of McCarthy hunting communists and no one in the entertainment community is safe. The choices, many made long before the war, come back to ruin lives and careers. Will Hazel and Maxine survive?Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing an arc for my honest review
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  • Susan
    January 1, 1970
    This novel is delightful for those who love NYC and especially the iconic Chelsea Hotel(I once lived only a block away) and the terrible period in American history that wasMcCarthyism. The lead characters are a bit flat, but still i enjoyed how realistically the place and time were presented.
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  • Sue Boahn
    January 1, 1970
    My absolutely favorite Fiona Davis book. This book has it all - romance, history, mystery, and friendship. A must read!!! Thanks to Fiona Davis and Penguin Random House for the advanced read. My favorite of the books I have read this year. Love it!!!!!
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  • Cate
    January 1, 1970
    Life is too short to waste on mediocre books. So for your own sanity, skip this one. The Chelsea Girls is rife with poor character development, typos, and stilted sentence structure. It simply cannot compare with historical fiction greats by authors such as Phillipa Gregory or Sharon Kay Penman.But also, as a random aside, my love for Sharon Kay Penman knows no bounds so it is *almost* an unfair comparison. Almost.The Chelsea Girls features, to no one’s surprise, the Chelsea Hotel in New York, h Life is too short to waste on mediocre books. So for your own sanity, skip this one. The Chelsea Girls is rife with poor character development, typos, and stilted sentence structure. It simply cannot compare with historical fiction greats by authors such as Phillipa Gregory or Sharon Kay Penman.But also, as a random aside, my love for Sharon Kay Penman knows no bounds so it is *almost* an unfair comparison. Almost.The Chelsea Girls features, to no one’s surprise, the Chelsea Hotel in New York, home to artists, musicians, and actors. The book mostly occurs in the 1950s and 1960s and addresses the McCarthy-era Red Scare. Throughout most of the story, the House Un-American Activities Committee is ruthlessly investigating many of the hotel’s residents, often to devastating consequences.The historical setting bumped this book from a 1.5-star to a 2.5-star for me. The Red Scare is often given short shrift in historical fiction, and even though the plot is flimsy and poorly executed, the actual history surrounding the story interested me. So much so that I journeyed to Wikipedia to learn more.Now, why did I dislike it? Primarily because the characters are thinly developed and two-dimensional. Maxine and Hazel are dolls – beautiful and hollow. I could never buy into their stories, personalities, or lives. They simply weren’t developed in any real way.And really, my primary beef is that the author TELLS us about Maxine and Hazel, instead of SHOWING us. Truly great writers develop the characters and the world along the way and demonstrate the depth of feeling, history, and connection. Imparting factual tidbits about the characters as the primary source of character development is ineffective, and will almost always fall flat.I’ll give you an example. The first page begins with Hazel stating that she “hates” Maxine Mead. (We never learn why.) And by page three (literally), they are the best of friends and helping some young German kid escape death. Sounds like a bonding moment? Maybe it could have been, but like every other plot line in this book, it is too poorly developed to ring true. Hate to best friendship in the span of the first chapter requires a complete suspension of belief. And I am wholly unwilling to engage in such suspension.The book also lacks any technical proficiency and is in desperate need of editing. Sentences are simple and inexpressive, almost wooden in their lack of movement. And sometimes characters refer to Hazel as “Ms. Ripley” and then moments later will call her “Ms. Riley.” It is difficult to express how much this annoys me. *pulls hair out*To give credit where credit is due, chapter 18 does deliver a surprising plot twist. I was moments away from quitting this book without finishing. But after reading chapter 18, I had *just enough* interest to finish the book. Did it get any better, you ask? Sadly, no. The chapter simply hooked me long enough to say I finished the book.Skip it, my friends. If this book was a color, it would be beige.Thank you to Net Galley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. No one can say I wasn’t honest, eh?Check out my blog at deargentlebookworm.com
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  • Gwendolyn
    January 1, 1970
    Another amazing novel from Fiona Davis! This one starts during WWII with an acting troupe entertaining troops for the USO in Naples, Italy. Hazel and Maxine have a rocky start but bond quickly once they join forces to try to save a German kid's life. Once the war is over they head back to the states to try and return to their regular lives. Maxine heads to California and becomes a Hollywood starlet, while Hazel returns to New York and finds out she loves to write and direct in the theatre. It al Another amazing novel from Fiona Davis! This one starts during WWII with an acting troupe entertaining troops for the USO in Naples, Italy. Hazel and Maxine have a rocky start but bond quickly once they join forces to try to save a German kid's life. Once the war is over they head back to the states to try and return to their regular lives. Maxine heads to California and becomes a Hollywood starlet, while Hazel returns to New York and finds out she loves to write and direct in the theatre. It all centers around the Chelsea Hotel, a run down artist commune where inspiration is waiting for any type of artist who walks through the door. McCarthyism, Maxine and Hazel all come together at the Chelsea with disastrous results in store for all involved. I've always loved Fiona Davis' writing, and this is no exception. The character development is amazing, she makes you fall in love with some and absolutely hate others. There are a couple of twists I didn't see coming, that will keep you on your toes. I will say the part with the ghosts of the old hotel was a little weird, but didn't detract anything from the story.I received an Advanced Review Copy of this book. All opinions are my own.
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  • Shari Suarez
    January 1, 1970
    Set in the Chelsea Hotel during the 1940's through the 1960's, Fiona Davis has again captured the beauty and history of another New York landmark.Hazel & Maxine met in Naples during a USO tour for troups during WWII. The girls bonded over their shared experiences but lose touch when Hazel returns to New York and Maxine heads for Hollywood. After a falling out with her mother, Hazel goes to stay at the Chelsea and life will never be the same for either her or Maxine. Hazel begins to write a p Set in the Chelsea Hotel during the 1940's through the 1960's, Fiona Davis has again captured the beauty and history of another New York landmark.Hazel & Maxine met in Naples during a USO tour for troups during WWII. The girls bonded over their shared experiences but lose touch when Hazel returns to New York and Maxine heads for Hollywood. After a falling out with her mother, Hazel goes to stay at the Chelsea and life will never be the same for either her or Maxine. Hazel begins to write a play about her experiences during the war and through some contacts at the Chelsea, a producer agrees to stage the show. Maxine suddenly reappears in Hazel's life as she wants to appear in the starring role in the play.Unfortunately, the Red Scare has hit the entertainment industry hard and Hazel is named as a communist. What will this mean for her play, her friends and her livelihood?This was an incredible look into a time period that isn't covered much in historical fiction. The book draws you right in and keeps you reading especially with an unexpected twist in the middle of the book. I highly recommend it!
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  • Rebecca Minnock
    January 1, 1970
    Starting in Naples, 1945 and ending in New York in 1967, The Chelsea Girls is the beautifully written story of Hazel Ripley and Maxine Mead.Hazel - an aspiring Broadway actress who is always the understudy - new to the USO, has been sent to Naples to perform for American troops. Once there, she meets the woman who will become her best friend - Maxine Mead, star of the show. The Chelsea Girls follows them from acting in Naples to New York where Hazel writes a play based on stories she was told by Starting in Naples, 1945 and ending in New York in 1967, The Chelsea Girls is the beautifully written story of Hazel Ripley and Maxine Mead.Hazel - an aspiring Broadway actress who is always the understudy - new to the USO, has been sent to Naples to perform for American troops. Once there, she meets the woman who will become her best friend - Maxine Mead, star of the show. The Chelsea Girls follows them from acting in Naples to New York where Hazel writes a play based on stories she was told by the soldiers in Naples. WWII is over, and with the threat of communism taking over America, paranoia about Russian spies is rife. Hazel is accused of being a communist sympathizer and must defend herself to the House Un-American Activities Committee, all whilst directing her play on Broadway. Davis tells the story of The Chelsea Girls to perfection, her writing is captivating and her characters are perfectly written. Their complex relationships, the stress of accusations, as well as secrets kept from each other, this is an absolute must read for all Fiona Davis fans!
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  • Becky S
    January 1, 1970
    Fans of historical fiction will fall in love with this novel by Fiona Davis, as she once again creates a story that is a delight to read. The blend of New York City, friendships, Broadway, and it's surroundings takes you on a journey to days of past. Reading Fiona Davis novels makes you want to go explore the city, even if you've been there before, to discover the sites mentioned. A few unexpected twists and turns added to the richness of the novel. Winner all the way around!
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  • Marisa
    January 1, 1970
    What a fabulous novel. Told from the perspective of two women who share hopes, dreams and a friendship.I adore Fiona Davis because her books delve well beyond the surface and leave the reader thinking.What a beautiful.story
  • Lora
    January 1, 1970
    When Hazel and Maxine meet during an USO tour in Italy, it takes a bit of time for them to warm to each other. But soon they form a bond that continues stateside when Hazel's play Wartime Sonata is produced on Broadway with Maxine in the lead role. They also love the camaraderie of living at the Chelsea Hotel with a lot of creative people in the city. The arts of the 1950's are being battered, however, by those who believe that most artists are communists sympathizers. Hazel finds herself in dan When Hazel and Maxine meet during an USO tour in Italy, it takes a bit of time for them to warm to each other. But soon they form a bond that continues stateside when Hazel's play Wartime Sonata is produced on Broadway with Maxine in the lead role. They also love the camaraderie of living at the Chelsea Hotel with a lot of creative people in the city. The arts of the 1950's are being battered, however, by those who believe that most artists are communists sympathizers. Hazel finds herself in danger of having to name people who are close to the cause and having to defend herself. It's a frightening time for her, because it could cost Hazel her career. The Chelsea Girls recounts the red scare of the time through the eyes of both Hazel and Maxine.
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  • Rosey
    January 1, 1970
    ❤❤❤
  • joyce w. laudon
    January 1, 1970
    Fiona Davis sets her novels in iconic New York City locations. She has told stories set at the Barbizon Hotel for Women, The Dakota, Grand Central Station and now at the Chelsea Hotel. In each of her three prior novels, the narrative took place during two eras; in this book, the author follows two characters in the same time period. They are actress Maxine and would be actress and playwright, Hazel.The novel opens with Hazel joining a USO troop in Italy during WWII. These scenes were so evocativ Fiona Davis sets her novels in iconic New York City locations. She has told stories set at the Barbizon Hotel for Women, The Dakota, Grand Central Station and now at the Chelsea Hotel. In each of her three prior novels, the narrative took place during two eras; in this book, the author follows two characters in the same time period. They are actress Maxine and would be actress and playwright, Hazel.The novel opens with Hazel joining a USO troop in Italy during WWII. These scenes were so evocative, both in terms of the war and the emotions raised for the performers. This beginning left me feeling very excited about the rest of the book except...for a while, I then found the narrative less engaging. However, round about chapter 18 there was a twist and I again became very involved in the story and the characters' lives. It is worth sticking with the book in my opinion.Much of this book centers on the activities of HUAC, the House Un-Amercian Activities Committee. Who is a Communist? Who is being targeted unfairly? Should we be rooting people out and encouraging them to turn on others? What are the consequences to everyone when a government sponsored witch hunt is going on? You will think about these issues as you read and may also find the subject relevant in our current political climate.In addition to HUAC, the reader spends time at the Chelsea Hotel, the Tonys, on Broadway and more. There are actors, government workers, names dropped of famous and real Chelsea Hotel denizens and more. Most of all, readers will connect with Hazel and Maxine, their friendship and its challenges.All in all, this was a good read. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for my e-galley. All opinions are my own.
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  • Dorothy Schwab
    January 1, 1970
    A USO Tour in Naples, Italy, 1945, brings entertainers Hazel Ripley and Maxine Mead to the same stage. For Hazel, this was an opportunity to be on stage while supporting her country and also honor her brother’s memory. Maxine, an aspiring Hollywood actress is in Italy hoping to live in the “real world” for a change. The girls become close friends, even though quite the opposites- “Hayseed Hazel” and a rising Hollywood star? This incongruous relationship continues after the war as the friends are A USO Tour in Naples, Italy, 1945, brings entertainers Hazel Ripley and Maxine Mead to the same stage. For Hazel, this was an opportunity to be on stage while supporting her country and also honor her brother’s memory. Maxine, an aspiring Hollywood actress is in Italy hoping to live in the “real world” for a change. The girls become close friends, even though quite the opposites- “Hayseed Hazel” and a rising Hollywood star? This incongruous relationship continues after the war as the friends are rejoined when Maxine leaves Los Angeles to find Hazel at the Chelsea Hotel in New York City. Hazel-the playwright in residence, has been gathered into the loving bosom of the collective at the Chelsea- the left-wing organizers, the refugee families, and the creative artists; actors, musicians, designers, photographers. and especially Lavinia Smarts. Lavinia has used her influence to put Hazel in touch with a producer and director, who think she is the next Lillian Hellman. Hazel’s play, Wartime Sonata, inspired by her experiences as a USO tour performer, is being cast and will be performed on Broadway at the Biltmore Theater.The United States was recovering from World War ll, but 1950 was the beginning of a period in the United States in which Cold War tensions fueled fears of widespread Communist subversion. Due to these fears many believed that spies had infiltrated the United States federal government, universities, film industry, and elsewhere. Fiona Davis puts this era right on center stage and the house lights shine brightly in the garrish faces of those involved in the House Un-American Activities Committee, HUAC. The Chelsea Girls brings a tumultuous time in our history to the forefront for younger readers who haven’t heard or read about the Hollywood Ten and “McCarthyism.” In between the accusations, subpoenas, and questioning, there’s a story of love and friendship, that will have your heart and mind switching sides several times.The reader learns that on Broadway the reviewers dash out of a play to get their copy into the late edition of the newspapers. The producer waits for the papers and scans quickly in search for the theater section. The reviews are read and if he enters the after-party holding the issues above his head, then the champagne corks begin popping. If he tosses the papers into the trash and joins the party empty-handed then the party turns into a wake. The Grateful Reader would enter the party for The Chelsea Girls with “newspapers aloft!” Pour the champagne! Cheers to The Chelsea Girls!
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