The Chelsea Girls
Fiona Davis (The Masterpiece) weaves a complex story of female friendship and conflicting loyalties, set against the glamour of New York City's iconic Chelsea Hotel, in her fourth novel, The Chelsea Girls. Growing up in the city, Hazel Ripley and her brother, Ben, are expected to follow in their actor father's footsteps, especially after he has a stroke that effectively ends his career. When Ben is killed in a plane crash in World War II, the burden of creative accomplishment falls solely on Hazel. Frustrated with her streak of understudy jobs and her mother's constant nagging, she signs up for a United Service Organizations tour and finds herself in Italy, suddenly thrust onstage in the company of several other young women. Hazel's friendship with fellow actress Maxine, and the experiences they share, will shape the next several decades of both their lives.
After returning from Italy, the women go their separate ways for several years. But when their paths cross again at the Chelsea in 1950, Hazel has written her first play, based on the wartime experiences she shared with Maxine. As Hazel struggles to get her play staged on Broadway, both women come up against the growing specter of McCarthyism and the insidious accusations plaguing the theater world.
Davis tells her story from both Hazel's and Maxine's perspectives, highlighting the contrasts between them. She expertly renders the period's climate of fear and intimidation, and the glitz and glamour of the Chelsea Hotel provides a perfect backdrop. Davis crafts both a sharp-eyed commentary on female friendship and a vivid glimpse into the life of a New York City icon. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams