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Summary

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 20-year friendship that will irrevocably change two women's lives - from the New York Times best-selling author of The Lions of Fifth Avenue.

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.

©2019 Fiona Davis (P)2019 Penguin Audio

Critic reviews

"A spell-binding tale of a decades-long friendship between two talented women, presented against a backdrop of political conspiracy, infused with the glamour of Hollywood and Broadway, and set in that ramshackle headquarters of New York bohemia, the iconic Chelsea Hotel. In Chelsea Girls, the spirits of America’s mid-century arts scene rise up to frolic again. Brava!" (Sherill Tippins, author of Inside the Dream Palace: The Life and Times of New York’s Legendary Chelsea Hotel)
 

“The glitz and glamour of the Chelsea Hotel provides a perfect backdrop for Davis's story of friendship, ambition and behind-the-scenes theatrical intrigue. Hazel and Maxine are complex characters struggling with conflicting questions of loyalty, love and professional success in a turbulent time. Their story is both a sharp-eyed commentary on female friendship and a vivid glimpse into the life of a New York City icon.” (Shelf Awareness)

"Featuring vibrant, witty characters who not only weather but thrive in a dark period of American history, Davis’s tale of one friendship’s strength will stun and satisfy readers.” (Publishers Weekly)

What listeners say about The Chelsea Girls

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  • Elle Loves The World
  • 05-08-19

If you liked City of Girls this one is for you!

As a fan of Fiona Davis and a lover of New York City, I was excited to read her newest release! This book also mainly takes place in one timeline unlike the others! Although entertaining, the characters and storyline needed more balance.

9 people found this helpful

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  • Rai
  • 06-08-19

Fear, Foes and Friendship

I truly loved this novel. I don’t usually write reviews, but this seemed worth the while. The characters are well-developed, leaving you rooting for them despite flaws and mishaps. The author transports you to the McCarthy Era, and you’re awakened to the period - from the dialogue, culture, and idiosyncrasies to the feelings of joy, love, pain, indecision, and loss. Definitely worth the credit.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Smiles
  • 30-12-20

Narrator’s Annoying Voice

The book is terrific and well research. I just cannot listen to the narrator. Her voice is like chalk scratching a blackboard.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Gerry C.
  • 10-10-20

Wonderful!

Didn’t think I was going to enjoy this for the first 15 minutes but then I didn’t want to stop listening! Excellent book!

1 person found this helpful

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  • Anna
  • 01-10-20

Quite the surprise!

The book was very enjoyable and with quite the unexpected turn! Also not what I expected. But this is one of many Fiona Davis books I have read and she did not disappoint. I did take a star away as it did seem to drag on in places.
It had me googling more information on the Chelsea Hotel, which for me is always a sign of a good HF book.
Narration was very well done.

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  • Teresa
  • 08-12-19

Great wartime and entertainment history '40s-'60s

I thoroughly loved the characters and Fiona Davis' descriptive way of writing, although this was not at the top of my favorites list. Having said that, I enjoy her writing so much and will still swarm to read/listen to the next book she puts out! This is a great story, steeped in historical events from the wartime '40s through the uninhibited '60s. It gave me additional insight into the Red Scare witch hunt that I didn't learn, or maybe retain, from history class as well as the entertainment business of the time periods. This is a book worth reading!

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  • Russell Ricard
  • 25-09-19

Like a radio play. Great voice actors in the roles

Fiona Davis’ The Chelsea Girls is a fantastic read. Historical fiction told from multiple points of view following the friendship arc of two women who meet as U.S.O. performers, and all that transpires between them until the late-1960s. Primary focus is set in the politics and sometime absurdities of post WWII NYC’s Broadway theater world, California’s film industry, and the larger politics of the United States at the time. And, yes, Greenwich Village’s Hotel Chelsea figures prominently into the story. Davis explores the challenges of loyalties toward the self and others. Issues of sexism, women’s empowerment, blacklisting/blackmailing, and the McCarthy era witch hunts arise, including historical figures from the theater (realistically depicted quirky folks), and political figures such as Joseph McCarthy and Roy Cohn who make appearances. A well crafted tale of mystery, intrigue, charm, and dramatic action channeled through in depth and entertaining characters. Ultimately, though, this is a powerful story of friendship. ***Top notch voice narration from both actors***

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  • SMATTHEWS
  • 24-04-21

Friendship and Wartime

I hated to love it but I so loved it. I wished for a different ending but this one was how it should be. Definitely worth the credit.

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  • Brooklyn girl
  • 07-02-21

Very special

This is a magical story of how real people face both reality and the surreal. Although I am an old gal of 61, the novels about women in an age before mine, when spun by Ms Fiona Davis never cease to amaze me.

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  • Damarys Reyes Geronimo
  • 04-02-21

Such a great story!

The vivid details of NYC and characters makes me feel like I'm back in that time. I definitely will continue reading the books by Fiona Davis, as they are so engaging and always have an unexpected twist!