I have to start by saying I loved this book. I started reading The Chelsea Girls by Fiona Davis with some preconceived notions. What I thought was going to be a sweet coming of age story about two actresses trying to make their way in New York City turned out to be so much more, far surpassing my expectations.
The story begins as two young women, both aspiring actresses, meet on a tour with the USO during the last leg of WWII. Near opposites, they balance each other well and become very close – each feeling it must be what it’s like to have a sister. The story follows them through the 50s and 60s – they separate and come together as life takes them through Hollywood and Broadway – and their stays at the Chelsea Hotel in Manhattan.
Individually and together, despite their talents, their efforts to make it in the entertainment industry were greatly hampered by the witch hunts that were so common in the McCarthy era. Simply snubbing someone or passing over them for a part was enough to get you blacklisted or worse, turned into the feds as a communist spy. Their bond was strained at times, as is often the case with sisters, but never truly broken.
I loved everything about this book, from author Fiona Davis’s unique writing voice – her words flow beautifully, to the complicated and realistic relationship between these two young women, and the ease with which the story moves through time. I also greatly enjoyed the picture her words painted of the great Chelsea Hotel.
Very much a third leading character in this story, the Chelsea has a long history as a bohemian home and sanctuary for artists of all type, and is also famous as one of the most haunted hotels in America.
This book is easily in my top five favorites I’ve read so far this year. Highly recommend.
*I’m not sure how I missed Fiona Davis’s first three novels, but can’t wait to read them as well.