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Lily Cigar

3.89  ·  Rating Details ·  280 Ratings  ·  27 Reviews
She was a beautiful young innocent, driven into the sins of that womanhood by the dark desires that ruled men's hearts.
You will never forget Lily -- as a child watching her mother die in an orphan struggling to protect her reckless a teen-aged innocent discovering the power of a fear-filled young girl learning to sell her body in the most
Paperback, 602 pages
Published August 7th 1979 by Signet (first published 1979)
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Orphaned at ten, Lily Malone and her older brother Fergus are shuffled off to St. Patrick's Orphanage. Being the good Irish Catholic that she is, Lily dutifully obeys the nuns and learns the skills they teach her, but brother Fergus runs off to seek his fortune in California and is presumed dead at sea. At fifteen, Lily takes a position as between-stairs maid to the very rich Wallingford family, who being both newly rich and Catholic are not yet invited into the best homes - but they'll do anyth ...more
First line:
Lily looked at her mother. Mary Malone lay very still, thin under the thin sheet and nearly that pale, worn thin and worn out by the working and the fevers.
Oh wow, what a book! It’s one of those fat sagas that encompasses a woman’s life from childhood to old age, a genre I love, but this one stands quite above so many others due to its precise characterization, pacing, and catchy turns of phrase. The author knew what he wanted to show and showed it, and didn’t try to cover everythi
Sarah Mac
This is a very good oldie that would sell if it was reprinted today. But please keep the original cover -- I love that retro 70s giant-floating-heads look. ;)

[N.B.: Apparently they did finally release this on Kindle. And I do like the new cover -- which is a rarity for the reissues -- but that old-skool orange is still my fave.]

As others have said, it's hard to believe this was written by a man. For all that women are accused of over-sentimentalizing their bookish men, men frequently under-emoti
I loved the first half of this 1850s Americana rags to riches saga as we followed Lily from orphanage to whorehouse to respectable businesswoman, but once the riches had been reached, there didn't seem anywhere else for the story to go, and I ended up skim-reading the last couple of hundred pages. Great start, disappointing finish.
Diane Lynn
This is going right on my favorites shelf!
Enjoyable at the beginning and for the first half, but becomes overextended and tedious once Lily abandons New York for California. I also believe the POVs of the male lead were unnecessary, bringing little to the plot besides giving the author a chance to slip in some events of the time that were otherwise perfectly disposable with no harm to this story. The romance lacks credibility as well, and Lily's time at the brothel is pure trope storytelling, specifically the Gold-Hearted Whore cliché I ...more
Noreen Kellner
Oct 23, 2014 Noreen Kellner rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This was a very well written book. If Lily Cigar actually existed it would be her biography. The characters were well developed and realistic. The time period was very well done, including the morals and mind set of the people. The day to day life was interesting enough to keep you involved until a major event occurred. That in itself is difficult in these type of books and I applaud Tom Murphy for his attention to detail as well as story line.

Lily Cigar has an indomitable spirit, backbone and c
Mar 06, 2011 Sherron rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: keeper
Wow, wow, wow. Just loved it.
Pretty good, but for some reason I've never been a big fan of family sagas. I don't like reading about the main characters getting old. I want the story to stop before that. I also really don't want to read about their deaths. What's the point of all that?

It also took 75% of the book before the heroine and hero met up with each other again. So I didn't really get why it took that long to set that up. It was annoying and unnecessary.

I probably would have given this three stars except for one sit
Lisa Blondin
Mixed bag

Just to start, I would have given Lilia Cigar 3 stars, but for the editing. I know that kindle books do not have the same editing quality as paper; however, at one point the book was missing 12 pages!

Aside for editing Lily Cigar is an enjoyable epic novel. It manages to cover an entire lifetime and both coasts. The story of Lily is moving and tragic. She is a strong and likeable character.

I have 2 main criticisms. The first is that the period of time from when Lily turns to prostitution
Rise from rags and orphanage in late 19th, early 20th century to riches and cream of society with quifew turns in the road. Part of it paralleled the civil war era and the attitudes of some of the participants. Also what happened in their lives as a result. The book held my attention until about the last few chapters, then for me, the larger than life aspect went a little too far. The story although it focused on one person was almost an epic of three generations in one family in particular. Cha ...more
Apr 09, 2011 Donna rated it really liked it
A very entertaining, nostalgic, rags-to-riches saga with a spirited, indefatigable heroine in Lily. Forty years ago I would have swallowed this tale hook, line, and sinker. Today, I prefer characters and plot lines that are a little more multi-dimensional, complex, and true to life. However, this was an enjoyable, well-written book. Four stars for Lily Cigar - truly a hidden gem in classic historical fiction!
Mar 04, 2011 Terry rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own
What a wonderful, wonderful read! Highly recommended for those who love long, riveting family sagas. This one is definitely going on my keeper shelf for a reread at a later date. What intriguing characterization and amazing descriptions. I felt like I was there with the characters. Can't praise this one enough!
Mar 15, 2015 Laurie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The beginning was great, I found their lives fascinating, and felt the fear as they walked into the orphanage. Then it just went downhill. Reading about someone who is a repulsive human, but she worships him cause he's her brother, and other behavior I find stupid, it all just lost me.
I finished it, so it wasn't horrible, just wish the good part was more than four chapters.
Mar 07, 2011 TJ marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Yep, Karla, you did start something here and now that Misfit jumped on the bandwagon, I guess I best find the book!
Oct 14, 2014 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing
A very good historical romance story about a young Irish immigrant who is orphaned when first her father died, then a few years later her mother dies. She and her brother are sent to an orphanage associated with Saint Patrick's Cathedral in New York City. Lily quickly adjusts to life in the orphanage where she feels safe, attends school, and isn't hungry all the time. Her brother has a harder time and ends up running away. Lily wants to enter the convent but when her favorite religious sister co ...more
Jan 27, 2015 Rusty rated it really liked it
If you would like an excellent fictional read about the early days of San Francisco, choose this novel. This is the story of Lily Cigar, a prominent prostitute who dreamed only of leaving the profession. Her fame both opened and closed doors as she lived in and near the city. Lily and her brother were sent to an orphanage when her mother died. Her life moves from there to the home of a wealthy family whose son impregnates her forcing her to leave. Moving to San Francisco with its rough wealth se ...more
Jo Forrester
It was interesting reading a book about the life of this woman and see how its handled from a male author's point of view. At times I was puzzled as to why the author would focus on certain things and not others. This was quite noticeable during the sex scenes. I feel that a woman author would have focused, in detail, on the lovemaking scenes and glossed over her sex scenes as a whore. I often found this book quite depressing and would skim in hopes of finding something happy. I liked the overal ...more
Jan 14, 2016 Korey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A captivating rags to riches tale that vividly chronicles life in mid-nineteenth century New York and post Gold Rush era San Francisco. Lily's rise from impoverished orphan to fabulously wealthy prostitute and entrepreneur is improbably easy which makes the last third of this historical epic drag some but taken as a whole this was a highly entertaining story.

Murphy does a really good job fleshing out the plot with well written period detail and a large cast of colorful supporting characters.
This book seemed extremely long to me. I did enjoy it, but I felt it could have been almost a couple of hundred pages shorter. I almost feel as if I had read it before. Maybe it's because I've read quite a few books set around San Francisco and the big quake. It was well worth the week and a half it took me to read it though.
elaine m. suda
Oct 11, 2014 elaine m. suda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Heartbreaking and heartwarming

This story proved to be heartwrenching from the beginning and brought me to tears at the end. I thoroughly enjoyed every part of the story. Lily's courage throughout the story was amazing. Despite all the horrible events that took place in her life, she held on and realized her dream. This was truly a great love story.

Kelly Tarr
I loved Lily, the main character. This book was predictable and often took a long time getting to what you knew was going to happen but there were also some captivating moments. I love historical fiction and although this was a bit drawn out, it was good.
Latoya Nichols
Apr 02, 2015 Latoya Nichols rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent novel

At first I thought this was an undercover Christian novel but although there are some undertones this is far from that type of novel. Well written and engaging this novel had a bit of everything.
Mar 24, 2015 Sara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fantastic story, I really loved the story of what Lily went to and how she raised above all that to become a smart and wealthy woman. Although the ending was good I think I would have wanted it to end differently. I will be reading more books by Tom Murphy.
Jan 22, 2015 Dawn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
REALLY enjoyed this life-saga! 4.4 stars.
Apr 12, 2015 Angela rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Liked it, some parts were a bit stiff or seemingly stilted but it was an entertaining read overall.
Beth rated it really liked it
Nov 08, 2014
Valerie Wilson
Valerie Wilson rated it liked it
May 01, 2015
Kerri rated it it was amazing
Feb 13, 2017
Susan Davern
Susan Davern rated it it was amazing
Dec 16, 2014
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“Tears are not to be wasted on what we cannot help, Lily. If you must be brave, then be as brave as you can.” 0 likes
“The coin rattled and clanged with a noise beyond its size or worth as Lily dropped it down the slot.” 0 likes
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