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West End Girls: The Real Lives, Loves and Friendships of 1940s Soho and its Working Girls

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating Details  ·  176 Ratings  ·  34 Reviews
A vivid and compelling memoir recounting the real lives, loves, and friendship of 1940s Soho and its working girls

Barbara Tate was 17 when she heard the whispered word that would change her life: Soho. It would take four years for Barbara to escape her loveless home but when she finally made it to the forbidden streets of Soho—just as London was recovering from the trauma
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published July 22nd 2010 by Orion Publishing
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Mar 10, 2015 Amelia rated it really liked it
A fascinating glimpse into the lives of prostitutes in the 1940s, in the form of a memoir written by (now deceased) artist Barbara Tate, West End Girls is a little bit juicy and more than a little bit poignant. "Babs" tells us chiefly about her early twenties in which, seduced in a sense by her strict Grandmother's disapproval for Soho, she became a "maid". Maid, as she (and I!) soon discovered, was not necessarily the most domestic of jobs and, nowadays, I'd imagine we'd term her a PA. Not that ...more
Apr 16, 2011 Diane rated it liked it
I opened this book in the store, read a couple of pages, and could barely close it long enough to hand to the cashier so I could leave. The prose is fabulous (in most parts) and I think it's a real shame that the author died before writing any more books.

That being said though, the book could really have benefited from some heavy editing. There were whole sections that were wonderfully gripping, and other whole sections that were clumsy and forced. It was as if the main story was really what 'wo
Penny Grubb
Nov 15, 2010 Penny Grubb rated it it was amazing
An incredible tale that almost didn't make it to publication. Barbara Tate tells the story of her time as a prostitute's maid in Soho in a light engaging style that makes for easy reading. On several levels it's an amazing tale - the story itself and the insight it gives into Soho then and when she revisited later; how she came to be there at all; how the book came to be blocked when she first tried for publication (that story is added at the end). She went on to have a very successful career as ...more
Feb 26, 2011 Jody rated it it was amazing
Could not put this down and read it in a matter of hours. I am fascinated by people who seem normal yet have secret aspects to their lives. Barbara does not seem jaded by her experiences and her compassion for these people touches me.
Dec 03, 2011 Micha rated it it was amazing
An enjoyable and insightful read.

I felt as though some of the characters in this book had become my friends - It's all in the way Tate portrays them I guess, maybe it's that I saw a little of myself in Barbara.

The end of the book almost had me feeling like I was grieving for someone, yet you could almost see it coming - I still found myself reading on to find out what became of these people, and with each person a hope of happier times. Although it wasn't the case I would certainly read this aga
Stuart Aken
Aug 11, 2011 Stuart Aken rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A book variously described as a memoir, a biography and an autobiography, West End Girls details the lives of Soho prostitutes through the eyes of a virginal, innocent but forthright narrator (I have great empathy with the author, as I used a similar narrator in my novel, Breaking Faith, so my review could be a little biased; please bear that in mind).
Written with humour and displaying an extraordinary naivety mixed with a growing worldliness developed along the journey, this memoir is full of
May 21, 2012 Hol added it
This is a memoir of two years the author spent working as a prostitute’s “maid”--housekeeper, companion, cashier, and errand girl--in late 1940s Soho. Though the book holds interest in its unusual glimpse of postwar London, Tate shares frustratingly little of her own thoughts or feelings about this phase in her life. Afterward she became an artist and suburban wife and mother; in the Epilogue she writes, “I had a perfect marriage.” Well, good! And that’s about the level of insight you can expect ...more
Ellie Dean
Jan 08, 2016 Ellie Dean rated it it was amazing
Absolutely stunning writing and compelling reading. To think this actually happened and not that long ago is amazing and yet the entire story has a comforting feel. This was a very different time to what Soho has to offer today but this was Soho life .... Real life ..... And Barbara Tates portrayal of the characters who lived that life is both honest and real. What a remarkable woman she must have been. To have lived (and survived) the Soho life and then to have moved on to become a loving wife ...more
Robert Pereno
Jul 24, 2011 Robert Pereno rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: My Soho friends.
Recommended to Robert by: Babette my wife.
A fascinating tale of working girls during the 40s in Soho. A very easy engaging read.
Dec 02, 2010 Brenda rated it liked it
Quick and easy read. Next please!
Jonathan Stephenson
Mar 04, 2013 Jonathan Stephenson rated it liked it
The non-judgemental approach of the author, as she relates her time as an ingénue among the more worldly and artful of London's Soho, not long after World War II, is commendable for its openness and acceptance of human nature. However, I read this book as research, already knowing a good deal about the time and place—and had expected a more in-depth insight into the edgy world around her than Barbara Tate (or her editor) delivers.

Although there are snippets of detail the bigger picture of conte
Nov 07, 2014 Nat rated it really liked it
Shelves: biogs
I found the lives of the prostitues of Soho in the 1940s fascinating. This was a book full of love but also full of passion and agression. I was relieved at the conclusion, although there is always sadness attached to these bios. I'd recommend it if you like reading real life stories with grit.
Sherry Mackay
Apr 09, 2015 Sherry Mackay rated it liked it
Interesting insight into 1940s London and the life of Soho prostitutes. Not sure how much the author whitewashed it but it seems surprisingly charming and her friend seems very happy as a hooker. I enjoyed it.
Feb 04, 2014 Angela rated it liked it
about halfway through I decided that this was reading like a list of incidents. Perhaps that's how memoirs generally read, I couldn't say. But, I still wanted to see how it finished up and was satisfied with a well rounded ending.
Interesting subject matter, and the circumstances of the author give an unusual insight into the Soho of the 50's and with it's comparison to present day.
Apr 02, 2015 Trudie rated it liked it
Interesting read although I found it a bit tough going at times, worth a read though.
Lorna Delayahu
Jul 23, 2015 Lorna Delayahu rated it really liked it
Not particularly well written, but a stonking read nonetheless, with just enough juicy details to be titillating without being too florid.
Aug 02, 2012 Anne rated it liked it
An interesting insight into the life of 'working girls' in 1940's Soho. An autobiographical account of a naive young woman who gets drawn into the world working as a maid for a couple of years, before moving on to become a painter. Nicely written, it conveys a good sense of the camaraderie, harshness, backstabbing and vulnerability of the women.
Oct 17, 2011 Kate rated it it was amazing
Loved it! An insightful glimpse in to this fascinating world. So glad Barbara Tate captured it all and tragic that she never got to see the success which I am certain this book will achieve. I particularly liked how much fun these ladies had in an arguably dark and unforgiving world. A rollercoaster of emotions, a really great read.
Jan 27, 2012 Carole rated it liked it
a true story by the author who was an artist but was caught up as a maid in Soho .
She is loyal to Mae and much revolves round the life of Mae and some of the other girls.
It took a while to get into and is not for the faint hearted.
Tiffany Stoneman
Mar 23, 2015 Tiffany Stoneman rated it really liked it
Hilarious and heartbreaking, this honest and open book lets us into a whole new world with tenderness and excitement.
Jan 11, 2012 Katrina rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A very honest book with a heart warming (sometimes gruesome!) account of what life was like for those girls post war. It was very eye-opening and captivating. I loved it, a page turner.
Dec 29, 2011 Julie rated it really liked it
Christmas present book. I enjoyed reading this, but its description of the lives of the working girls is not shocking as the blurb would have you believe. the ending is though.
Nov 05, 2011 Lucy rated it it was amazing
I loved this book and couldn't put it down. Found the end quite haunting but am so glad I had the chance to read about some remarkable characters from a bygone era.
Cameron Callaghan
Mar 04, 2012 Cameron Callaghan rated it it was amazing
A beautifully written account of a world I could not have imagined on my own. Without malice this woman wrote about how it was. Could not put it down.
Dec 12, 2012 Lisa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
i loved this book, Barbara Tate describes 1940's soho so well you feel like you are there and know the characters personally . well worth a read :)
Jun 30, 2013 Maria rated it liked it
Shelves: autobiography
Fascinating. What a life. It's amazing that Barbara Tate got this bird's eye view into the Soho underworld without getting damaged by it.
Andrew Scarsbrook
Apr 03, 2013 Andrew Scarsbrook rated it it was amazing
Best book I have read this year.. Really engaging with characters you bond too and locations you almost know (as a londoner)
Feb 28, 2015 Mandie rated it it was amazing
A friends boyf gave this to her for her birthday...........we were shocked its excellent loved it!
Sue Styant
Aug 12, 2013 Sue Styant rated it liked it
Non fiction story about prostitution in 1940's London, entertaining and an eye opener.
Mar 16, 2013 Haylee rated it really liked it
not sure what to put but i enjoyed but felt that it was boring at times.
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