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3.77  ·  Rating details ·  3,047 ratings  ·  97 reviews
The year is 1966, a time of innocence, possibility,and freedom. And for Atlanta, the country, and one woman making her way in a changing world, nothing will be the same . . .

After an airless childhood in Savannah, Smoky O'Donnell arrives in Atlanta, dazzled and chastened by this hectic young city on the rise. Her new job as a writer with the city's Downtown magazine introd
Paperback, 512 pages
Published May 24th 1995 by HarperTorch (first published May 1st 1994)
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Average rating 3.77  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,047 ratings  ·  97 reviews

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A young Irish Catholic woman moves from Savannah to Atlanta in 1966. She takes a job at a newspaper writing about issues in Atlanta's black community. The book is about the various cultural changes that happened in the 60's, while also being a coming-of-age story and romance.

I picked this up because it fit a task for a reading challenge, and didn't expect to like it very much, but I did.
Aug 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I loved the excitement Smoky felt about her first real job and the glamour of Atlanta at the beginning of this book. I could relate. I remember my first “real” job and how exciting it was to work “downtown”. And that song played through my head as I read the book. Siddons has been known to add a dark side to her novels, however, this one did not have it. It is an early work. Siddons sometimes gets a little too wordy and this was no exception. So, I just skimmed through some of the detail. I thin ...more
May 23, 2011 rated it liked it
I am a rabid fan of Anne Rivers Siddons, but I somehow never read Downtown. If I read it before, I recalled none of it. If I had I read it before I read Colony, I many never have read another book by this author.

There are moments in this novel that are so wonderful, but they are few. As always, the language is beautiful and intoxicating, but the story, for me, falls flat. It feels forced and contrived. It seems that Ms. Siddons was not the right person to tell this story of Atlanta in the late 1
Kerry Hennigan
Apr 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Re-visiting “Downtown” after many years reminds me, as if I need reminding, just how good a writer Anne Rivers Siddons is. This 1994 novel is her towering tribute to the city of Atlanta, to its famous city magazine and the editor and staff that made it landmark publication of the turbulent 60s in the South.

“Downtown” is fiction though, as is the magazine of the same name, its editor and staff, and her female protagonist, “Smoky” O’Donnell from Savannah. Smoky escapes the Irish enclave of her hom
When I first started reading Anne Rivers Siddons (a long time ago) this book stood out as my very favorite! The central character is wonderful! It is her "coming of age" story and I found it to be lovely and heartwarming. ...more
Claire Fullerton
Mar 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Downtown is, yet again, another Anne Rivers Siddons classic. In my mind, she's incapable of writing anything less. Masterfully and vividly set in mid-nineties sixties Atlanta, Siddons parallels the rise of the Southern city as it grows into its own through turbulent times, with the budding career of new arrival, journalist Smoky O'Donnell, who hails from an insular, Catholic community, among the Irish working-class of Corkie, which rests along the waterfront of Savannah, Georgia. Smoky is twenty ...more
Bob Walenski
Mar 25, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novel started slowly, but grew on me, and was most insightful by the conclusion. What started as a piece of fluff novel about a young girl starting her journalism career, also described perfectly the early days of the Civil Rights Movement as it changed and the turbulence of an entire decade of social change swept the nation. Soon all the figures at the magazine were engaged in more and more important issues as events changed.

The story was set in 1966-69 Atlanta at a new start up magazine
Ginny Thurston
Apr 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
I really related personally to this book. My first job out of college was in Atlanta in 1973... I even did a summer internship at the Constitution and Georgia State, so I knew the excitement of the specific places and the thrills and chills of being on your own for the first time. My mother was a journalist, so I related to that. The Vietnam Nam War was over by then and Civil Rights bill had been passed, but I knew those struggles from high school. I liked the complexity of the characters and th ...more
May 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
I think I read this book about six times as a teenager. I was obsessed with the 60s and wanted to be just like Smokey. So, this was a grown-up re-read for me and, I have to say, it held up. Knowing the story by heart meant I could skim some of the details, but I still felt immersed in the setting, as well as the atmosphere around Downtown Magazine and "Comfort's People." Though, now that I'm an adult, I'm less tolerant of Matt Comfort and his drinking and sexism. Anyway, this book remains one of ...more
Sep 04, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
Finished a few days ago.
Seemed mostly an exercise in self indulgence.
Much about what a special group of people, working for a city magazine, they were..but nothing to really make the reader feel it and agree.
Much about what an important time it was, and feeling so connected to ‘the movement’..but again no real depth in it.
It was like a lot (huge lot) of self indulgent surface chatter, with no meat behind it.
Aug 24, 2019 rated it it was ok
In the late fall of 1966, Smoky O’Donnell moves from her tight knit Irish Catholic community in Savannah to the big city of Atlanta to take a job as senior editor of Atlanta magazine. She soon meets wealthy Brad Hunt who wants to marry her and keep her out of harm’s way. At the same time she takes some assignments in sketchier neighborhoods accompanied by photographer, Luke Geary. I gave this only two stars because Smoky seemed a little too naive and her romance with Brad had no spark.
Chris C
Very refreshing and interesting read. You really learn to fall in love with the characters, become one of Matt Comfort's People, and you feel what they feel as the story progresses. This book sports some really progressive themes that make it feel like it was written more recently than it was. Worthy read. ...more
Judy Zell
Apr 06, 2020 rated it liked it
Lots of nostalgia for those of us who went to college in the 60's. Women trying to get established in journalism, almost like Mary Tyler Moore's show. Good info about the civil rights movement, but unfortunately, the story ends the day before Martin Luther King's assassination. Most of the romantic pairings didn't make much sense to me, either. ...more
May 20, 2017 rated it liked it
Very dated (not surprisingly), primarily of interest to those who lived through these experiences. Lots of great detail about sixties Atlanta. Well-written, but so far removed from present-day circumstances as to be hardly worth the read.
Jul 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
3.5 but rounding up because I love the descriptiveness of her writing. It was an interesting read against the backdrop of current racial unrest and am wondering how what, if anything, the author would have changed if writing it today.
Tiffany Manning
Nov 22, 2020 rated it liked it
I wasn't disappointed in the story although I thought the first few chapters were slow. I would recommend this book to the serious reader who wants to learn more about the realities of the racial divide in Atlanta and the south in the era of Kennedy and Johnson. ...more
Jan 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
An Atlanta based book during the 1960’s. A good story with interesting characters. Sorry when I turned the last page but would have liked a different ending.
Jan 19, 2019 rated it liked it
I would give this book 3.5 stars if I could. It was slow going until chapter 5. Smokey makes you fall in love with the characters.
Jackie Lyon
Oct 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful writing as always!
Nov 16, 2019 rated it liked it
Downtown magazine
Civil rights movement
Not to recommend to students, unfortunately
Lisa Tart
I love everything she writes, have read 1/2 dozen so far. She is very eloquent and descriptive-tells a great story-I reccomend her highly
Aug 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Reread after 20+ years and reminded again how much I loved it the first time. It's such a compelling, readable snapshot of an amazing moment in time. My favorite Rivers Siddons book. ...more
Feb 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Good story abou the 70s and civil rights movement. Loved the ending
Jan 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone who likes historical fiction
Recommended to Mary by: Bookmooch
The year is 1966, a time of innocence, possibility, and freedom. And for the city of Atlanta, Georgia, the country, and one woman making her way in a changing world, nothing will ever be the same.

After an airless childhood in Savannah, Maureen 'Smoky' O'Donnell arrives in Atlanta, a naive young woman, dazzled and chastened by this hectic young city on the rise. Even though Smoky has to literally earn her wings as a female reporter on the staff of the male-dominated magazine, she gains membershi
Oct 09, 2010 rated it liked it
Smoky O'Donnell, a small town southern Catholic girl in the 1960's, accepts a job as layout editor for the newly published "Downtown" magazine, put out by the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce. Her strict parents allow her to go only on the condition that she live in a convent that takes in boarders and that she live the conven¬tional life of a sheltered religious girl of her time. But the staff of "Downtown" is not like this they work all hours, go out together to eat and drink a lot, and meet and in ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Brian Bixler
Oct 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
On the recommendation of a friend and because Siddons is fast becoming a favorite author of mine, I checked this 1994 book out of the library. It has a different tone than some of her other books, but the storytelling is no less captivating.
Petula Clark's catchy pop song of the same title will resound through the reader's mind as Siddons rolls out a story of a scrappy bunch of journalists who make a name for themselves and Atlanta's Downtown magazine at the height of the Civil Rights movement. T
May 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This was a different type of book for this author - at least it seemed so to me. Set in Atlanta during the 60's, a time of cultural upheaval, it is a coming of age story that really spoke to me. It so poignantly captured the hero worship of youth, the searching after a family of the heart when one's biological family seems unsatisfactory, that shining time when all comes together and one rides the wave in triumph and glory, and the inevitable change, passing and end of it all. As I grew older I ...more
Jun 29, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, usa
Maureen O'Donnell, known as Smoky, moves from Savannah to Atlanta to accept a position with a new magazine called Downtown published by the Chamber of Commerce. Raised Catholic, her parents only let her go if she promises to board at a convent. But she quickly gets absorbed into the lives of the magazine staff and moves in to an apartment with one of the other women and going out to eat and drink with the other staffers. Her position provides opportunity to meet a wide range of people - from th ...more
Jun 14, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've attempted to read a couple of Siddons's books that I just could not get into. I also started and finished Peachtree Road a few years back, but I found it unnecessarily long and horribly depressing. But Downtown was far better. It's supposed to be about Smoky, but I really thought the city of Atlanta was the real lead character of this book. I loved the journalism setting and I also loved the 1960s era. I do find Siddons to be too wordy, but that didn't take away from the story. It was still ...more
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Born Sybil Anne Rivers in Atlanta, Georgia, she was raised in Fairburn, Georgia, and attended Auburn University, where she was a member of the Delta Delta Delta Sorority.

While at Auburn she wrote a column for the student newspaper, The Auburn Plainsman, that favored integration. The university administration attempted to suppress the column, and ultimately fired her, and the column garnered natio

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