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Tales of the City #1-3

28 Barbary Lane

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Armistead Maupin's uproarious and moving Tales of the City novels—the first three of which are collected in this omnibus volume—have earned a unique niche in American literature and are considered indelible documents of cultural change from the seventies through the first two decades of the new millennium.

“These novels are as difficult to put down as a dish of pistachios. The reader starts playing the old childhood game of 'Just one more chapter and I'll turn out the lights,' only to look up and discover it's after midnight.”—Los Angeles Times Book Review

Originally serialized in the San Francisco Chronicle, Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City (1978), More Tales of the City (1980), and Further Tales of the City (1982) afforded a mainstream audience of millions its first exposure to straight and gay characters experiencing on equal terms the follies of urban life.

Among the cast of this groundbreaking saga are the lovelorn residents of 28 Barbary Lane: the bewildered but aspiring Mary Ann Singleton, the libidinous Brian Hawkins; Mona Ramsey, still in a sixties trance, Michael "Mouse" Tolliver, forever in bright-eyed pursuit of Mr. Right; and their marijuana-growing landlady, the indefatigable Mrs. Madrigal.

Hurdling barriers both social and sexual, Maupin leads them through heartbreak and triumph, through nail-biting terrors and gleeful coincidences. The result is a glittering and addictive comedy of manners that continues to beguile new generations of readers.

869 pages, Kindle Edition

First published October 19, 1989

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About the author

Armistead Maupin

107 books1,694 followers
Armistead Maupin was born in Washington, D.C., in 1944 but grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina. A graduate of the University of North Carolina, he served as a naval officer in the Mediterranean and with the River Patrol Force in Vietnam.

Maupin worked as a reporter for a newspaper in Charleston, South Carolina, before being assigned to the San Francisco bureau of the Associated Press in 1971. In 1976 he launched his groundbreaking Tales of the City serial in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Maupin is the author of nine novels, including the six-volume Tales of the City series, Maybe the Moon, The Night Listener and, most recently, Michael Tolliver Lives. Three miniseries starring Olympia Dukakis and Laura Linney were made from the first three Tales novels. The Night Listener became a feature film starring Robin Williams and Toni Collette.

He is currently writing a musical version of Tales of the City with Jason Sellards (aka Jake Shears) and John Garden (aka JJ) of the disco and glam rock-inspired pop group Scissor Sisters. Tales will be directed by Jason Moore (Avenue Q and Shrek).

Maupin lives in San Francisco with his husband, Christopher Turner.

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5 stars
846 (54%)
4 stars
488 (31%)
3 stars
182 (11%)
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31 (1%)
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13 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 113 reviews
Profile Image for Tony.
Author 9 books8 followers
March 20, 2017
I've lost track of how many times I've bought and read these books.Tales of the City stills stands as one of my all time favourite books; I read it about every other year. The first three books of this nine book series are pretty fast and furious. Not only do the books delve into the lives of the inhabitants of 28 Barbary, but all three have an undercurrent of crime that I enjoy. I highly recommend these books to queers in their 20's who want to know what it was like to be gay in the 70's and 80's. The books are perfect time capsules of the time. I'm always surprised by how much I enjoy Further Tales of the City; you would expect the series to start to feel long in the tooth by the third book, but Maupin manages to heighten the tension just enough for you to fall in love with his characters all over again.
Profile Image for Moira Clunie.
46 reviews19 followers
April 2, 2010
a review from the l.a. times compared the experience of reading these books with eating a bowl of pistachios - they're as hard to put down & each whets your appetite for the next. the third book kept me awake for hours until i'd finished it & some of the more intense plot points that i won't spoiler here were safely resolved.

i didn't know san francisco in the seventies, but found the writing evocative even of my more recent time there (where i bought this book at one of many amazing second-hand bookshops). spare but full of hinted-at description. i love how the gossipy storylines emerge slowly sometimes, so that you've guessed long before the characters find out, and sometimes drop suddenly out of nowhere. & i love the characters and their dramas and i'm so glad there is another volume of these stories to read.
Profile Image for Greg.
1,808 reviews18 followers
March 5, 2021
I just finished "Babycakes" (4th in the series) and was so surprised as I found it very good. As far as the first 3 in the series, I liked them (#1-3 stars, #2-3 stars, #3-2 stars) but was a bit disappointed as I found the writing uneven and sometimes forced. (And I thought one revelation in #3 bordering on preposterous.) I'm glad I'm returning to Barbary Lane though as the author shows much improvement, especially in the overall storyline and pulling it all together.
Profile Image for Elizabeth.
72 reviews7 followers
September 16, 2007
I'm so addicted, I can't put it down. It would have been torture to only be able to read one column a day. I plowed through the first two Tales in just a couple of days while on vacation, and now I'm working on the third volume. And I know I'm very late to join the Maupin bandwagon, but I wasn't born yet so what can I say. He has a brilliant way of capturing characters in just a few words; I can perfectly imagine each of them and all their eccentricities in my mind.

I can see how this column would have been like the Sex and the City of its time, with its honest and uncensored look at life in late '70s San Francisco. It makes me want to move to the city by the bay even more...
Profile Image for Leah K.
673 reviews2 followers
July 5, 2019
This is a hard one to rate since it contains the first three books of the Tales of the City series. I found the first book fairly slow but that picked up in the second and third book. I ended up falling in love with the characters and loved reading their progressions through the books (and years). The issues of the times really show within. I really got caught up in the stories and the 880 pages seemed to pass quickly. I found some of the scenarios and coincidences a bit much at times but it did make things entertaining. Overall, a good read. I look forward to reading the other 6 books and to see how all the characters change.
Profile Image for Pauline.
33 reviews
March 29, 2022
Ça fait plaisir de voir une représentation de la communauté homosexuelle de l’époque mais j’aurais préféré plus de protagonistes femmes. Hâte de lire la suite! Ça reste quand même un genre d’humour que j’apprécie puis j’aime beaucoup le format des chroniques.
40 reviews
April 23, 2008
Armistead Maupin's uproarious and moving Tales of the City novels—the first three of which are collected in the is omnibus edition—have earned a unique niche in American literature, not only as matchless entertainment, but as indelible documents of cultural change in the seventies and eighties.

When originally serialized in the San Francisco Chronicle, Tales of the City (1976), More Tales of the City (1977) and Futher Tales of the City (1982) afforded a mainstream audience of millions its first exposure to straight and gay characters experiencing on equal terms the follies of urban life.

Among the cast of this groundbreaking saga are the lovelorn residents of 28 Barbary Lane: the bewildered but aspiring Mary Ann Singleton, the libidinous Brain Hawkins; Mona Ramsey, still in a sixties trance, Michael "Mouse" Tolliver, forever in bright-eyed pursuit of Mr. Right; and their marijuana-growing landlady, the indefatigable Mrs. Madrigal. Hurdling barriers both social and sexual, Maupin leads them through heartbreak and triumph, through mail-biting terrors and gleeful coincidences. The result is a glittering and addictive comedy of manners that continues to beguile new generations of readers.
Profile Image for Etain Ryan.
100 reviews2 followers
January 12, 2020
I am always looking for lgbtq+* fiction and so when I heard the new Netflix series was based on a book series I immediately got a copy. I really enjoyed it. It felt like a queer soapy drama with all sorts of intrigue and scandals going on. It is pretty dated in terms of phrases and references as it was originally written in the 1970's. Needless to say there are some pretty problematic moments which were a sign of the times of when it was written but if you can get over that want a good easy read with fun apologetic lgbt characters living it up then this is for you.

I still have not watched the show as I want to finish the third book in the series before I do. Interested to see how a contemporary queer writers room have taken up the world of Barbary Lane.
Profile Image for Melody.
2,629 reviews262 followers
November 3, 2007
I used to read the Tales of the City books over and over when I lived in Ohio. They were a talisman for me of the life I wanted, the characters then about 10 years older than I. I haven't read them again since Ohio, and in the interim I did live in The City for a while so I had a sense of place this time that was missing from my earlier reads. This re-read was bittersweet on many levels but it still felt a lot like coming home. If you want an objective review, you'll have to go elsewhere. I love these people.
24 reviews
May 25, 2007
As a required text for english my sophomore/junior year of high school, this book sparked my interest in reading for fun. With each storyline, I found myself unable to put Tales of the City down. I suggest this book to anyone who wants to get lost in a good book. Enjoy!
Profile Image for Mark.
Author 7 books2 followers
June 17, 2019
Back in the day I read the original books, now as a compendium I have once again enjoyed all three and have moved on to the next compendium.
I love these books.
Profile Image for V. Briceland.
Author 5 books65 followers
August 6, 2019
My nostalgia for Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City series was stoked once again by the recent revival of the adaptation on Netflix. On a reread of the first three books, however, a few flaws become apparent.

The initial entry in the series is fun and feels pleasurably voyeuristic on the hijinx of the down and out and rich and famous both . . . but Tales of the City is honestly not as well-written as later installments. Maupin relies heavily on chunks of dialogue without much exposition or inner reflection; the character development is thin. More Tales is fleshed out to a fuller extent, but so much of the action takes place either on Mary Ann and Michael's cruise, or Mona's adventures in Winnemucca, that it hardly feels like it's 'of the City' at all. It's not really until Further Tales that the series comes into focus, and Maupin seems to grasp his authorial strengths.

As a lifelong Dickens fan, I'm totally willing to accept Maupin's often outrageous coincidences that cause his characters to cross paths. What I find less comfortable, though, is how Maupin divides his gay characters in these first three books into two broad camps—the good gays and bad gays. The bad gays are uniformly effeminate: they mince about and use campy language, address each other with effete pronouns such as 'she,' listen to ABBA, and make double-entendres worthy of Are You Being Served?'s Mr. Humphries. Maupin's A-List Gays, whom he dismisses entirely, and other ineffectual minor players are thus uniformly characterized. The author's pets, though, are unswervingly masculine and 'straight-acting,' and if they happen to do anything outrageous such as enter an underwear contest, at least they have the decency to regret it for several volumes.

Admittedly, decades have passed since these novels were initially released, and the LGBTQ population's policing of others' mannerisms has been increasingly left in the past—as have outdated nonchalance about child pornographers and casual institutionalized sexism. While parts of the first Tales trilogy may seem like relics from a time capsule, at least Maupin's primary characters are mostly as fresh and endearing as they were forty years ago.
Profile Image for Jays.
166 reviews
December 4, 2019
Total soap opera, but in the best kind of way. Fans of the PBS miniseries or the new Netflix limited series will find the first three volumes of the whole Tales of the City saga pretty much do exactly what it says on the tin. Every plot is intertwined, there's always some kind of gasp-worthy heel turn (He's really a P.I.! Cults! Jim Jones!), everyone finds themselves in and out of some larger plot twist. Maupin is a breezy writer, making even a 1,000 page book go remarkably quickly.

At the core, the reason for getting into these stories (and getting invested in these characters) is because he's so good at illustrating the concept of chosen family that is so essential to queer life. We feel it when Mrs. Madrigal, facing a potentially life-ending event, responds to the suggestion that somehow she'll be okay with, "Of course I will be; I'm with my family, aren't I?" referencing people she essentially barely knows. With a few small exceptions, every character relates far better to their Barbary Lane neighbors than they do their biological relatives. They've all come to this exotic place called San Francisco where no one is actually from but everyone ends up if they're the right kind of person and in doing so build a fantasy version of their lives.

That fantasy is actually why you want to keep reading. Though Tales of the City is technically realism, the San Francisco it is set in is more of a fairy tale country than a place that ever really existed, and not just because the bulk of the action in the first three novels all takes place entirely before the outbreak of the AIDS epidemic. It's charming, full of rogues and characters and kindly, welcoming landladies who draw you out of your shell with her marijuana garden and her caftans all the while only charging you a couple of hundred bucks per month for your one-bedroom apartment. It's a San Francisco that you want to move to, far removed from the current version or even the version that existed at the time. Add to it the utterly charming and slightly unbelievable characters that make up the world, and reading it can feel like a nice, warm bath.
38 reviews
June 24, 2022
Livre sympa, on se perd un peu dans l'avalanche personnages, heureusement ce n'est pas le cas dans les livres suivants, l'auteur a dû décider de rectifier cela, et on l'ne remercie :D
C'est plus un livre d'introduction/ présentation des personnages, l'histoire commence avec Mary-ann, nombriliste, sainte-nitouche, orgueilleuse etc, bref antipathique au possible, (je vous rassure cela disparait dans le tome 2) qui arrive à San Francisco qui est à l'opposé d'elle. Le choc des cultures est violent pour elle, et fatiguant pour moi comme lectrice, tant de négativité plombe l'histoire.
Et elle dénigre les autres personnages bien plus attachants qu'elle.
Heureusement Mouse éclaire le livre, tout comme Mme Madrigal, bref accrochez-vous le deuxième livre est une pépite! :)
Profile Image for Elizabeth Roberts-Zibbel.
Author 3 books2 followers
January 30, 2018
This was my third time through all the Tales of the City. I actually own them separately as ebooks, but reviewing and adding to my shelves seems easier in bulk. I always laugh out loud, and adore the characters. My second time was bc we were considering moving to SF. Third time after my daughter came out. Mouse, Maupin’s alter ego, is my favorite, but how can you not adore Anna Madrigal? I know the plots are crazy and rely on coincidence but I don’t mind that in these light, fun, impossible to put down stories. And while of course there was no Jim Jones double, it almost SEEMS plausible, and Maupin really did “date” Rock Hudson (in the book as “___________”).
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for silvia rozada.
22 reviews
August 16, 2022
Mary Ann s’installe au 28 Barburry Lane dans l’immeuble de Madame Madrigale.

Nous sommes dans les années 70 à San Francisco.

Elle y côtoie différentes personnes qui suivent leur propre cheminement personnel.

On y parle amour, vie quotidienne, travail et, tout ce fait sous un rythme effréné de dialogues dynamiques.

Les personnages sont hauts en couleur et plein de vie.

C’est une vraie joie de retrouver ce livre 20 ans après avoir lu tous les volumes de cette ‘Auberge espagnol’ où chacun vit à sa manière qui s’égrène au fil du temps.

Ce livre nous plonge dans une vie communautaire avec joie et bonne humeur. Et nous donne le goût du bonheur.

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Profile Image for Jinjer.
612 reviews3 followers
May 13, 2023
I read this collection of stories before I knew it was a famous collection of stories and before I knew that there was a TV series made in 1993. By now there's been a new series made in 2019. I see that I can watch the 1993 series with Olympia Dukakis on Tubi and the 2019 series with Laura Linney on Netflix. Awesome! It seems that the 2019 version is a sequel so I should watch the 1993 version first. There are two other series that came out in-between, from Showtime, but I guess they're hard to find.

At the time I read the book in 1997, it reminded me of a Melrose Place style saga about a bunch of people living in an apartment complex in San Francisco. "A good little soap opera."
39 reviews2 followers
February 13, 2018
Relecture assez agréable.
Les personnages ne me sont pas très sympathiques et sont un brin caricaturaux mais ça reste une lecture rapide et plaisante.
Je suis curieuse de connaître la suite des chroniques, mais j'ai pas vraiment été emportée par l'ambiance ou les personnages. J'ai surtout été contente que Mouse et Brian deviennent amis mais le reste des rebondissements m'a laissé assez indifférente.
Je pense que le côté très découpé du récit, s'il dynamise bien l'ensemble, participe à une mise à distance, un manque d'approfondissement des caractères et des intrigues.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Ron.
589 reviews
November 8, 2019
In his widely read "Tales of the City" Armistead Maupin writes of his adopted San Francisco and the eccentric and flamboyant people who captured world attention on a city long famous for it's off-beat life styles. Focusing on the interconnected lives of a group of both gay and straight boarders living at 28 Barbary Lane during the 1970's, Maupin takes his readers through a series of outrageous events that are both hilarious and thought provoking. This is a great read for people accepting of mankind's differences and their place in our ever changing culture.
March 23, 2023
This(these) novel(s?) are such a joy. They're light and breezy (I don't know if a 700-page book can be a "beach read" but it carries the same weight) and a true joy. I tend to sprinkle in "break" books between more challenging or dark novels that I'm reading, and this fits the bill nicely. The characters are well-rounded, their stories are engaging and the whole vibe of the world is decidedly wholesome-though I'm sure some of the themes would seem anything but to some of our friends in the middle of the country...
Profile Image for Cherie.
57 reviews7 followers
September 27, 2019
Over the summer I read all 9 books in this series. Having moved from the Bay Area two years ago to OR, these stories took me home--home to my friends, home to the original LGBTQ community of San Francisco, home to all the places familiar and loved. Armistad Maupin's writing was honest, humorous and filled with wonderful synchronicities. I imagined much of him in the character of Michael. Whether you are gay or straight, you will love his characters and their authenticity.
Profile Image for Shiv.
75 reviews54 followers
June 20, 2019
The first book started off slow and I felt like nothing too productive was happening, but as I continued reading the second and third books, it got better and better. I couldn't put it down. So many exciting things were happening. I loved each person's story at 28 Barbary Lane. I'm excited to read the next 3 books too.
Profile Image for Caroline F..
295 reviews4 followers
June 23, 2017

Ce n'est pas que je n'ai pas aimé, mais je ne me suis pas attachée aux personnages, et l'histoire ne m'a pas particulièrement passionnée. Je vais lire la suite en espérant m’intéresser un peu plus à tout ça !
Profile Image for Pan Ellington.
Author 2 books13 followers
December 31, 2017
unremarkable prose, read as a research exercise. brought me back, though, as these novels were some of the first lgbtq lit i ever read. and i will say his plot points and characters are ay plus. i also appreciate the way he locates his characters within the city and history.
62 reviews
January 23, 2018
I'm re-reading these books that I originally read many years ago. I fell in love with the characters then and still love them today. I plan to finish the entire Tales of the City series ... again. They are easy, light reads that still manage it hit your with an emotional punch.
Profile Image for Stephanie Fleming.
268 reviews2 followers
September 20, 2018
My favorite part of this collection was how the author took people from all walks of San Francisco life and intertwined their stories together. The dialogue was hard to follow at times, and it’s definitely a little racist and dated.
Profile Image for AnaisCouloigner.
293 reviews7 followers
October 28, 2018
Un petit air de la série Friends pour ce roman feuilleton qui nous plonge dans le San Francisco des années 1970. Une intrigue à tiroirs où on suit plein de personnages. Il faut suivre mais c'est très divertissant !
Profile Image for Ioana.
294 reviews12 followers
June 23, 2019
The shear uncomplicated nothingness of this... Breaking your hear, as they discard your expectations. The netflix series is so much better. Murray Bartlett redeems whatever needs redeeming in the book. First time for me, when the series is SO MUCH BETTER than the book.
8 reviews
August 15, 2019
Fun soap opera!

I can't believe I read three books (811 pages) in two weeks. The first three books are fun, silly, over the top, and at times a little "yeah right!" But you get sucked into the characters and their Dynasty/ Dallas story lines.
Profile Image for Scott Rice.
37 reviews1 follower
October 31, 2019
Armistead Maupin's Dickensian style and lovable characters draw you in and before you know it, you've breezed through a a whole other Chronicle of the residents of Barbary Lane. Makes me want to move to San Francisco!
Displaying 1 - 30 of 113 reviews

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