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A Tender Thing

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  241 ratings  ·  50 reviews
An exhilarating debut novel set under the dazzling lights of late 1950s Broadway, where a controversial new musical pushes the boundaries of love, legacy, and art.

Growing up in rural Wisconsin, Eleanor O'Hanlon always felt different. In love with musical theater from a young age, she memorized every show album she could get her hands on. So, when she discovers an open call
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published April 7th 2020 by G.P. Putnam's Sons
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Average rating 3.79  · 
Rating details
 ·  241 ratings  ·  50 reviews

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Ellen Gail
3.5 stars, but rounding up for unpredictability and originality.

I'm a bit mystified this hasn't been more widely read! As of this writing, only 202 other Goodreaders have read it. And it came out in April 2020, aka peak quarantine for a lot of people. It has all the elements of a bestseller; a historical fiction (1958, best I can tell) about a rural Wisconsin girl who is mesmerized by the thrill of Broadway and moves to the city to chase her big break, only to face fear and challenges she never
Jan 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
A Tender Thing starts out as a traditional tale of a girl with a big singing voice who is enamored with Broadway musical theater and escapes her boring life on a Wisconsin farm heading to New York City in search of fame on the Great White Way. A good premise for an enjoyable book but what transpires is much more complex as Eleanor O'Hanlon meets Don Mannheim, a star composer who is taken by her innocence and determination. She is given the lead in his new musical, "A Tender Thing," which is a lo ...more
Karen M
Mar 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
Think All About Eve, A Star Is born, 42nd Street and picture that girl pulled out of the chorus or standing at the stage door in the rain and you have an idea of what the beginning of the book is about. Eleanor from Wisconsin gets her big break on Broadway. That’s really a simplification of the start of this book but those were the movies going though my mind as I was reading.

This book is about so much more than just Eleanor and her burning desire and unfounded belief that she is destined to sta
Feb 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book deals with a lot of topics that came together beautifully. Set in the 1950’s Eleanor has aspirations to be on Broadway and when an opportunity arises she takes it. She’s a small town gal in the big city of lights, with views she’s not accustomed to, such as, diversity & racism, and work ethics. A good read! Thanks to the publisher for this ARC via Goodreads. This is my honest review.
As a theatre lover, this book hit so many heart strings. I was so excited to read a historical fiction novel about Broadway and New York in the 1950s. It was right up my alley in terms of history and subject matter. It had all of the behind the scenes stuff that I love. It was full of glamour and glitz and drama. I enjoyed that part of the whole story most of all.

Eleanor was an intriguing character and I liked following her story. However, there were many times that I wanted to shake her. Her na
Erin Merlo
Mar 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Historical fiction fans and musical lovers this is a book for you! A TENDER THING is a beautifully written story about a strong-willed midwestern gal who takes on life in NYC to follow her passion—life on the stage. Eleanor immediately felt like a close friend, and I could not put this book down. Full of heartbreak, hope, and love this is a book I won’t soon forget.
Shannon Kelly
Dec 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A TENDER THING is a compelling, page-turning, and thought-provoking read that I devoured in two thoroughly enjoyable sittings. I love musical theater but I'm not very knowledgeable about its history, and this novel provides a fascinating peek behind the curtain (forgive the pun) of how productions come together and the New York City ecosystem they inhabit. It also tells a deeply human story about difference and privilege with nuance and care. And it ALSO hooks you with relationships—between fami ...more
Rose Bisogno
Nov 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Miss Neuberger's debut novel is a delight to read. A thoughtful journey that carefully depicts a young woman's journey to star on Broadway, the highs, the lows, the exciting adventure of finally living your dream, as well as the great disappointments when the reality of those dreams inevitably rears its head. ...more
Rachel Tambornino
Jan 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
As a theater lover and a farm girl from Wisconsin I could relate with this book on many levels. I loved the characters and their budding relationships.
Susie Dumond
Mar 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
When an open call is posted to audition for a famous Broadway composer, Eleanor flees her home on a pig farm in Wisconsin for the bright lights of 1950s New York City. She lands a role in a controversial, integrated new musical that is sure to raise eyebrows. And between protests of the show and becoming the composer’s muse, Eleanor questions her own views of the world and the theatre.

As a musical theatre fan, I really enjoyed this story and the atmospheric setting. Eleanor is a great protagonis
Caleb Graham
Jan 29, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: finer-things-21
What a ride!
This books wasn’t what I expected.
I thought it was going to be a light-hearted rom-com, but oh my goodness it was SO MUCH MORE, and I thoroughly enjoyed the journey on which I was taken.
I love the author’s dedication to inclusion and diversity as well as getting SO MANY THINGS right in the theater world. I was glad to know she had a history with musical theater because it shows!
So much of this story, even though it takes place in the 50’s, is unfortunately still relevant today.
Christina (A Reader of Fictions)
Set in 1950s Broadway in the era of the musical, I expected this story to be ABOUT Broadway, but it's actually a commentary on racism and sexism in the United States and particularly upon white fragility.

The commentary itself is effective, with Charles, Eleanor's black co-star regularly having to explain to her what it's like to be a black man and why the relationship covered by the musical of a black man and white woman would be difficult nigh impossible. In response, Eleanor's guilt often mak
Apr 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Thank you Putnam for an arc of this magical book.

Gosh, I don’t even know where to begin. From an overarching theme of celebration of our differences and what makes us human to magical precision that the author used to describe the universe that is live theater. This book made my heart feel at home.
Kathy McC
Aug 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
While this book had its flaws, I enjoyed it. It was well developed historic fiction about one of my favorite eras. I did enjoy the references to a variety of wonderful musicals.
Kim McGee
Feb 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
A naive farm girl from Wisconsin runs away to New York to make it big on Broadway but instead of landing the lead role in the next Rogers and Hammerstein she is given the lead in the most controversial play Broadway has ever seen. This scenerio could happen today but this story takes place in the 1950's and the show that Eleanor lands the lead in is a love story between a white girl and a black man and they do more than hold hands on stage, igniting deep seated racial tensions. She must not only ...more
Emily Neuberger
Apr 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
Shelves: favorites
I mean, I thought it was great!
Apr 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Emily Neuberger has written a polished and quietly powerful novel of historical fiction in A Tender Thing. Built around the idea of a young actress and singer who leaves the Midwest to try to become a Broadway star in the 1950s, the novel's skillful take on the racism of the era is deftly woven through the story. Eleanor O'Hanlon has grown up with one true love in her life- musical theater. After traveling to NYC with her lifelong friend Rosie and attending several auditions, she captures the ey ...more
Chris Kennelly
Jan 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
I found this ARC at the independent bookstore where I volunteer, and I immediately took it. It’s set on Broadway in the 1950s. Need I say more. 😉
Reading Mama
Apr 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
I stayed up until 3 in the morning finishing this beautiful story. Eleanor is a young woman who lives on a pig farm, when she decides to cash in her parents' war bonds for a one way ticket to New York to try to make it as an actress. She gets cast in an extremely controversial Broadway show- her character, Molly, a white woman, falls in love with Luke, a black man. The story follows not only her journey in New York, but also their journey as they prepare for this show, while fighting the racism ...more
Karlie Schaefer
Apr 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
"The world makes you earn your happiness"

A Tender Thing is an extremely engaging novel. In all honesty, I would have never picked this book up to read if I hadn't been given an advanced reader copy of it, but I was pleasantly surprised. I really enjoyed it even though I'm not into musical theater or intrigued much by the 1950s. Emily Neuberger is a really captivating writer. I kept wanting to read one more chapter, then one more chapter, instead of going to sleep. I liked the growth of the main
Mickey McIntosh
Aug 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Elenour loves the theater and music. So much so she leaves her small town in Wisconsin to audition for a play in New York. The play is about a love affair between a black man and a white woman. Set in the 1950s as the civil rights movement was beginning, the play immediately captures attention and controversy. Set against the New York theater and cultural scene of the 1950s, Elenour learns more about race relations and life than she was planning. This is a great story about following your dreams ...more
Jun 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020
A great story. The ending fell a little flat. 4/5 stars.
Jun 04, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A solid 3.5 for me. In the first couple chapters, it feels like a Cinderella story. Eleanor, a farm girl from 1950's Wisconsin; becomes enchanted by musicals, and with the help of a music store clerk, lands in an open call for a new show in New York. She gets the part in the musical A Tender Thing, and has to juggle the new challenges and responsibilities of being an ingenue, and having to manage being in a show about an interracial relationship.

Until the show previews in Boston, this book chugs
Caleb Hoyer
Apr 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I was probably predisposed to like this book. It's about an idealistic young person from the midwest who loves musical theater and dreams of working on Broadway. I was an idealistic young person from the midwest who loved musical theater and dreamed of working on Broadway. But even with that predisposition aside, this book moved me and thoroughly entertained me. It begins almost as a fairy tale. The protagonist, Eleanor, is extremely likable and easy to root for, and when she impulsively moves t ...more
May 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
Book Review: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫/5⠀

Ms. Neuberger - you are a literary genius. A Tender Thing is an absolute GIFT. I feel honored to have read it. ⠀

This dazzling debut novel (debut!? WOW) is set in the late 1950s on Broadway where a controversial new musical pushes the boundaries of love, legacy, and art.⠀

I was so, so drawn into this novel. I felt like I was put into the story line by the author so that I was able to have the truest experience possible. I am a sucker for anything 50’s and Broadway relat
Courtney Halverson
Oct 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 31, 2020 rated it did not like it
Shelves: did-not-finish
This takes place in the 1950s, right? And Eleanor is 21, right? Television in that era was just starting to become popular. So how could Eleanor, as a baby, be enchanted by commercial jingles on television when likely at the time of her babyhood, television was also in its infancy? She would've been born in the 1930s and while television existed then, it was very different than it is now. Plus not many people would've had a tv in the Depression era. Considering that her parents were on a farm in ...more
Valerie Kerwin
Aug 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I forgot what I wrote 5 min. ago when it disappeared. Usually l like short books but this time I wanted to know what happens next, so read it quickly. It could have gone on and on to me. The times in the fifties was way people were more shocked by an inter-racial relationship. By the 70's this might have been a great hit. So the timeline made a huge difference then and now. I liked that she and her costars became good friends and her friend came back to NYC after going back to Wisconsin. I just ...more
Jessica C
Aug 27, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I went into this book with very high expectations because I’m a sucker for any traditional tale of a girl leaving behind her small town life for a shot at fame. This book puts a twist on all those old tropes and ends up being more about racism than sexism which is sadly always relevant. I loved the characters and story, it all wrapped up nicely, and it was a mesmerizing peek into 1950s Broadway, which I was not very familiar with.

Maybe if I was a bigger lover of musical theater, I’d be more wil
Apr 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: amazon-reviewed
A Tender Thing by Emily Neuberger is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in late April.

There's a very salt-of-earth, humble beginnings to rise in fame feel to it, alongside Neuberger’s ode to showtunes and old Broadway. It's a story so often told, but the detailed writing style keeps you on track and interested. Eleanor is portrayed a formidable, natural singer in New York from Wisconsin on audition. Mannheim introduces the musical of this book’s title to her and chooses her as the lead female ro
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