The Chelsea Girls by Fiona Davis

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Friendship and love at the Chelsea hotel.

This book was kindly provided to my by Edelweiss and Dutton in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis: From the dramatic redbrick facade to the sweeping staircase dripping with art, the Chelsea Hotel has long been New York City’s creative oasis for the many artists, writers, musicians, actors, filmmakers, and poets who have called it home—a scene playwright Hazel Riley and actress Maxine Mead are determined to use to their advantage. Yet they soon discover that the greatest obstacle to putting up a show on Broadway has nothing to do with their art, and everything to do with politics. A Red scare is sweeping across America, and Senator Joseph McCarthy has started a witch hunt for Communists, with those in the entertainment industry in the crosshairs. As the pressure builds to name names, it is more than Hazel and Maxine’s Broadway dreams that may suffer as they grapple with the terrible consequences, but also their livelihood, their friendship, and even their freedom.

Spanning from the 1940s to the 1960s, The Chelsea Girls deftly pulls back the curtain on the desperate political pressures of McCarthyism, the complicated bonds of female friendship, and the siren call of the uninhibited Chelsea Hotel.

Hazel Riley sounds like such a beautiful human being in this book. She decides to chase her dream, despite what her family thinks and her lack of resources. Hazel ends up at the Chelsea hotel, which Maxine Mead has talked about to her. There she becomes part of the community of residents that are living in the hotel. I found her story beautiful, and the strenght and resistance of her against the Red Scare is admirable.

Maxime Mead isn’t what you think she is, though I believe her friendship with Hazel is real. Being part of a group that eventually goes against her morals and managing to find her own way is impressive. Maxime and Hazel fit together, being different from each other and both on a different side of the stage. They seem to be complementary to each other and look like a team together. Unfortunately that’s not always something that stays.

The story is intriguing, following the development of the Red Scare and the ways that politics seems to mix with arts. The fighting against the Red Scare is suspenseful, being scared that everything will end up badly and everyone that will rebel is getting caught. How are they going to fight against a government?

This book is truly a story about friendship and it’s ups and downs. Following these friends during and post-war, in a time were politics are eager to keep the people calm after a war.

I gave this book 4/5 stars.

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