Author Name: Vanda
Publication Date: February 2, 2016
JULIANA, is Tales of the City, set in 1940s Greenwich Village instead of 1970s San Francisco. Gays and Lesbians hide in plain sight among straights who rarely notice them.
It’s 1941 and Alice Huffman, “Al,” comes from the potato fields of Long Island with her childhood friends to make it on the Broadway stage, only to find she has no talent. On the kids’ first day in New York City, they meet Maxwell P. Hartwell III, a failed nightclub owner and Broadway producer, who, according to Al, looks a little like Clark Gable. He invites them to a nightclub where Al hears Juliana, the glamorous, perpetually-on-the-brink-of stardom singer, for the first time. Al is instantly drawn to her and seeks her out. Juliana is a sexual risk-taker who easily reels in the mesmerized Al.
Through Juliana and Max Al is thrust into a world of “deviates” and “perverts” that she never before knew existed. Cameo appearances are made by Ethel Merman, Angela Lansbury, Lauren Bacall, Tallulah Bankhead and Walter Liberace.
Al, Aggie, Danny and Dickie leave their small country town to find adventure in New York city. They’ve been friends forever and plan to eventually have a double wedding and live happily ever after. Life has a way of upsetting the best laid plans though!
They are all theatre types and want to make it on Broadway. This brings them into contact with some showbiz folks and some very different lifestyles. Max has fingers in many pies and introduces Al (Alice) to Juliana, a heavenly creature with an amazing voice. Al is smitten but can’t work out why. Danny becomes involved with Max – but Max is involved with a lot of men. Once Al finds out Danny is gay he flees off to the war in the hope it will make a man of him. Al continues to bump into Juliana and their relationship becomes sexual but Al still won’t admit she is a lesbian. That was not a nice word in the 1940s.
The novel deals with a very difficult time for gay people – a time when they could be arrested, beaten, raped and ostracised by friends and family. I thought the writer dealt well with putting the reader right into that time. I was gripped by the story and found the lives of the characters fascinating and well written. I want to read more about these people; I want to find that they can lead fulfilling lives but I fear they won’t; I want them to be happy being gay. I look forward to the next installment.
I don’t normally read Historical books, romance or otherwise but decided it was time I branch out. I found the right branch with this book. While there were places it seemed to ramble on a little bit it made it back to the plot before it became too much to handle. The characters were decently developed and worked with and around each other well (even when they weren’t getting along). The conflicts (outward and internal) were believable enough for the era and I managed to follow along without any problems.
The author begins with a disclaimer about the language/words/phrases used in the book and readers would do well to remember it since things do get a bit colorful. I didn’t find anything outside what I would expect from something depicting the era however and it wasn’t overused or flaunted, simply placed where it would have been in normal conversation of the time. The reactions of friends to the ‘coming out’ of the main character were well handled and I had no trouble seeing them as acceptable for the time period (though mostly still upsetting no matter what decade they are set in).
As I’ve found normal there were a handful of errors which weren’t glaring enough to cause any issues with the readability of the book. The title would lead one to believe there will be a second volume as does the way this book ended. I would be very interested in reading another installment to find out what happens with the characters and their lives. Definitely one I would recommend once the entire story is available and can be followed from beginning to end in a smooth flow!