The Characters that filled the pages of the three earlier Tales Of The City books with love and laughter are at it again, as an ordinary househusband and his ambitious wife discover there's more to making a baby than meets the eye. Unexpected help arrives in the form of a British Monarch, a grieving gay neighbour and an international ring of mail order brides. Armistead Maupin has written a comedy of manners for our times.
The story begins in a limousine in San Francisco with two characters named Elizabeth and Philip, it soon becomes apparent that this is none other than our own queen and husband visiting San Francisco . The queen is not a main character in the book but a running theme throughout.
The story is set in 1983 (when our queen did indeed visit San Francisco on the Royal Yacht Britannia).
Covering the Queen's visit for the local news station is Mary Ann Hawkins. Mary Ann and her husband Brian live in an apartment in a house owned by Mrs Madrigal (who used to be a Mr) and in the apartment downstairs lives their close friend Michael Tolliver (or Mouse as some of his friends call him). All of the residents of the house on Barbury Lane are suffering in one way or another. Michael is grieving after his lover, Jon died of AIDS some months before. Mrs Madrigal is missing her daughter, Mona and hasn't a clue of her whereabouts. Brian feels like he isn't good enough for his wife as she's successful and he's a waiter but he also wants a baby. Mary Ann is a career girl but wants to have a baby to please her husband, she has stopped taking the pill without telling him but nothing happened so she had his sperm tested without his knowledge only to discover he is infertile and now she doesn't have a clue how to break the news.
After discussing her problems with her old pregnant school pal, Connie, Mary Ann decides to tell Brian the truth, then she meets and English guy in a bar who is a slightly better looking version of her own husband. Mary Ann befriends the guy, Simon Bardill and hatches a plan in her mind. Simon is oblivious to this he has his own problems having just abandoned his Officer's post on the royal yacht Britannia.
In the meantime we meet Mrs Madrigal's absent daughter Mona. She is living in Seattle and being chased for money from several sources then out of the blue she is offered and opportunity to change her life and she decides to take it. (Sorry I can't tell you what it is as it would be a major spoiler)
Simon decides he'd like to stay in San Francisco for a while and it's decided that he and Michael should swap apartments with Michael going to stay in Simon's flat in Notting Hill Gate, London for a few months.
When in London Micheal befriends a 16 year old gay boy named Wilfred. Wilfred and his alcoholic, abusive father are squatters in the flat above. Michael spots Mona in London and he and Wilfred start doing some detective work to track her down, in between visits from Simon's nanny, and it leads them one a new adventure.
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 briefly as a reporter for a newspaper in Charleston, South Carolina, before being assigned to the San Francisco bureau of the Associated Press in 1971. The climate of freedom and tolerance he found in his adopted city inspired him to come out publicly as homosexual in 1974. Two years later he launched his "Tales of the City" serial in the San Francisco Chronicle, the first fiction to appear in an American daily for decades.
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 novels in the Tales series. The Night Listener became a feature film starring Robin Williams and Toni Collette.
Maupin lives in San Francisco with his husband, Christopher Turner.
Babycakes is frome the Tales Of The City series.
I got this book from a book swap website. I had never heard of Armistead Maupin before or Tales Of The City and I only picked this novel because it sounded quite funny.
When I realized that Babycakes was from a series of novels I thought that I wouldn't be able to understand it but I was pleasantly surprised it seems that you don't have to have read the rest of the series or read them in any order to be able to understand what's going on, although some of the characters are the same it seems the stories (or tales) are completely seperate and individual.
Although set in 1983 the book was first published in 1986. The book contains issues of the day, controversy surrounding AIDS, at the time everybody thought that this was a gay disease and even Micheal refers to it as , 'an epidemic amongst gay men'. There is also other things in the novel that shows how much times have changed , like two gay character being told their kind isn't wanted in a cafe, things that wouldn't happen now (or at least not as far as know). Apart from this the novel still seems fresh and not at all dated despite being over 20 years old.
All the characters in the book are quite lovable except for one, in my opinion (although I think the reader is still supposed to like her) I found Mary Ann quite hard to like, her actions in th book are quite deceitful, and without spoiling the ending for people, i'd say she was too easily forgiven.
There are quite a few story lines going on in the novel but it's till very easy to keep up with it all, there is never a dull moment and everything is tied up nicely at the end.
This really is an enjoyable read, very amusing and although it touches on serious subjects it manages to remain light hearted. The book does contain sex, drugs and bad language so it may not be to everybody's taste. I'll be looking into getting my hands on more of Maupin's novels.
Price rrp £5.99
At the moment it's available on Amazon for 1p