Mary Ann in Autumn

Armistead Maupin

Mary Ann in Autumn
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Mary Ann in Autumn

Armistead Maupin

Everything around her was familiar but somehow foreign to her own experience, like a place she had seen in a movie but had never actually visited. She had climbed these weathered steps - what? - thousands of times before, but there wasn’t a hint of homecoming, nothing to take her back to where she used to be. The past doesn’t catch up with us, she thought. It escapes us…‘ Mary Ann Singleton - as was - returns to San Francisco a very different person from when she left. Her career has faded away, her husband has run off with her own life coach and she faces invasive surgery for cancer. In such circumstances, there is only one person and one city she can turn to- Michael 'Mouse’ Tolliver, and San Francisco. Funny, charming, poignant, beautifully, effortlessly written, Mary Ann in Autumn embodies what has made the Tales of the City so popular over the past thirty years. It will delight Armistead’s legions of fans and introduce new readers to a world they will want to immerse themselves in.


It’s been 25 years since Mary Ann left for New York, swapping a rocky marriage and an adopted daughter for a career in television. Now at the age of 57 she returns, hat in hand, to San Francisco after her second marriage has gone awry and a cancer has been found in her uterus. So begins this latest instalment of the glorious Tales of the City chronicles.

Rabid fans of this series (of which I am unashamedly one) will be overjoyed to catch up with Tales regulars Michael ‘Mouse’ Tolliver, DeDe Halcyon-Wilson and the irrepressible Mrs Madrigal, who is now well into her eighties, as well as some new characters introduced in the seventh book Michael Tolliver Lives. As with the last book, we envision these characters’ lives once the dust of the 1980s has settled. After being cajoled into joining Facebook, Mary Ann is contacted by a stranger from the past claiming to have knowledge of events that only she is privy to. Meanwhile, her now-adult daughter, Shawna, befriends a mysterious homeless woman and Michael’s husband Ben keeps encountering an elderly man at the park who confides in him.

As with all of his soap-operatic gems, Maupin’s craft with dialogue, wit and the weaving of these disparate threads of plot and sub-plot is masterful and Mary Ann in Autumn is no exception. The only criticism I have is that the pay-off in this novel is somewhat reliant on characters and situations that were conceived in the first Tales of the City and readers of this chapter would benefit from reading it. But really, I’d use any excuse possible to re-read any of these novels. As with the others, as much as I wanted to savour Mary Ann in Autumn in bite-sized pieces, I guiltily consumed it in chunks.

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