Fiona Davis is the nationally bestselling author of THE MASTERPIECE, THE DOLLHOUSE and THE ADDRESS. She began her career in New York City as an actress, where she worked on Broadway, off-Broadway, and in regional theater. After getting a master’s degree at Columbia Journalism School, she fell in love with writing, leapfrogging from editor to freelance journalist before finally settling down as an author of historical fiction. Visit her at http://www.fionadavis.net, facebook.com/FionaDavisAuthor/ and on Instagram and Twitter @fionajdavis.
The Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab
A USO Tour in Naples, Italy, 1945, brings entertainers Hazel Ripley and Maxine Mead to the same stage. For Hazel, this was an opportunity to be on stage while supporting her country and also honor her brother’s memory. Maxine, an aspiring Hollywood actress is in Italy hoping to live in the “real world” for a change. The girls become close friends, even though quite the opposites- “Hayseed Hazel” and a rising Hollywood star? This incongruous relationship continues after the war as the friends are rejoined when Maxine leaves Los Angeles to find Hazel at the Chelsea Hotel in New York City. Hazel-the playwright in residence, has been gathered into the loving bosom of the collective at the Chelsea- the left-wing organizers, the refugee families, and the creative artists; actors, musicians, designers, photographers. and especially Lavinia Smarts. Lavinia has used her influence to put Hazel in touch with a producer and director, who think she is the next Lillian Hellman. Hazel’s play, Wartime Sonata, inspired by her experiences as a USO tour performer, is being cast and will be performed on Broadway at the Biltmore Theater.
The United States was recovering from World War ll, but 1950 was the beginning of a period in the United States in which Cold War tensions fueled fears of widespread Communist subversion. Due to these fears many believed that spies had infiltrated the United States federal government, universities, film industry, and elsewhere. Fiona Davis puts this era right on center stage and the house lights shine brightly in the garrish faces of those involved in the House Un-American Activities Committee, HUAC. The Chelsea Girls brings a tumultuous time in our history to the forefront for younger readers who haven’t heard or read about the Hollywood Ten and “McCarthyism.” In between the accusations, subpoenas, and questioning, there’s a story of love and friendship, that will have your heart and mind switching sides several times.
The reader learns that on Broadway the reviewers dash out of a play to get their copy into the late edition of the newspapers. The producer waits for the papers and scans quickly in search for the theater section. The reviews are read and if he enters the after-party holding the issues above his head, then the champagne corks begin popping. If he tosses the papers into the trash and joins the party empty-handed then the party turns into a wake. The Grateful Reader would enter the party for The Chelsea Girls with “newspapers aloft!” Pour the champagne! Cheers to The Chelsea Girls!
Joseph Raymond McCarthy (November 14, 1908 – May 2, 1957) was an American politician who served as a Republican U.S. Senator from the state of Wisconsin from 1947 until his death in 1957. Beginning in 1950, McCarthy became the most visible public face of a period in the United States in which Cold War tensions fueled fears of widespread Communist subversion. He is known for alleging that numerous Communists and Soviet spies and sympathizers had infiltrated the United States federal government, universities, film industry, and elsewhere. Ultimately, the smear tactics that he used led him to be censured by the U.S. Senate. The term “McCarthyism”, coined in 1950 in reference to McCarthy’s practices, was soon applied to similar anti-communist activities.