The Manhattan Girls
Grade : A-

Gill Paul’s multi-faceted look at a group of world-shaking real life female best friends whose wit, skill and wisdom will change countless lives definitely has a lot of pep. The Manhattan Girls sports snappy dialogue and a fun sense of time and place.

New York City, 1920. Reviewer, poet and satirist Dorothy Parker has a number of friends from all walks of life in addition to those who make up the viscous circle at the Algonquin Round Table. There’s Jane Grant, The New York Times’ first female reporter-at-large, who will go on to found The New Yorker; Winifred Lenihan, voted one of the most beautiful women on the stage, who gains theatrical fame for her role as Saint Joan of Arc, and Peggy Leach, who dreams of fame as a novelist while working her day job as an assistant.

Dorothy struggles with alcoholism, depression and her unstable marriage, while Jane maintains her romantic partnership with Harold Ross. Both Dorothy and Jane are members of the Lucy Stoner society and prefer to keep both their independence and their last names. Winifred, meanwhile, must dodge untoward advances while trying to establish a directing career for herself in radio. Peggy climbs the ranks at her job and falls in love for the first time. Along the way, all four women have each other’s backs.

The publisher’s blurb labels The Manhattan Girls a Roaring Twenties version of Sex and The City, but I disagree; it’s more like a solid women’s novel with lots of very serious, very dramatic plot developments. Be forewarned, however, that there is nothing light about it. All of the women – from what I can grasp via reading biographies – are accurate to their true personalities, and many of the things that happen to them in the book happened to them in real life.

You will find it hard to like Dorothy. Her rapier-sharp snark can be fun, but only in small doses and not when it’s directed at people you like. This gets balanced out by making her melodramatically, if not self-pityingly, vulnerable. Self-possessed Jane, innocent Peggy, and world-weary Winifred all contribute something new to the story as well as relief from Dottie’s melodrama. The research is impeccable.

On the downside, the dialogue suffers from occasional bouts of ‘As You Know, Bob’ syndrome, though it never feels truly clunky. That’s the biggest flaw The Manhattan Girls sports. Otherwise, it rolls and rollicks like a party at a good speakeasy that you’ll never want to see come to an end.

Note: The book contains on-page depiction of a nervous breakdown, a back alley abortion, a suicide attempt, domestic violence, and rape.

Buy it at: Amazon, Audible or your local independent retailer

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Reviewed by Lisa Fernandes

Grade: A-

Book Type: Historical Fiction

Sensuality: Warm

Review Date : August 16, 2022

Publication Date: 08/2022

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Lisa Fernandes

Lisa Fernandes is a writer, reviewer and recapper who lives somewhere on the East Coast. Formerly employed by and Next Projection, she also currently contributes to Women Write About Comics. Read her blog at, follow her on Twitter at or contribute to her Patreon at or her Ko-Fi at
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