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A vivid and compelling memoir recounting the real lives, loves and friendship of 1940s Soho and its working girls.

Barbara Tate was 17 when she heard the whispered word that would change her life: Soho. It would take four years for Barbara to escape her loveless home but when she finally made it to the forbidden streets of Soho – just as London was recovering from the trauma of the second world war – things would never be the same again.

There the naive Barbara meets the beautiful and capricious Mae. When she takes a job as Mae’s maid, Barbara imagines she’ll be housekeeping. But down a shabby backstreet, Barbara discovers the secret lives of Soho’s working girls.

An astonishing world full of fierce friendships and bitter rivalries, dangerous men and desperate measures, Barbara soon learns that taking the money from a staggering supply of punters and making copious amounts of tea are only the bare essentials. She will need to be nursemaid, protector and confidante to impossible, adorable, self-destructive Mae.


In this affectionate and witty memoir [Tate] tells of her brief foray into the fantastical, untamed and gaudy world of prostitution.
The memoir is beautifully written, occasionally rather shocking, but is hard to put down, and can be very funny indeed.
Readers of a shockable disposition should avoid this book - everyone else should rush out and buy a first edition. It is a jaw-dropping account of Soho prostitutes in the late 1940s - a world Barbara (Babs Tate) knew as she worked for one as her maid...She always said she wanted to paint one perfect picture before she died: she has certainly written one perfect book
Fascinating, heart-warming and a little bit shocking. I couldn't put this down
Katie Fforde
A truly fascinating, entertaining and heart-warming glimpse into some of Soho's most eccentric and outrageous characters
Her book acknowledges with humility and grace, as well as wit, how close she came to living the tough, funny and colourful but ultimately tragic life she describes
Not only is this memoir told with candour and compassion but it also affords a fascinating glimpse into a lurid byway of London's social history...Tate's memoir fizzes with anecdotes and the quality of her writing is superb