The Manhattan Girls

It’s a 1920s version of Sex and the City, as Dorothy Parker—one of the wittiest women who ever wielded a pen—and her three friends navigate life, love, and careers in New York City.

New York City, 1921: The war is over, fashions are daring, and bootleg liquor is served wherever you go. It is here that four extraordinary women form a bridge group that grew into a firm friendship.

Dorothy Parker, renowned wit, member of the Algonquin Round Table, and more fragile than she seems. Jane Grant, first female reporter for The New York Times, who is determined to launch a new magazine. The Broadway actress Winifred Lenihan, beautiful, talented, and a casting-couch target. And Peggy Leech, magazine assistant by day, brilliant novelist by night.

Romances flourish and falter, while their goals sometimes seem impossible to reach, and their group friendship deepens against the backdrop of turbulent New York City, where new speakeasies open and close, jazz music flows through the air, and bathtub gin fills their glasses.

They gossip, they comfort each other, they offer support through the setbacks. But their biggest challenge is keeping their dear friend Dottie safe from herself.    

The Manhattan Girls
Published in the US and Canada on August 16th, 2022, and in the UK on August 18th, 2022.

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Manhattan Girls book cover

PRAISE for The Manhattan Girls

“The Manhattan Girls completely stole me away to The Algonquin, and the sparkling company of Dottie Parker and her girlfriends as they navigate life – and sex – in the city. Paul slips inside her characters brilliantly, blending fact and fiction so seamlessly it’s impossible to tell where one ends and the other begins. A total treat, full of friendship and heart, I loved it.”
Eve Chase, bestselling author of The Birdcage and The Glass House

“The Manhattan Girls is a stunning tour de force. A potent cocktail of brilliant characterization, pacy elegant writing & mesmerizing drama as four wildly clever, talented women negotiate the perils of Jazz Age New York. LOVED it! I have that feeling now that always marks a real winner of really missing it and wishing I could spend more time with the girls. Each character was so well-drawn and nuanced. It was emotional and utterly fascinating. The atmosphere of the time was so strong – I could smell the gin! I loved the fashions, the cleverness of the women, the friendships.” Tracy Rees, author of The Rose Garden

“The Manhattan Girls pulled me into the dazzling world of prohibition New York and didn’t let me go. At the heart of this glittering novel are four incredible women, following their dreams in this city of speakeasies, duplicity, and glamour; their stories, unforgettable personalities, and deeply moving friendship, make for an utterly brilliant, entirely compulsive read. It’s a seductive, heady triumph.” Jenny Ashcroft, author of Under the Golden Sun

“Gill Paul’s The Manhattan Girls brings to life four luminaries of the Jazz Age and the friendship that helped them wrestle their demons and achieve their dreams. Readers will root for the four women as they endure the darker side of the roaring twenties to help one another forge fascinating lives. It is a riveting novel about friendship’s power to carry women through the grand highs and heartbreaking lows of 1920s New York.—Georgie Blalock, author of The Last Debutantes

“If ever we needed escapism it is now and The Manhattan Girls does that perfectly, whisking you instantly away to the glittering world of 1920s New York where the cocktails run freely despite prohibition and four friends, including the brilliant but vulnerable Dorothy Parker, are negotiating the complexities of work and relationships. The story slips seamlessly between fact and fiction, evoking their world so wonderfully that you become totally immersed, only to look up with mild disappointment not to discover a martini on the table in front of you. A sparkling read, in so many ways!Liz Trenow, author of Searching for my Daughter

“Sizzling and compulsive. The bright young things glitter like diamonds and party like there’s no tomorrow. Four gifted young women are driven by ambition and the search for love, but beneath the shimmering surface lies loneliness and despair. Sometimes their friendship is the only thing which keeps them afloat. Meticulously researched and vividly imagined, Gill Paul expertly conjures the brilliant and brittle world of Dorothy Parker and her contemporaries.” Maggie Brooks, author of The Prisoner’s Wife

“In The Manhattan Girls, Gill Paul brings Dorothy Parker and her eclectic circle of friends roaring into life in a dazzling and daring novel which effortlessly transports the reader to Jazz Age New York. Oozing with passion and wit, and with Gill’s trademark talent for getting under the skin of her characters, this is a story for those who enjoy their novels with a side order of gin, jazz and sass. An absolute treat!” Hazel Gaynor, author of When We Were Young and Brave/Bird in a Bamboo Cage

“I loved this funny and moving novel about the bonds of friendship. Putting words into the mouth of the world’s wittiest woman is no mean feat, but I think Dorothy Parker would approve! The Manhattan Girls evokes all the glamour and excitement of New York in the Roaring Twenties, and at the same time highlights the private pain women faced as they struggled to be respected as equals in society.” Fiona Valpy, author of The Storyteller of Casablanca

“Well, I feel – closing the pages of this book – like I’ve just departed from friends. Good friends. Warm, witty, flawed, diverse friends, whose gossip and shenanigans I’ll sorely miss. Because Gill Paul is the MISTRESS of putting you right there in the company of her characters. She is also a magician when it comes to bringing real life historical characters to the page in her fiction, cleverly weaving fact in with what-might-have-beens. Dorothy Parker is a fascinating woman, and Gill adds to her story. This book is a real treat and I highly recommend.” Louise Beech, author of This is How we are Human

Reading Group Questions

  1. The novel opens with Jane phoning in a story to the New York Times. Why do you think the author chose to start with her rather than one of the other three women?
  2. Dottie is chaotic and frequently needs rescuing. Most of us know someone like that. Did you sympathize with her dramas, or did you want her to pull herself together, or both? How do you think she would have coped with social media had she lived a century later?
  3. What happened to Winifred at the audition with the unnamed theater director is reminiscent of stories emerging through the #MeToo movement of the 21st What are the differences between then and now?
  4. For the first half of the novel, Peggy is an observer, forming opinions on others, without much going on in her own life until she starts dating Alvan. Did you agree with her observations of the others?
  5. It’s a novel about friendship, with some characters better at it than others. What makes a good friend, in your opinion? Which of the four women would you most have wanted to be friends with?
  6. What do you think of the men in the novel? Do you sympathize with any of them? Was their bad behaviour a symptom of the times rather than their character flaws?
  7. There’s no doubt that Prohibition encouraged otherwise law-abiding folk to become criminals during the 1920s. Do you think it had a long-term effect on American attitudes to the law? Or to alcohol?
  8. What is the purpose of Elinor Wylie in the novel? Did she care about Dottie?
  9. Do you think all four characters changed, or learned something about themselves, during the course of the novel? Their story arcs are quite different. Did you identify more with one woman than the others?
  10. Would you like to have lived in 1920s New York, dancing to jazz, wearing flapper dresses, and drinking hooch in speakeasies? What were the downsides?