If you were a fan of Russell T Davies C4 series It’s A Sin this book is an absolute must read for you. The character of Jill Baxter is based on the real life hero Jill Nalder who had to suffer the loss of dozens of her friends in the West End acting community in the 80’s and 90’s. It is a heartwarming story of life and love and the horror of a disease that was being blamed on her homosexual friends and colleagues.
It is the early 1980’s and Jill has just graduated from theatre school and like all graduates is about to take London by storm. With her group of best friends they were part of the scene that made London the music and theatre capital of the world at the time. Her flatmates were all young, gay and glamorous and destined for hugely successful acting careers. Her life was spent hosting cabaret evenings at their apartment nicknamed The Pink Palace, seeing drag queens at The Royal Vauxhall Tavern and accepting any job that she was offered in the industry to pay for it all.
When news began to filter across from America about a “flu” that was killing gay men suddenly the carefree existence of the West End community was under threat and Jill found that her friends were starting to disappear, either making a very sudden decision to return home to family or living out their last days in London. While juggling a busy West End career Jill made herself an early expert on the AIDS virus and both advocated for and cared for the friends who succumbed to this terrible disease. No history of the London theatre community is complete without this book.
Attending late night fundraising cabaret events in the late 90’s and early noughties in London in aid of West End Cares I was blissfully unaware of the comparatively recent history and the desperation that had inspired the setting up of the charity. It is a very sobering revelation. The Pink Palace will take you through a whole gamut of emotions. Its a cliche but I really did laugh and cry and then I went off and googled Jill’s lost friends because they deserve not to be forgotten. This is truly a book that will stay with you for a very long time.
UK Publication Date: 7 July 2022. 294 pages.
Categories: 5 Stars Book Review
Prolific reader, enthusiastic theatre and movie-goer and ex-Olivier Awards judge who spent twenty years working in the music industry in London. Sharing my house with a gorgeous cockapoo called Harry who has taken over completely.
I love sharing my favourite books with friends - nearly always spoiler-free as I hate reading a synopsis of the whole book in other reviews.
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