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Hardcover City of Light Book

ISBN: 038533401X

ISBN13: 9780385334013

City of Light

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Format: Hardcover

Condition: Very Good

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Book Overview

NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK - "Breathtaking . . . a remarkable blend of murder mystery, love story, political intrigue, and tragedy of manners."--USA Today The year is 1901. Buffalo, New York, is... This description may be from another edition of this product.

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

So Glad I Finally Read It!

I bought this book after I noticed it was a Costco Wholesale Book Club Selection. I ignored it for weeks and finally began reading and then couldn't put it down! Ms. Belfer has a seamless knack for blending fictional and real characters against actual happenings. Turn-of-the-century events of harnessing hydroelectric power at Niagara Falls may sound dull, but I found it fascinating. The story line is captivating and Ms. Belfer gives a wonderful picture of the social world of those times. I highly recommend this book, and look forward to her next.

One of the best I've read

What to say about the City of Light? Simply saying it was one of the best books I've read just doesn't seem emphatic enough!I had read favorable reviews of it, but it never sparked my interst. Turn of the century Buffalo, the PanAmerican Exposition, a headmistress and the Niagara Falls electric company just didn't sound like my kind of book. But then, a good friend recommended it--she has read it twice--and I thought I'd give it a try 'cause we have similar reading tastes.I read the first page, and my opinion began to change. I eagerly turned to the next page, and the next, and. . . I became obsessed with Lousia, and the world around her, with the events that began with her or ended with her or just involved her. All weekend I read until I couldn't focus, needing to read, to know, to be a part of her world. Toward the end of the book I was torn between hurrying through to see how it would end, and dallying, to make it last.I don't know how to describe this book, how to sort it neatly into a genre. There is mystery and history, inspiration and romance, fact and fiction--it's all there. But more importantly, there is life, in the plot, the characters, the conflicts and the conclusions.

Oh what a tangled web small towns weave...

In Lauren Belfer's stunning first novel, powerful local families are used to dictating Buffalo's social and economic future, but by 1901 the city is spinning out of their control, thanks to the advent of the nation's first electric generating plant at Niagara Falls. An ambitious chief engineer wants the plant to produce free electricity for the masses rather than just make a profit selling electricity to factories -- and the city fathers (and investors) turn on him, as do anti-electricity preservationists fighting to protect the raging the beauty of the Falls. All is observed through the keen eyes of Louisa Barrett, headmistress of the local girl's school charged with educating the city's elite. "Miss Barrett" ends up in the middle of this power struggle, a keen observer as well as an increasingly skillful player in her own right. Small-town secrets and intrigue test her mettle, and she proves equal to every challenge. This densely plotted novel captures the waning days of the Victorian era and the birth pangs of modern industrial America. The deft combination of personal stories, physical description, and details of industrial development, with real historical figures and events woven in, provides a satisfying picture of the brief time in which Buffalo was the most celebrated city in America. Belfer captures the essence of this city flush with wealth and a seemingly boundless future, and shows us how that future could not have possibly been sustained, how it contained the seeds of its own tragic ending. The book has a particularly "Buffalo" resonance to me. Ghosts of the city's wealthy past are everywhere, from mansion-lined streets that now house nonprofits to shuttered factories that have sat vacant for 30 or more years. The political small-townishness and self-dealing so vividly portrayed in this novel continues to plague Buffalo. Elitism and factionalism among ethnic groups blocks the more far-sighted coalition-building that turned around other rust-belt cities such as Pittsburgh and Cleveland. The book is a cautionary tale about rapid economic growth: not all bright promise can be sustained. That the personal tragedies of Ms. Barrett and those close to her manage to quietly echo this larger truth is a tribute to Belfer's clearsighted grasp of her hometown's history and legacy. A great read!

My Return To Historical Fiction

I'm going to admit that this is my return in some time to historical fiction that has little to no genre elements. I also read Elizabeth Chadwick's historical novels about England's medieval times but she always has a romance element running throughout her work as well. This novel is not a murder mystery, a romance, sci-fi fantasy or any other acknowledged genre or genre combination. I think this was the reason I found it absolutely fascinating and refreshing. I never knew exactly where we were going in the book and I found that a welcome change. Formulaic plotlines, which define genres and their characters, have been "getting to me", I'm afraid. The other wonderfully refreshing aspect was setting the entire story in 1901 Buffalo, New York, and Niagara Falls. I have grown so tired of reading novels set in New York City, California or London, where it seems the great majority are set. When authors abandon those venues, they next turn to almost as well known cities until those too have been overdone to death. If I do not read another book set in Florida, for example, it will not be too soon. I am not a Buffalo native and I found 1901 Buffalo an absolutely riveting world. I liked all of the details and learning of the historical figures which peopled it and the development of electricity at Niagara. I live on Lake Erie also, outside Cleveland, and historical aspects of being in the Great Lakes region a hundred years ago really captured my interest. If you read historical non-genre fiction all of the time, you have more novels to compare to this one than I presently do. Thus, you might be aware of other novels that surpass this as a choice right now. Personally, I don't.

She brings my hometown to life

Lauren Belfer taught me more about the history of my hometown than any text book could. As she described the streets and parks, I began imagining how Buffalo looked before all the highways. Her incredible knowledge and portrayel of a city 100 years ago pulled me in--and the plot and cast of characters kept me reading. I have about 50 pages left, and I'll be sad when the story ends. I'm going to lend this book to all my friends!
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