City of Promise: A Novel of New York's Gilded Age

Beverly Swerling. Simon & Schuster, $26 (421p) ISBN 978-1-4391-3694-2
Swerling's latest epic reveals the extremes of New York's Gilded Age. When one-legged Joshua Turner returns home after the Civil War, New York is still a city of horse-drawn vehicles and boarding houses. With plans swirling for the Brooklyn Bridge and an elevated train, Josh realizes that the city lacks housing for working class families, and limited land prevents sprawling housing projects. He develops a scheme to build vertical housing, which is initially funded with the dowry received from his wife Mollie's Aunt Eileen. A fortunate encounter with Ebenezer Tickle, a dwarf familiar with the new Bessemer process of making steel, enables Josh to successfully build profitable multi-storied apartment buildings. Unfortunately, New York is a city of graft and greed and Josh's success is coveted by others, especially Trenton Clifford, who wants Josh's land holdings to destroy Josh, and because the land's value will escalate when a proposed subway system is built. Clifford employs murder, extortion, and even kidnapping to gain his ends. Although the pace often lags in this sprawling novel, Swerling (City of God: A Novel of Passion and Wonder in Old New York) vividly captures the greed, corruption, violence, and banking failures that accompanied vast new advances in transportation, communication, and lighting during this era. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 07/25/2011
Release date: 08/01/2011
Paperback - 422 pages - 978-1-4391-3696-6
Ebook - 432 pages - 978-1-4391-5670-4
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