City of Promise

Bev­er­ly Swerling
  • Review
By – January 4, 2012
Bev­er­ly Swerling’s fast-paced new nov­el con­tin­ues her saga about the Devrey and Turn­er fam­i­lies, pick­ing up the sto­ry in New York City in 1864, at the end of the Civ­il War. The city is slow­ly creep­ing north­ward, con­struc­tion has begun on the Brook­lyn Bridge, and there is talk of an ele­vat­ed train to help rid the city of its awful traf­fic. Swer­ling deft­ly fills us in on every aspect of life in the city, from the grimy ten­e­ments at the bot­tom of Man­hat­tan and the splen­did man­sions of the wealthy along the avenues uptown, to the new con­cept of apart­ments for mid­dle class com­muters. With the intro­duc­tion of steel, build­ings can now rise up high­er than ever and entire tracts of land are being filled with these new high-ris­es. Thomas Edison’s great inven­tion illu­mi­nates the streets and then the apart­ments. We hear about the cor­rup­tion of Boss Tweed, Jew­ish pawn­bro­kers, and the begin­nings of the Ital­ian Mafia. We read about dif­fer­ent class­es of whore­hous­es and how women were influ­en­tial behind the scenes. We learn about the growth of big name depart­ment stores and Macy’s big break­through: hir­ing women as clerks. This nov­el gives a fas­ci­nat­ing account of how New York City city came to its present-day form. Kudos to the author for edu­cat­ing read­ers with her col­or­ful descrip­tions of the rich tapes­try that defines this remark­able metropolis.
Miri­am Brad­man Abra­hams is a Cuban-born, Brook­lyn-raised, Long Island-resid­ing mom. She is Hadas­sah Nas­sau’s One Region One Book chair­la­dy, a free­lance essay­ist, and a cer­ti­fied yoga instruc­tor who has loved review­ing books for the JBC for the past ten years.

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