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City of Dreams: A Novel of Early Manhattan by [Swerling, Beverly]
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4.0 out of 5 stars 248 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The tapestry of early American society is hung out for a fresh viewing in this ambitious historical novel of 1660s New Amsterdam. The English Turners are brother and sister, surgeon/barber and apothecary. Devoted to one another, Sally and Lucas quickly learn to make their way in the harsh, prosperous new world, aiding the Dutch governor Stuyvesant's family and making their reputation in the bargain. Then Lucas sells Sally in marriage to Jacob Van der Vries, a cruel, foolish physician, in order to save her life, Lucas says, but she believes it is to buy his lover's freedom to marry, and she never forgives him. This rift begins a feud between the Van der Vries (later Devreys) and Turners that lasts through the American Revolution. Colorful characters vie with historical figures for attention on this broad stage: there's Jennet, Sally's great-granddaughter, who marries a wealthy Jew; Caleb Devrey, Jennet's first cousin, who loved her as a boy, but becomes her bitterest enemy; Morgan, Jennet's son, a privateer and patriot; and Morgan's best friend and former slave, Cuffy, whose fate is bound to Morgan's by love, hate and the same woman the gorgeous Roisin Campbell aka Mistress Healsall. The healing profession is carried down through each generation of Turners and Devreys, and Swerling's descriptions of early operations with crude instruments are detailed and riveting. The city of New York is a character in its own right, but even it cannot compete with the richly drawn, well-rounded people Swerling creates. This engrossing, generously imagined tale deserves the large audience it should find at a time when the founding fathers reign triumphant in biography. (Oct.) Forecast: The size of this hefty debut may actually be a selling point, since it promises an epic tale. The colorful period jacket art should appeal to browsers, too.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

The early history of Manhattan is chronicled through six generations of a remarkable clan of surgeons, physicians, and apothecaries. Hounded out of England for illegally practicing surgery, gifted Lucas Turner and his sister, Sally, immigrate to the New World. Landing in New Amsterdam in 1661, Lucas employs a combination of daring and skill to establish his reputation as a surgeon, and Sally begins planting and gathering the herbs, plants, and flowers she needs to concoct the medicinal potions and drugs necessary for his practice. Though their future seems bright, the arrival of an unscrupulous and inept Dutch physician threatens both their security and their relationship. When Jacob Van der Vies succeeds in his vile blackmail effort, he causes an irreparable rift between the two siblings. For more than 100 years, the Turner and the Van der Vies branches of the family participate in both the evolution of the art and science of medicine and the transition of Manhattan from a fledgling colonial outpost to a bustling, thriving metropolis on the brink of revolution. Margaret Flanagan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • File Size: 2007 KB
  • Print Length: 594 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition (May 31, 2011)
  • Publication Date: May 31, 2011
  • Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004U7GWWY
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #268,022 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jana L.Perskie HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 14, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"City Of Dreams" provides an extremely rich slice of Manhattan history along with an intricately plotted novel filled with unforgettable characters. I couldn't put this book down!
English barber surgeon Lucas Turner and his apothecary sister, Sally, land in mid-17th century Nieuw Amsterdam after a grueling sea voyage from the Netherlands. The two are devoted to each other, having escaped from a life of squalor and poverty to make their way in the New World. They are aided by Governor Peter Stuyvesant after Lucas performs a successful surgery on him to remove a kidney stone. The future seems filled with promise until a terrible betrayal causes a rift between the siblings that will impact generations to come.
In a series of eight segments, author Beverly Swerling unfolds the lives of the original Turners and their descendants, as Nieuw Amsterdam becomes the city of New York and finally the first capital of the United States of America. This absorbing multi-generational saga continues through the Revolutionary War providing detailed and accurate historical background as well as an extraordinary storyline and subplots. Patriot Nathan Hale, British Generals Clinton and Howe, and colonial General George Washington are some of the characters who interact with Ms. Swerling's fictional cast.
The history of the beginnings of medical science are absolutely fascinating. A number of medical interventions, all performed without the use of anesthesia, are vividly described, including tracheotomies, amputations, a radical mastectomy, and the removal of kidney stones.
As an added attraction the dust jacket is illustrated with a wonderful view of early Manhattan taken from a copper engraving. The inside end papers show beautiful aerial illustrations of the city in its early days.
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Format: Paperback
I will truthfully say I bought this book at a dollar store. But I could not put it down. I would gladly pay full price to own this book. If a reader is even slightly interested in medicine or history this book will appeal to them. It tweeked at my patriotism also. You become enthralled by the characters in the story. I could not decide which side I was on so I decided to root for everyone. The goryness and truthfullness of the medical prcedures is not for the weak or immature reader. The sex scenes are also explicit but flow with the story. I felt the story would have held it's own without the detailed sex scenes but they were consistant with the story. I would definetly monitor younger readers with this book. I would not let my 12 year old read it. But I loved it!
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Format: Paperback
City of Dreams is a wonderful idea of a novel; set in the earliest days of Niew Amsterdam, we meet a brother and sister relocating to the new world in order to follow their dreams. The story begins quite excitingly, with Lucas Turner, a barber/surgeon by trade, able to relieve the suffering of colony leader Peter Stuyvesant and arrange a place within the city to ply his trade. As we follow the story, Lucas and his sister Sally portray the entirely human foibles that lead to great storytelling: Sally, in her misguided headstrong ways, finds herself raped by an Indian, which leads to a pregnancy, and Lucas finds himself led by his hormones and emotions into an affair that results in him basically selling his sister in order to gain his own desires. Just when we become fully engaged in their tales, the scene shifts and we are thrust approximately thirty years into the future lives of their descendants.

Well written and incredibly well researched, City of Dreams is full of woe, entanglements, disease, shifting fortunes, and gore. And more gore. And still more gore. I understand the need to portray the situation as it was, but it did seem that scene after scene was full of violence and gore. Knowing that the novel centers around a family known for its medical "expertise", I was impressed with Swerling's descriptions up to a point, but when it began to feel as though she was relentlessly pounding home the ruthlessness of colonial life, I began to feel that perhaps she was using the gore as a device to simply move the plot along through shock factor. Life was rough; I understand that. I would have appreciated more character development, particularly in the latter pages when I began to realize that the story had become a lower class=good/upper class=evil tale.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a terrific novel that begins in the Dutch Colonial period when New York City was New Amsterdam and continues until just after the American Revolution. Swerling's story is filled with interesting characters, some sympathetic and others appalling, but all of whom are captivating.
She tells the story of our great city through the lives, loves and adventures of several families whose members are surgeons (barbers), medical doctors (physics) or pharmacists (apothecaries). That these families include African and African-American slaves is especially satisfying and I learned a great deal about the interactions between whites and blacks in the early days of our nation. (Sadly, in some respects, not a lot has changed.)
I especially enjoyed the early chapters of the book that focus on the Dutch and the role of those settlers in forming the character of NYC -- many aspects of which endure today. And if you live in the city as I do, you will probably also enjoy knowing where some of the key colonial landmarks were located and what has happened to them over the centuries.
In short, this is a highly entertaining book whether or not you are a New Yorker, as it offers an interesting plot line, believable characters and what seems to me a realistic window on life in colonial America.
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