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City of Light
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on June 19, 2016
Having been born and raised and still living in the Buffalo area, I found it especially interesting as I recognized names and places, plus the story was very interesting and I couldn't wait to find out what happened at the end. Seems strange in this age to think people didn't realize how much electricity would matter to their lives......and the idea that the Power Plant would "use up" all the water in the Niagara River and Falls....... What also struck me, was the fact that wealthy citizens paid to have the Power Plant put up without government monies.....won't find that happening today.
17 helpful votes
18 helpful votes
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on March 13, 2017
I loved this story. I love historical fiction. I grew up in Buffalo, and had no idea of the history of the Pan American exposition. I can't wait to go home and do a tour of all the places I have read about in City of Lights. I would love to be able to travel back in time and see what life was like at the turn of the century in the city I live. Thank you for this story.
4 helpful votes
5 helpful votes
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on February 27, 2017
This is a great story with interesting believable charaters. The writing is superb .The plot has many unpredictable twists that will keep the reader constantly engaged wondering what comes next. Finally, the author makes Buffalo come alive as a dynamic wonderous place to have lived in or visited at a time when electricity was beginning to transform peoples lives.
3 helpful votes
4 helpful votes
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on September 7, 2015
I stayed up all night reading the book! I enjoyed it even more as I have some familiarity with Buffalo and Niagara Falls, and had been to the Erie County Historical Museum, a building remaining after the Pan American Expo. The author captures the area vividly and the times, too. Beautiful descriptions. Thoroughly enjoyable.
3 helpful votes
4 helpful votes
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on February 1, 2017
I loved this book from start to finish. It was both a learning experience, as well as a satisfying, if heart wrenching, emotional journey. I devoured it in a weekend and have since read her other two novels, both equally satisfying. If you enjoy beautifully written historical fiction, Lauren Belfer is an author you won't want to miss.
9 helpful votes
10 helpful votes
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VINE VOICEon December 28, 2013
I picked up City of Light because it's the chosen novel for a book club held at the Arts & Crafts conference I've attended, the past few years, in Asheville NC. I read a previous selection (Clara and Mr. Tiffany) but never did attend the book club session. I'm not sure if I'll make it this time, either, so I'll share with you my own impressions; if I DO go to the book club it'll be interesting to compare-and-contrast my views with others.

Nominally, this is a historical mystery: There is a dead body, after all, and our protagonist -- Miss Louisa Barrett, headmistress of Buffalo's prestigious school for girls -- is not quite sure whether it was accidental. But the story is less about sleuthing than it is about the life-and-times of 1901 Buffalo, which I had not realized was quite as much a crux of history.

But I should have. The power plant at Niagara Falls was changing everything; in the words of one character, it was transforming water into light. "Outside the river was fierce and turbulent; but here, amid the generators, the power of nature had been subdued by the power of man." This had broad implications: political, economic (investors included the Astors and J.P. Morgan), environmental (for the first time, people had to consider the effects of technology on the landscape), social (not the least of which was a dreadful death rate from tech-induced deaths, since there were no safety standards and little data from which to develop them).

In City of Light, we see all these elements interacting in the tale of Miss Barrett, a spinster whose education and background permits her to be both a observant outsider and an exceptional woman who interacts with the powerful people behind the Pan-American Exposition and even U.S. presidents (two of whom came from Buffalo, didja know?), as well as Roycroft founder Elbert Hubbard, and the NAACP's Mary Talbert.

The history is great. I learned a lot, enough to justify a 5-star rating. The storytelling... is okay, "eh" enough to pull that rating down to 4 stars. It's not that the plot is poor or that the writing is yucky (in some places it's wonderful: "Power surrounds you like an aura, and you take pleasure in treating the aura lightly"). It's that it moves too slowly; I kept feeling, "C'mon, step it up a bit!" In fact, I got so impatient that for the last 75 pages I skimmed rather than read with dedicated attention.

Still, I'm very glad I read the book. It was a great way to get a cross-section of history and all the issues that people needed to deal with. If you like a bit of storytelling with your history, this might suit you quite well.
11 helpful votes
12 helpful votes
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on February 22, 2017
Grew up about 18 miles down the Niagara River from Buffalo.Knew,a great deal about history of Buffalo but not about how power introduction took place or what it entailed. Great research. The way the fiction is integrated with the non fiction is wonderful. Thanks for a great read.
2 helpful votes
3 helpful votes
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on December 30, 2015
Recommended it for one of my book clubs. Interesting account of how they developed electricity from the Niagara River and Falls. Character development was exceptional.
3 helpful votes
4 helpful votes
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on November 7, 2017
Of the many women in the book, none emerged as a “heroine” or inspiring, despite the many opportunities the characters were given to do so. Very disappointing. Especially bc the author seems to be somewhat talented. The story could have been so good, but the characters were incredibly lacking. I️ kept reading, hoping for more, but it never materialized.
1 helpful vote
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on July 21, 2014
An excellent read. Ms. Belfer did a wonderful job of taking both a story and history. I enjoyed the mystery, but admit my bias as a passionate advocate for my beloved Buffalo. Part of the romance of this book for me was the fact that it forced me to learn so much about Buffalo, through the book or by googling later to know more. The events in this book take place literally blocks from my home, and as I walk past the site of the fictional Sinclair estate I am able to see Buffalo as it looked in its glory because of this book. Strongly recommend for anyone who lives here.
2 helpful votes
3 helpful votes
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