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City of Light Paperback – 20 Jan 2000


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Product details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Sceptre; New edition edition (20 Jan 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0340748427
  • ISBN-13: 978-0340748428
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 19.8 x 3.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,432,300 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

Louisa Barrett is the headmistress of Macaulay School for Girls in Buffalo, New York, at the turn of the century. A passionate, highly intelligent woman, she remains unmarried but welcomes the general misconception that she is in a relationship with the radical, outspoken Francesca Coatsworthy. The husband of Louisa's late best friend is the head of the hydroelectric power project at Niagra Falls. He is turning water into light and trying to persuade the conservationists that diverting water from the Falls will not ruin its beauty. When one of the chief engineers disappears through a hole in the ice and racist graffiti appears on the town walls, Louisa is unwillingly drawn into the drama around the Falls. But Louisa has a secret and one she must protect at all costs. The layers of intrigue build to a revelatory climax. This is a compelling tale brilliantly told. Louisa Barrett is a heroine in the style of Elizabeth Bennett, headstrong, loveable and convincing as an amateur sleuth. A gripping, literary thriller. --Hannah Griffiths

Review

'An excellent literary and historical thriller, well researched and narrated by a voice of heartbreaking gravity'

The Times



An ingenious first novel ... it teems with arcane information and is alive with historical figures who mingle seamlessly with the fictional characters.' (New York Times Book Review)

An ingenious first novel ... it teems with arcane information and is alive with historical figures who mingle seamlessly with the fictional characters. At its heart is a brilliantly realised set piece starring Grover Cleveland that comes as a complete surprise, uet has been carefully foreshadowed ... a huge, sprawling portrait of the United States at the turn of the last century, illuminated by a dazzling image of light and progress, and harboring a sly, dark secret, the novel is didactic in the very best sense of the word' New York Times Book Review

A superbly crafted debut novel, a page-turning thriller (Telegraph Magazine)

'Breathtaking in its achievement .. a remarkable blend of murder mystery, love story, political intrigue and tragedy of manners ... perfectly pitched pace ... captures the era vividly .. At the book's core is power in its many forms: electrical, political, familial, sexual, social, racial, material. Belfer handles it all - large cast, big themes - with uncommon assurance. Her story does not meander like the Mississippi. It moves like the Niagara.' USA Today

Breathtaking in its achievement .. a remarkable blend of murder mystery, love story, political intrigue and tragedy of manners (USA Today')

A compelling debut ... complete with dangerous liaisons, gorgeous descriptions of the Falls and a central character whose voice is irresistible to the last page of her tragic story (Publishers Weekly)

'Ambitious, vividly detailed and stirring ... Belfer keeps a large, fascinating, exuberant cast well in motion, and Louisa, who manages to resolve the murder mystery but loses much in the process, is a vulnerable, complex and believable heroine. Belfer's portrait of the nation at a hard if ebullient time, while likely to remind some readers of Doctorow's RAGTIME, is less chilly and more subtle than that work, and very gripping. A remarkably assured and satisfying first novel.' Kirkus

totally riveting ... a literary thriller whose refined period details remind you of Henry James (Publishing News)

A compelling debut ... with the assurance of an established writer, Belfer delivers a work of depth and polish - an unsentimentalized story complete with dangerous liaisons, gorgeous descriptions of the Falls and a central character whose voice is irresistible to the last page of her tragic story' Publishers Weekly

'From first line to last a totally riveting read ... a literary thriller whose refined period details remind you of Henry James. An immensely rewarding debut which deserves to be both a critical and commercial success'

Publishing News



Ambitious, vividly detailed and stirring ... A remarkably assured and satisfying first novel.' (Kirkus)

An excellent literary and historical thriller, well researched and narrated by a voice of heartbreaking gravity (The Times)

'I really liked it ... a very calm, dignified, thoughtful story beautifully framed in a most unlikely almost scientific setting. All the stuff about Niagara instead of being boring was quite riveting, to my amazement' Margaret Forster

A superbly crafted debut novel, a page-turning thriller ... a historical blockbuster that not only cleverly overturns tradition but also eerily echoes our own era in its intermingling of private lives and public issues such as race, female freedom and the environment' Telegraph Magazine

Belfer pours out her metaphors with as much force as the Niagara Falls, the focal point of this historical blockbuster. Centre stage is Louisa Barrett, an American Jean Brodie, educating the girls to lift their eyes beyond marriage. Her project is contrasted with the menfolk's plan to illuminate the city by constructing a mammoth hydro-electric dam. Public propriety is thrown into relief by private hypocrisy as Ms Barrett delves into the death of the dam's engineer. The accuracy with which Belfer hit contemporary concerns makes for a didactic read. The Guardian

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 23 Feb 2000
Format: Paperback
A great book for anyone who is interested in the social history of the USA at the turn of the century and enjoys a "mystery". There are two maps which help the story to come alive and make you wish that Conan Doyle had used them so that we could follow Holmes around London. It is a well-crafted book with the kind of satisfactory ending that is often lacking in modern novels. Best of all you come away from it feeling that you have learnt something: about hydro electricity and the politics surrounding it, the Pan American Exposition, the social etiquette of a rich American city and much more beside.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 30 Jan 2000
Format: Paperback
The peaceful blue cover doesn't give any clues to the content of this book, which is a thriller and a romantic novel as well as a historical book all at the same time. I congratulate Ms. Belfer on her research and her ability to make a gently paced novel still move with an urgency which is necessary for a thriller. I hadn't read any reviews and picked it up by chance, along with others, for a plane journey. No bad language, no horrific descriptions, but somehow more chilling than many. I highly recommend this.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Lawyeraau HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on 6 Mar 2012
Format: Paperback
This is a beautifully written work of historical fiction, lush in its telling. Rife with historical and period detail, it is a fully absorbing story. Written as a first person narrative with well developed characters, and a fairly good storyline, those readers who enjoy this genre of book will be delighted with it.

With the events taking pace at the turn of the twentieth century, the story is told by Louise Barrett, the attractive and intelligent, thirty something headmistress of an elite all girls school in Buffalo, New York. In her unique position, Louise hobnobs with a rich and powerful, cabal of men who treat her almost as an equal, though she is a woman.

Independent of spirit, Louise goes through life doing, in small ways, all she can do to encourage her charges to seek a higher education and to look past those roles expected of their sex by society at large. Her life has settled into a comfortable and reassuring routine, until a strange death propels her into confronting persons and events that have impacted on her life in ways that she did not even know at the time. The book is really about a woman's dawning realization about her life, set against the background of a city caught in the cross-hairs of political and economic strife, and the fact that one may not be the master of one's fate, as one might presume.

The narrative is filled with secrets that come billowing out slowly. While some of the secrets are really not all that surprising, the details in spelling out the events are a little cumbersome, at times, serving almost to stall the narrative somewhat. Still, there is much to love about this densely plotted book, as the author's writing style is positively luminous. All in all, this is a praiseworthy debut novel.
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Format: Paperback
Well I just loved it. Its got suspense and drama and living characters and above all it does that special magic of creating a complete world that you feel part of.
This book has many facets and you may feel another one is the most important but for me it's primarily about power. Electric power (before it was taken for granted, how amazing it was), money power, WASP power, faith power, love power; and every kind of power is double edged.
Will some intelligent publisher get a second book out of this woman please?
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Format: Paperback
This is a highly original novel, bravely including real characters such as Grover Cleveland, mixing high politics, commercial misdoings and personal relationships. It holds the reader's interest throughout, but for me, the plot becomes a bit loose and predictable. The science of electricity generation becomes merged with murky politics, and is then forgotten. There is some repetition in the area of Louisa's life and work, which slows the story. But overall, it is a very good read.
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