Wednesday, August 14, 2013

City of Dreams: A Novel of Early Manhattan by Beverly Swerling

Book Description

In 1661, Lucas Turner, a barber surgeon, and his sister, Sally, an apothecary, stagger off a small wooden ship after eleven weeks at sea. Bound to each other by blood and necessity, they aim to make a fresh start in the rough and rowdy Dutch settlement of Nieuw Amsterdam; soon lust, betrayal, and murder will make them mortal enemies. In their struggle to survive in the New World, Lucas and Sally make choices that will burden their descendants with a legacy of secrets and retribution, and create a heritage that sets cousin against cousin, physician against surgeon, and, ultimately, patriot against Tory.
In what will be the greatest city in the New World, the fortunes of these two families are inextricably entwined by blood and fire in an unforgettable American saga of pride and ambition, love and hate, and the becoming of the dream that is New York City.

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.
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