Book Reviews of City of Light

City of Light
City of Light
Author: Lauren Belfer
ISBN-13: 9780440235125
ISBN-10: 044023512X
Publication Date: 10/10/2000
Pages: 704
  • Currently 3.6/5 Stars.

3.6 stars, based on 62 ratings
Publisher: Island Books
Book Type: Paperback
Reviews: Amazon | Write a Review

36 Book Reviews submitted by our Members...sorted by voted most helpful

reviewed City of Light on
Helpful Score: 7
I've always referred to Buffalo, NY as the "mistake by the lake" and it was interesting to read about the Buffalo at the turn of the 20th Century. I'm amazed at what a vibrant city it was - and how many millionaires called Buffalo home. A different picture of Buffalo has been painted for me and it's sort of sad to think how another American city has lost it former glory.

Belfer's done an excellent job with her first novel. I love the language of the book, the way she melds fictional and real people along with historical events into this story. I felt as though I was transported back to 1901 Buffalo and the Pan-American Exposition. This book is the type of mystery/historical fiction combination that I am fond of.
reviewed City of Light on + 54 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 4
This was a well-written historical novel set in Buffalo, New York during the early 1900s and revolved around the story of the building of the Niagara Falls power station and the life of Louisa Barrett, headmistress of a prestigious girls school.
reviewed City of Light on + 12 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 3
Thsi is fabulous look at the turn of the 20th century and the start of industrialization and electricy. Buffalo at it pinnacle. This author is going places
reviewed City of Light on + 64 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 3
I can't remember the last I read such an intriguing historical novel. It has everything; The history of Buffalo, NY circa 1900, the development of hydroelectric power at Niagara Falls, the Pan-American Exposition, political plotting, two murders, children born out of wedlock (GASP!) unrequited love, whispers of lesbianism, and a narration by an intelligent woman born too soon for her ideas. Well written, to boot! I wish there were more by this author.
reviewed City of Light on + 125 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
Excellent historic novel.I learned more about 19th century Buffalo, NY, Than I would have thought possible. And, many interesting facts about the Naiagara power project, especially to me, as an engineer.
The depth and insight into the people of that day is quite amazing. Some of the characters you wil find still occupy your mind, long after reading this book.
reviewed City of Light on + 43 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
Truly enjoyed this book. You'll like it too if you like period pieces. It takes place in Buffalo New York in 1901. I learned so much about Buffalo.
reviewed City of Light on + 61 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
A fascinating journey to early 1900s Buffalo, New York focusing on the building of the Niagra Falls power plant. The main character is the female headmistress of a girls school who, harboring a secret of her own, is caught up in a whirlwind of murder, intrigue, power and politics. The other characters, both real and fictional, are full of life and I guarantee you will never think the same of President Cleveland again!
A wonderful historical novel dealing with the industrial revolution, environmentalism, business, politics, womens social issues, the development of a city, and even a little romance.
reviewed City of Light on + 88 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
This book was slow to engage me. The historical aspects were interesting and the portrayal of a woman living a life outside the accepted norms for the time really caught my fancy.
reviewed City of Light on + 88 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
Beautifully engaging debut historical novel staged in Niagra, New York at the eve of the electrical age. Myster, romance and history are interwoven to tell this beautiful tale.
reviewed City of Light on
Helpful Score: 1
In the year of 1901, Louisa Barrett, the headmistress of Buffalo's most prestigious school is drawn into a murder associated with the city's new power plant at nearby Niagara Falls.
reviewed City of Light on + 6 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
Interesting historical novel with a good plot!
reviewed City of Light on + 162 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
Well written, keeps your interest as different sub-plots emerge. Story set in the beginning of the 20th century when Buffalo was coming into prominence.
reviewed City of Light on + 188 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
Not the kind of book I usually order, but it looked interesting and was actually quite good. This writer's debut is first class. The most intriguing thing was not the mystery, but where the writer was going with an idea. The book had many fascinating characters and themes. The narrator was not as likeable as I wanted her to be. Some of the characters who were supposedly "greedy" and "harsh" were the characters I liked best and identified them as the more "moral" ones despite the author's intent. An interesting book with a definite socialist view of progress.
reviewed City of Light on + 2 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
In 1901 Buffalo, New York, Louisa Barrett is headmistress of Buffalo's most prestigious school. She makes a starling discovery--evidence of a murder tied to the city's cathedral-like power plant at nearby Niagara Falls. This shocking crime--followed by another mysterious death--will ignite an explosive chain of events.
reviewed City of Light on + 6 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
I love historical fiction, so I am somewhat biased, but this book captured me by its detail and accuracy. It was one of my favorite books of 2010 and I am always amazed at an author's first work. To be a woman in the early 1900's was not an easy task, I do not take for granted those who made my life easier today by what they had to endure.
reviewed City of Light on + 12 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
Buffalo, New York in the 1900's. Lots of politics and the double standards women had to live by
reviewed City of Light on + 2 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
My chief complaint about this book is the first half is sooooo slow I almost gave up on it. However, if the reader can hang in there the pace definitely picks up in the second half.

The story is told in the first years of the last century and is very much involved with the beginnings of the widespread use of electricity, although that is really only part of the backdrop for this mystery tale. It is interesting and very thought-provoking to imagine life without electricity and what a remarkable boon to civilization harnessing that power has been.

Other interesting subplots involve greedy industrialists, whackadoodle political activists, and amoral politicians including a President. It is a bit breathtaking to realize that we grappled with these exact same issues 100 years ago and dismaying that we still have to contend with them.

Perhaps the most important takeaway for me was the vivid description of life for women in this country just a century ago. Not one of us would want to go back to that and we would be wise not to take our freedom lightly.

If a person enjoys historical fiction, they will likely enjoy this book. It has a lot to offer--insight into the treatment of the mentally ill as well as those who aren't but are shunted into a mental hospital anyway, President Grover Cleveland, the Pan-American Exposition, President McKinley, status and treatment of African-Americans in the north, treatment of professional women, and more.
reviewed City of Light on + 9 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
Historical fiction about turn of the century Buffalo, NY. A murder mystery also. Gripping and very favorably reviewed.
reviewed City of Light on + 12 more book reviews
My favorite genre is historical fiction. Being from upstate NY only added to the pleasure of this book. Stellar is a good description. This book has a cult like following. Read it and enjoy.
reviewed City of Light on + 21 more book reviews
This book had everything I like-history, intrigue, was hard for me to put down!
It's set in early 1900 in Buffalo, during the rise of the electrical plants and businesses by the Niagara Falls. A young single woman is hiding a secret, while dangerous situations arise surrounding the controversial electrical power plant being built.
Written beautifully by first-time novelist Lauren Belfer, who is a native of Buffalo. She used some true characters and places, which helped enrich the historical value of this book.
reviewed City of Light on + 7 more book reviews
I thought it was well written. And I enjoyed the historical accuracy
reviewed City of Light on + 71 more book reviews
I very much enjoyed this book. Usually I guess when I read historical books, they are not about turn of the century America but rather usually overseas and more medieval! But this book, set in 1901, was really good. I wasn't sure I'd like the storyline of power stations and the book being set in Buffalo, but it worked really well and told a story I never would have known otherwise!
reviewed City of Light on
Excellent book - partly because it's a style of writing I like, partly because it happens in Buffalo which I live near.
reviewed City of Light on + 4 more book reviews
I found it hard to like the main character in the book. I kept thinking it would get better it really never did
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fantastic story!
reviewed City of Light on + 83 more book reviews
The year is 1901. Buffalo, New York is poised for glory. With its booming industry and newly electrified streets. Buffalo is a model for the century just beginning. Louisa Barrett has made this dazzling city her home. Headmistress of Buffalo's most prestigious school. Louisa is at ease in a world of men, protected by the titans of her city. But nothing prepares her for a starting discovery: evidence of a muder tied to the city's cathedral-like power plant at nearby Niagara Fallls. This shocking crime-followed by another mysterious death-will ignite an explosive chain of events. For in this city of seething intrigue and dazzling progress, a battle rages among politicians, power brokers, and industrialest for control of Niagara. And one etraordinary woman in their midst must protect a dark secret that implicates them all...
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Part murder mystery, part love story, a historical novel of high intigue
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A remarkable blend of murder mystery, love story, political intrigue and tragedy of manners.
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MOM can't stop talking about it. How they were harnessing the Niagra Falls for enegrgy and how fantastic it was...... she claims she only remembers the important things (she has pre-altheimers *Bad spelling) and this broke thru enough to be really important and impactfull. I jsut haven't had time to get to it myself but I have 2 copies so will keep one and swap the other ENJOY.
reviewed City of Light on + 203 more book reviews
This may be the most boring book I have ever read. I am all for historical fictions and have read quite a few. I love to learn something and be entertained at the same time. "City of Light" was more like reading a history book with a few very uninteresting characters added. I kept reading, hoping the book would get better. Unfortunately, it did not. There was no climax, no start and end feeling to the book.

My advice? Just pass on this one.
reviewed City of Light on + 25 more book reviews
I enjoyed this book very much. I grew up in the Western New York area and am familiar with many of the places mentioned in the story. I also took a "City of Light" bus tour this summer. It started at Buffalo Seminary (aka Macaulay School) and stopped at places from the book.

I wish I'd read the book before the tour, but after the fact it was still very enjoyable. There is a good story line that connects well-known people from Buffalo. Many have buildings named after them in Buffalo. The book was a good, easy read.
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This is a story full of intrigue and an insight into how society lived in the city of Buffalo, when electricity was new to America.
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Have you ever read a book that made you feel like you were taking a long walk with a friend through trees? This was a very pleasant read, at strolling speed through the whole book. I felt it was historically accurate to the time period and the writing was magnificent in its casualness. The main character was thoroughly developed, interesting and you felt she was real.
reviewed City of Light on + 921 more book reviews
The conflict about Niagara Falls and its potential for providing electricity was probably the first environmental battle fought in our country. The author, who grew up in Buffalo, NY, was no doubt well aware of the details surrounding this event making this an awesome read from an author who knew so much about it all.

To create a story centered in this historical period with characters who could well have lived along with those who did makes this tale quite believable and fascinating. I liked the fictional characters and admired some of those who lived through these tumultuous times. The very real political battles and the power that moneyed individuals wielded was certainly acute. As a result the author notes that even today 50 percent of the water is diverted to create electricity and 75 percent during the night and winter. It is all together too much I fear but that's what happened.

The tale revolves around Tom Sinclair, an engineer responsible for much of what transpired. He is a fictional character whose beliefs and actions were ridiculed by many - workers, preservationists and the rich and powerful who deemed what might happen. I enjoyed the fictional story along with the true facts and events the author enfolded into this book. As it all unrolled I found myself more and more drawn into the story and unable to put it aside. What made it so fascinating was the historical people and events that were seamlessly entwined with fictional characters. I love stories like these and can't help but recommend them to others who like both historical fiction and history.
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Nigara Falls and some interesting characters.
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It is 1901 and Buffalo, New York, stands at the center of the nation's attention as a place of immense wealth and sophistication. The massive hydroelectric power development at nearby Niagara Falls and the grand Pan-American Exposition promise to bring the Great Lakes "city of light" even more repute.

Against this rich historical backdrop lives Louisa Barrett, the attractive, articulate headmistress of the Macaulay School for Girls. Protected by its powerful all-male board, "Miss Barrett" is treated as an equal by the men who control the life of the city. Lulled by her unique relationship with these titans of business, Louisa feels secure in her position, until a mysterious death at the power plant triggers a sequence of events that forces her to return to a past she has struggled to conceal, and to question everything and everyone she holds dear.

Both observer and participant, Louisa Barrett guides the reader through the culture and conflicts of a time and place where immigrant factory workers and nature conservationists protest violently against industrialists, where presidents broker politics, where wealthy "Negroes" fight for recognition and equality, and where women struggle to thrive in a system that allows them little freedom.

Wrought with remarkable depth and intelligence, City of Light remains a work completely of its own era, and of ours as well. A stirring literary accomplishment, Lauren Belfer's first novel marks the debut of a fresh voice for the new millennium and heralds a major publishing event.