Book Reviews of Sin in the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys, and the Battle for America's Soul

Sin in the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys, and the Battle for America's Soul
Sin in the Second City Madams Ministers Playboys and the Battle for America's Soul
Author: Karen Abbott
ISBN-13: 9781400065301
ISBN-10: 1400065305
Publication Date: 7/10/2007
Pages: 384
Rating:
  • Currently 3.7/5 Stars.
 25

3.7 stars, based on 25 ratings
Publisher: Random House
Book Type: Hardcover
Reviews: Amazon | Write a Review

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

reviewed Sin in the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys, and the Battle for America's Soul on + 1131 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 7
This book might read rather like a novel, but is actually a well researched and fascinating exploration of the morals and culture of America in the early 1900s. It details the bitter controversy that raged over Chicago's red-light district, particularly its most infamous house, ruled over by its equally scandalous madams, the Everleigh sisters. To be sure, much has changed in 100 years, but what's amazing is how many things remain the same. As one reviewer noted, change the fashions and add a century, and this story would be at home in today's headlines. Greed, hypocrisy, the lust for money and power, are all here, along with the more lurid (but never too explicit) details.
reviewed Sin in the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys, and the Battle for America's Soul on + 15 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 5
Sin in the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys, and the Battle for Americas Soul is an exciting look inside one of the most famous whorehouses in America, the Everleigh Club in early 20th-century Chicago. The book is a non-fiction work that reads like fiction, weaving the tale of how Minna and Ada Everleigh moved into Chicagos Levee district, determined to change the face of whorehouses, with how the Levee ultimately meet its demise.

The Everleigh sisters were madams who wanted to ensure that their girls, the Everleigh Butterflies, were honest, clean, and elegant. They wanted true courtesans, so they provided the girls with weekly doctor visits, etiquette training, lessons in Balzac, and the ability to leave the Club any time they chose. Shortly after opening its doors, the Club had a waiting list of harlots and a clientele list that was carefully vetted by the sisters. The men were expected to behave themselves, so, the Club quickly became famous for catering to the elite, with customers such as John Barrymore, Marshall Fields Jr., and Prince Henry of Prussia.

Unfortunately for the Everleigh sisters, though, the early 20th-century also brought about the Progressive Era reformers. The book describes the challenges facing the Levee, in general, and the Everleigh Club, in particular, as Ernest Bell went on his anti-white slavery crusade, as Congress passed The Mann Act of 1910, and as Chicago politicians who once provided protection to residents and businesses in the Levee were pressured to shut the district down.

Karen Abbot presents a well-research and well-documented look at this interesting period of Chicagos history. She manages to keep the facts lively, making for a readable, historical account. Abbot also provides photographs of the various rooms of the Everleigh Club, as well as of the Cast of Characters in this saga, which helps add to the successful recreation of the atmosphere, the excitement, and the mystery surrounding the period, the Levee, and the Everleigh sisters.
reviewed Sin in the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys, and the Battle for America's Soul on + 48 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 4
This is a really cool book. I had to read it for a history class I took, but I ended being really glad I got the opportunity to read it. It's very interesting and informative about America during the turn-of-the-century and the battle between vice in Chicago (mainly prostitution) and the Progressive reformers. It plays out like a story, with a lot of colorful characters, rather than a boring textbook-like supply of just facts and dates.
reviewed Sin in the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys, and the Battle for America's Soul on + 48 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 3
If anyone is interested in Chicago history, history of brothels and prostitution, or how the Mann Act came into being, I would recommend this book.

However, this book can be a slow read at times and all of the people can be confusing at first. I was expecting to read mostly about brothels, but this is a much wider reaching book that delves into those people who are both for and against brothels. Hope this review helps!
reviewed Sin in the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys, and the Battle for America's Soul on + 289 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 3
Karen Abbott's meticulously researched Sin in the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys and the Battle for America's Soul reads like a leisurely carriage ride through a specific moment in American history. The storytelling is glamorous, unhurried, and sometimes the characters blur together from afar in Chicago's underworld at the dawn of the 20th century. Abbott focuses on Ada and Minna Everleigh, a pair of sisters who ran the most upscale--and in some ways, most progressive--brothel in Chicago's Levee district. They insisted on feeding the 'Everleigh butterflies' gourmet meals, hiring an honest doctor to certify their health, and tutoring them in Balzac. Therefore the sisters are a bit miffed--but too classy to show it-- to be grouped with other Levee madams and saloon keepers by Progressive Era reformers who rallied against their 'white slave trade.' The investigation into the wholesale luring of American and immigrant girls into situations where they are raped and then sold into debt-bondage brothels spurred in part the formation of the (Federal) Bureau of Investigation. Abbott does an admirable job tying these tensions into a detailed, readable story as she volleys between the Levee regulars and the protesters as each side waxes and wanes in influence in Chicago politics. Those who enjoy Chicago history, women's studies, or modern human trafficking would want to indulge in Sin in the Second City
reviewed Sin in the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys, and the Battle for America's Soul on + 65 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
If you liked "Devil in the White City, you will like this book. The same time period, early 1900's, is covered in the this book and you can see the tie in. Pretty neat.
reviewed Sin in the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys, and the Battle for America's Soul on + 88 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
What do you do when you're drawn to a book like this because it literally lists a bunch of things you are super interested in historically AND it all takes place in your favorite city in the world? You read it.

What do you do when it's just the biggest disappointment you probably have ever had in non-fiction? I can't figure that out yet.

This book sets itself up to be about Minna & Ada Everleigh, the proprietors of the Everleigh Club in Chicago in the early 1900s. Infamous for being one of the nicest, most expensive, and most extravagant brothels of it's time, the subject matter seems like it should be teeming with intrigue. Somehow, Abbott has digested all of her research and sort of vomited it out onto 300-odd pages of what I found to be nearly unreadable drivel.

There is no story here. Abbott writes chronologically, but she introduces dozens of characters and we never really see anyone's story from start to finish. The entire book reads like tiny anecdotes about brothel owners and patrons, politicians, and men of god who were sort of all in the Levee district at about the same time. Their stories are connected in a way, but not enough to be weaved together into a larger coherent story.

Perhaps the biggest problem I had with Abbott's work is her characterizations. She "directly quotes" things people said to each other, privately, in 1900...?? She also often describes things like "she tilted her head questioningly" or the look on someone's face as if either 1) she herself was present or 2) this is all bunch of bullshit/fiction. This is playing hard and fast with the idea of "history" and as a historian it made me INCREDIBLY uncomfortable.

Minna and Ada and their club is the most interesting thing you'll find in this book, unfortunately their "story" only makes up about 15% of the pages.
reviewed Sin in the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys, and the Battle for America's Soul on + 902 more book reviews
Kudos to Karen Abbott for writing a well-researched non-fiction book that gives the facts without reading like a term paper.

This book provides a unique glimpse into the corruption and depravity that had its diamond-studded grip on the levee district of Chicago at the turn of the century.

The mysterious Everleigh sisters did not run a brothel. They ran the most exclusive gentleman's club in the world and this book describes those few years of life when they were the uncontested rulers the levee.

This book provides a fascinating view of what life was like in those days, from the supposed "white slave trade" to the politics of reform.

This book was an easy and engaging read, even though the ending fell a little flat because it ended so quietly and with such little fanfare. For anyone who enjoys well written historical non-fiction from this particular era, this book makes for an easy recommendation. Very well done.
reviewed Sin in the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys, and the Battle for America's Soul on + 902 more book reviews
Kudos to Karen Abbott for writing a well-researched non-fiction book that gives the facts without reading like a term paper.

This book provides a unique glimpse into the corruption and depravity that had its diamond-studded grip on the levee district of Chicago at the turn of the century.

The mysterious Everleigh sisters did not run a brothel. They ran the most exclusive gentleman's club in the world and this book describes those few years of life when they were the uncontested rulers the levee.

This book provides a fascinating view of what life was like in those days, from the supposed "white slave trade" to the politics of reform.

This book was an easy and engaging read, even though the ending fell a little flat because it ended so quietly and with such little fanfare. For anyone who enjoys well written historical non-fiction from this particular era, this book makes for an easy recommendation. Very well done.
reviewed Sin in the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys, and the Battle for America's Soul on + 902 more book reviews
Kudos to Karen Abbott for writing a well-researched non-fiction book that gives the facts without reading like a term paper.

This book provides a unique glimpse into the corruption and depravity that had its diamond-studded grip on the levee district of Chicago at the turn of the century.

The mysterious Everleigh sisters did not run a brothel. They ran the most exclusive gentleman's club in the world and this book describes those few years of life when they were the uncontested rulers the levee.

This book provides a fascinating view of what life was like in those days, from the supposed "white slave trade" to the politics of reform.

This book was an easy and engaging read, even though the ending fell a little flat because it ended so quietly and with such little fanfare. For anyone who enjoys well written historical non-fiction from this particular era, this book makes for an easy recommendation. Very well done.
reviewed Sin in the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys, and the Battle for America's Soul on + 5 more book reviews
Very interesting tale of a piece of Chicago history. I still live and work in Chicago, so it was fun to read about places from a century ago that you recognize today.
reviewed Sin in the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys, and the Battle for America's Soul on + 92 more book reviews
This is definitely one of my favorite reads of the year. Beautifully written and engrossing, Abbott brings to life a piece of history that played a part in how the country has been shaped. I suppose if the sex industry is the choice of lifestyle then there is a wrong and right way of doing business, the Everleigh sister's were the cream of the crop and outlasted far longer than many.
reviewed Sin in the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys, and the Battle for America's Soul on + 44 more book reviews
This book was flat-out fun to read, although about 50 pages too long. Set in the early 1900's in Chicago, the author traces the evolution of perhaps the world's most exclusive brothel (admittance by invitation only or letter of reference, with in essence a $50 cover charge), the rise of indignation about immorality, the actions - or inactions - of the politicians, the corruption among the local law enforcement members, and the events that tie all the stakeholders together. The glimpse afforded of the inner workings of a brothel was fascinating, the exploitation of women by women sad and disturbing.

Best read with a companion nearby for the sharing of fun facts and quotes.
reviewed Sin in the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys, and the Battle for America's Soul on
I enjoyed this book very much overall, but felt the ending fell a bit flat. The description of the political machinations that brought the end to the Levee district lost my interest - but then again, what else should I expect in a book about the history of Chicago. I read this as a follow-up to "The Devil in the White City" and I recommend both books because of their detailed and precise descriptions of specific eras in time in Chicago.
reviewed Sin in the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys, and the Battle for America's Soul on
I'm not a fan of non-fiction, but this book was choosen by my Book Club and I have to say I really enjoyed it. Sometimes a little frustrating as the author goes back and forth in time, a lot, which got to be a bit confusing when trying to match up all the players. However the Everleigh sisters were fascinating, smart and shrewd business women running a highly profitable "club". The sisters took better care of their "butterflies" than the most men took of their wives. The descriptions of Chicago were very detailed so you could easily imagine what life was like back in the early 1900's. By the end you'll know where the custom of drinking out of a ladies shoe comes from, plus a few other fun facts! A good read with a bit of history thrown in.
reviewed Sin in the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys, and the Battle for America's Soul on + 41 more book reviews
Loved this book - an easy read, excellent perspective and great side of history which we've generally heard as evil. I highly recommend this book!
reviewed Sin in the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys, and the Battle for America's Soul on + 202 more book reviews
Fun, fascinating peek into a colorful and eventful period of Chicago's past. Great book!
reviewed Sin in the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys, and the Battle for America's Soul on + 36 more book reviews
One of the best Chicago history books for that era.