Book Review – City of Ashes
What I’ve recently finished:
What is it about?
This book centers around two young women. Set in the late 188s, Geneva Langley is a Chicago socialite who loves being surrounded by artists and free thinkers. Her husband, on the other hand, wants her to fit a rather strict mold of upper class woman hood-paying calls, attending balls and being a model wife as his business develops. Geneva (or Ginny) pushes the edge too far and they both find themselves banished to the developing city of Seattle. The second woman, Beatrice Wilkes, is an actress already living in the cut throat world of the newly developing Seattle theater scene. She has lived on her own since her mid-teens and because of this, she trusts no one living in this kind of environment – someone can be her friend one day and then steal her part the next.
These two women might initially strike the reader as opposites – Ginny getting many things handed to her with little work needed on her end and Beatrice who has had to work hard for everything from her food to her position in her theater company. But the Seattle fire of 1889 forces a bond between these two unlikely women and helps them attain what they both want – freedom and position and they pair together in a rather creative way in order to do just that.
Why did I read this?
I read Megan Chance’s book The Inconvenient Wife and thoroughly enjoyed it. City of Ashes is set around the same time as this other book but during a more specific event, The Great Seattle Fire. I had never heard of this, unfortunately, so that made me want to read it.
What impressed me about this book?
I’m a sucker for books told in various points of view. Many, if not all, of the characters were sneaky and dishonest. It was interesting read Ginny, for example, see her husband do something out of character and then, in the next chapter from the husband’s point of view, you can read what he was thinking and know why he did it.
I also liked the descriptions of the city both before and after the fire. It made the book quite interesting.
What disappointed me about this book?
Since this was the second book I read by the author, I couldn’t help but see a familiar and almost formulaic timeline between the two books. (I won’t state much else because I don’t want to include spoilers)
When Ginny and her husband first arrive to Seattle, you read of a city with very little archetectural structure. For example, shops are on streets however they’re not all aligned correctly. And many of the buildings were made from wood. So imagine a great fire hitting a city like this? It is because of these circumstances, the fire did as much damage as it did. Because of this, many policies were changed during its rebuilding. I’ll take text straight from Wikipedia:
The city made many improvements in response to the fire. The city’s fire department shifted from a volunteer to a paid force with new firehouses and a new chief. The city took control of the water supply, increasing the number of hydrants and adding larger pipes.The advent of brick buildings to downtown Seattle was one of the many architectural improvements the city made in the wake of the fire. New city ordinances set standards for the thickness of walls and required “division walls” between buildings.These changes became principal features of post-fire construction and are still visible in Seattle’s Pioneer Square district today, the present-day location of the fire. At Pioneer Square, guided tours are also available to paying customers. Also at this location visitors can tour the Seattle Underground, where they can visit remains of buildings that were built over after the fire.
What reading challenge(s) did this book apply to?
- My ordinary Goodreads challenge – 14th out of my goal of thirty books to read in 2012
- Historical Tapestry – 10th out of 20 Historical Fiction books to read in 2012