City of Light
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City of Light

3.68 of 5 stars 3.68  ·  rating details  ·  2,289 ratings  ·  360 reviews
Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers
Even the considerable length of Lauren Belfer's City of Light can't prepare the reader for all the novel holds. In turn-of-the-century Buffalo, she illuminates (among other concerns) the struggles of women, blacks, immigrants and lesbians, labor unions and socialists; the birth of environmentalism; the back-room dealings of ind...more
Mass Market Paperback, 689 pages
Published October 10th 2000 by Island (first published 1999)
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This started so well. The distinctive unmarried heroine. Life in the high society of Buffalo. An all-girls school. Electricity, when it first arrived on the scene. Then the fluff took over...
Lorin Cary
City of Light

This is Lauren Lefler’s first novel, and it’s easy to see why it won so many plaudits. (I’m reading it because I was so impressed by her second novel.) Her protagonist, Louisa Barrett, is the headmistress of a school for girls in Buffalo, NY, in 1901. The city is on the verge of hosting the Pan-American Exposition (during which President McKinley is assassinated) and as the Niagra Falls hydroelectric plant expands the city will become even more prominent. In this dynamic context Lou...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 19, 2007 Karen rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: adults
Really liked this book: a good story, compelling. Takes place in late 1890s to early 1900s, in Buffalo, NY. The backdrop is the Pan-American Exibition and city fathers/businessmen are readying the city, as this event will draw thousands, including politicians, and getting your city noticted never hurts. But that is just the backdrop (and, no it is not a murder story as in Devil in the White City, also featuring a world's fair, and the wonder of electricity). Louisa Barrett is the headmistress of...more
Sep 16, 2007 Catherine rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Historical Fiction fans
I was loving this historical fiction novel at first - I felt it made Buffalo NY at the turn of the century - when it was known as "The City of Light" come alive and the author was sensitive to roles of race and gender at the timeframe (instead of glossing over that). The main character is independent and likable and I was learning history at the same time. Unfortunately, and maybe this was her trying to be true to the realities of an independent woman during that time frame, the story takes an i...more
Elyse Hayes
Loved this historical novel set in Buffalo at the turn of the 20th century. The author mentions real places, real buildings, etc. and weaves local history into a mystery. At the time there was a lot of wealth in the city, it was still a major port, the power plant was new, beautiful buildings were being built, they hosted the 1901 PanAmerican Exhibition, and during that, President McKinley was shot. Fascinating. Story really kept my interest all the way through. Written from the viewpoint of the...more
Lauren Belfer immerses the reader in the turn of the century city of Buffalo. It is an exciting time where change and industrialization is worshiped. It is a time for women as well as men. Their position in society is changing. they are becoming increasingly educated and able to impact through social change. It is a time to come to America and walk the streets of gold. Immigrants from eastern Europe flock to this country and cause upheavals of their own. It is the time for the worker. Industries...more
Justine Janora
As a Buffalonian born in the late 1960's I loved this book. It made me feel like I was part of a thriving city on the verge of something greater. Unfortunately as most current Buffalonians know, the city hasn't yet hit those days of grandour again. But the book was very well written and the research took me on a quest. I found myself in the Ellicott Sqaure building, in front of the elevators looking at the swastikas embedded in the tiled floor. I had walked those floors many times but never noti...more
Sonja Livingston
I applaud anyone who wants to bring the rich history of western New York to the world through writing or art. The novel includes much information and research and provides a good "feel" for Buffalo at the turn of the century and what was at stake for the landscape and the people. That said, the main character was inconsistent and unbelievable, and the plot veered over the falls about a third of the way through. I enjoyed several of the strands of story, and was hooked enough to find out what hap...more
Luke Friedman
Lauren Belfer's City of Light discusses Buffalo, NY at the turn of the last century. In this novel, Belfer explores Buffalo through the eyes of Louisa Barret. Ms. Barrett is the headmistress of the Macaulay school. This book has a touch of mystery and history. I would recommend it anyone who likes a good novel and enjoys reading about the history of Buffalo and the time of the Pan-American Exposition.
Excellent book especially if you live in Buffalo.

Excellent book especially if you live in Buffalo.

An excellent read. Ms. Belfer did a wonderful job of taking both a story and history. I enjoyed the mystery, but admit my bias as a passionate advocate for my beloved Buffalo. Part of the romance of this book for me was the fact that it forced me to learn so much about Buffalo, through the book or by googling later to know more. The events in this book take place literally blocks from my home, and a...more
Shelly Sweeney
I simply LOVED this book! I am a Buffalo girl and it was really fun to be able to find the house I was living in on the book jacket. I learned a lot about Buffalo history in a very interesting book! I loved how the author wove the fictional story completely into a real setting with real historical facts. I really felt the characters and the story unfolding! I also enjoyed reading about the amazing architecture, as well as the building of the first power plant! Excellent job! Would recommend to a...more
This is a well written historical fiction set in the late 1800's, early 1900s. The power station at Niagara Falls is being constructed and at the same time the Pan-American Exposition is occuring. President McKinley is assassinated towards the end of the book. The 'City of Light' is Buffalo where electricity is being brought into the buildings and homes to replace gas lamps and release the city of the pall of darkness the gas clouds leave hanging over it. Automobiles are a rare occurence but wil...more
Although this book is just shy of 500 pages, I read it in 3 days, and I also managed to grade stack of essays and read part of another book. I also made myself slow down to enjoy all the description and really try to soak in some of the history. I have always enjoyed historical fiction, but rarely do I pay much attention to the details of the place since I don't really KNOW the place personally. However, City of Light takes place at the turn of the last century when Buffalo hosted the Pan-Ameri...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Meh. I really wanted to like this, but it was a struggle. First, history isn't so much inter-weaved as it is patched on. It's jarring to just have historical anecdotes thrown in like footnotes that don't know their place. Things like (not an actual example): We went to X park, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted in 1897. Ok, interesting, but not exactly a seamless addition to the narrative.
My second problem is that the whole thing was way too blunt and transparent. The narrator explains everything...more
I love this book for two reasons; it takes place where I grew up in Buffalo, NY, and because I have a particular interest in this era. The detail and historical references of the city of Buffalo take me to the time when our city was bustling with richness and possibilities while preparing for the Pan-American Exhibition. I had to take a drive through it with a new vision and appreciation for buildings that we have seen thousands of times. I have lived here my entire life and never knew the histo...more
City of Light takes a snapshot of a very specific period and place, Spring 1901 in Buffalo. As an historical novel, the city of Buffalo, Niagara Falls and The Pan American Exposition become characters that are as well developed as the narrator Louisa Barrett. The many other characters, each with distinct personalities and personal motives paint a true picture of society and it's complexity. However, I read this book over a long period with other books taking priority, which says a lot. While I a...more
Lauren Belfer's novel is a perfect choice for those with a taste for historical fiction, and a love of Buffalo, NY. The intrigue and tension in the book is well balanced by daily happenings, and Miss Barrett's dedication to the ones she loves is admirable. Buffalo at the turn of the century is a bustling place full of new innovations and the dangers that accompany them. Miss Barrett's navigations among the world around her are an entertaining story to read, and the twists and turns are captivati...more
E Wilson

When I started this book, I thought it was going to be a strong 3 or even a 4 star book for me. I love historical novels that include real history and facts about the era the book is set in. However I had a hard time buying the idea that Louisa would encourage the rumor that she had a romantic interest in another woman so that she could hob nob with the influential men of the town without their wives getting jealous.

The story had so many side plots that it didn't move forward
very well. The bo...more
City of Light by Lauren Belfer
Louisa Barrett, the headmistress at an all girl's school in Buffalo, NY at the beginning of the 1900 century, starts to believe murder is afoot with a connect not only to the booming electricity of Niagara Falls but also the pan-American Exposition and to close friends. This book was very good and a pretty easy read. I would recommend it for anyone who enjoy a good mystery. I gained a greater understanding of Buffalo, NY and what it was like in its booming days.
A little bit mystery, a little bit drama, a little bit romance, a lot of historical fiction. Set in Buffalo, NY around the turn of the century, when Niagara Falls was being harnessed to create electricity and when the rest of the city was getting ready to welcome the world to the Pan-American Exposition in 1902. Includes real historical figures such as Presidents Grover Cleveland and William McKinley and VP Theodore Roosevelt and his daughter Alice. Old-maid schoolmistress Louisa Barrett narrate...more
Bonnie Findlay
This was one of the best books I read all year! I am so glad I decided on it for one of my Sept. reads! I am orginally from near the Buffalo area so enjoyed learning some interesting history of the Buffalo/Niagara Falls area, plus at the same time, enjoying a great story! This book has it all-murder, intrigue, racial issues, women's rights issues, a little romance...don't let the length of the book scare you off. You won't want it to end.
Isaac George
This novel took place around the turn of the century in Buffalo, NY. It's about historical events, such as the battle for hydroelectric power, while simultaneously describes a fictional murder story. Much of the book takes place around real places, such as Bidwell Parkway and (although it is renamed in the book)The Buffalo Seminary. It is about a group who is afraid of change and that is the basis of the murder.
I would never have picked this book up had it not been for a book club, but I actually feel more enriched after having read it.

It's only fair to note I grew up not far from Buffalo and live in the suburbs now. That probably makes the book even more interesting to me than it would to someone who didn't know the places the author mentions. I do love how it takes place in a real city and involves many places with which I am familiar: Delaware Park, Niagara Falls, Goat Island, Three Sisters Islands,...more
Much political and economic intrigue among the kingpins of turn-of-the-century Buffalo society centering around a single headmistress with a secret and the family she is closest to. I was drawn in and had to know what happened, so I read it in three days! The attitudes of those in power presented in this will jar many of us, though sadly are also reflected in our world to this day. Fascinating look at Buffalo and turn-of-the-century history involving societal values, civil rights movements, hist...more
Cover blurbs are too intense- I did not think the mystery was particularly gripping. The book is full of Louisa explaining the etiquette and subtext of upper class society at the turn of the century, which is really helpful for understanding, but can get to be a little much. Also, since I (kind of) know Buffalo, I spent half the book just trying to orient myself in the city as Louisa wandered around making house calls. I did enjoy learning about the electrical development and the Pan- Am exposit...more
Maybe 3.5. A thoroughly researched and densely plotted novel centering on 1906 Buffalo, New York. Well done, if a bit heavy on the exposition. It seems that no fact about Buffalo was too trivial to include.

As I am not the target audience for this book, I didn't connect with the protagonist as Belfer's intended readers probably did.
Amazing story set in turn-of-the-century (19th to 20th) in Buffalo with the development of electrical power on the Niagara River near the Falls. No, it doesn't sound like a page turner, but it is. A really good story, well told. Though it's Belfer's first novel, there are no indications of that. A thick book but a quick read.
I quite enjoyed this historical mystery, set in Buffalo and looking at the battles surrounding the generation of electricity from the waters of Niagara Falls. However after a while I did find it rather slow and wordy and also I never quite believed in some of the characters.
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Lauren Belfer was born in Rochester, New York, and grew up in Buffalo, where she attended the Buffalo Seminary. At Swarthmore College, she majored in Medieval Studies. After graduating, she worked as a file clerk at an art gallery, a paralegal, an assistant photo editor at a newspaper, a fact checker at magazines, and as a researcher and associate producer on documentary films. She has an M.F.A. f...more
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