Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “City of Light” as Want to Read:
City of Light
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

City of Light

3.67 of 5 stars 3.67  ·  rating details  ·  2,552 ratings  ·  386 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
Mass Market Paperback, 689 pages
Published October 10th 2000 by Island (first published 1999)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about City of Light, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about City of Light

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
Adrienne Boudreau
Dec 27, 2012 Adrienne Boudreau rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Adrienne by: Andrea
If I had to chose one word to describe "City of Light" I would use "dissapointing." As someone who lives in Buffalo, NY I've heard quite a bit of fuss amde about this book over the years. Despite my intrests in Buffalo, history and period stories this book and I just did not mesh properly.

For a mystery novel the mystery was very drawn out and dull, also a little too easy to predict. The big reveal didn't come soon enough towards the end and then the actual ending of the novel seemed awkward, fo
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.
I was disappointed with this book. Because of the excellent writing and intriguing setting, I was instantly hooked. However, as the book went on I felt as if the author had researched every bad thing that happened in Buffalo from 1900-1909 and decided to exploit them. I am all for enlightening readers to the downfalls of government, society, or business, but there should be more to the book than that. I kept waiting for something likable to happen and it never did. The lead character Louisa, was ...more
I enjoyed this book very much. The city is Buffalo and the history is not that we'll known to thos of us not from around Buffalo. I knew a president was assisted here and where, but I did not know about the history of electricity at Niagara Falls. It was a good story and gave good background in the history of the early 1900's in that place. Just the picture of traveling in winter on a sleigh with sleigh bells amidst the snow made me think about how much nicer some things were in the past than th ...more
Nate D
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I'm not a big reader of historical fiction for adults, but this book piqued my interest in concept. In execution, however, I felt like this story was missing something. The characters were semi-compelling, the setting was vivid and there are secrets enough for everyone. But I wasn't surprised by anything that was happening as it was revealed. The main character spent so much time speculating over what might be behind whatever the latest events were that by the time the answer was revealed, it ju ...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
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
The thing about an allegory (like a metaphor) is that the comparison is made between two unexpected things (pigs and communist leaders; shadows on the wall and ideas). So when reading Lauren Belfer’s excellent City of Lights I struggled to figure out whether the novel was allegory or something else. A literary term that escapes me, but exists, I’m sure.

So tell me what this literary term is that I’ve missed out on. I’m looking for a term that describes when the fictional plot events/setting/chara
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Seneca Falls Inheritance (Glynis Tryon, #1)
  • The Night Inspector
  • The World in a City: Traveling the Globe Through the Neighborhoods of the New New York
  • The Case Of The Missing Brontë (Perry Trethowan, #3)
  • Broken Promises
  • The Garden Angel
  • The Mighty Queens of Freeville: A Mother, a Daughter, and the People Who Raised Them
  • The Realm of Last Chances
  • Summer of the Big Bachi (Mas Arai, #1)
  • I Should Be Extremely Happy in Your Company: A Novel of Lewis and Clark
  • Island of Bones (Crowther and Westerman, #3)
  • Drums Along the Mohawk
  • Broke Heart Blues
  • A Lack of Temperance (Hattie Davish Mystery, #1)
  • Enjoy Every Sandwich: Living Each Day as If It Were Your Last
  • Dreamland
  • The Prince of Eden (Eden, #2)
  • Chains of Folly (Magdalene la Batarde, #4)
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
More about Lauren Belfer...
A Fierce Radiance

Share This Book