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City of God: A Novel of Passion and Wonder in Old New York (Old New York #3)

4.13  ·  Rating Details ·  698 Ratings  ·  70 Reviews
"City of God," the latest installment in Beverly Swerling's gripping saga of old New York, takes readers to Manhattan's clamorous streets as the nation struggles to find a compromise between slave and free, but hears the drums of war. This is New York when one synagogue is no longer adequate for thousands of Jewish immigrants, when New Evangelicals rouse complacent Protest ...more
Hardcover, 480 pages
Published December 9th 2008 by Simon & Schuster (first published 2004)
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Dec 18, 2008 Jennifer rated it liked it
The third book in a New York series, I was glad City of God was better than the previous one. Continuing the story of the Turner and Devrey families, this one stuck more to the families and the theme of medicine that began with the first book. Even with the addition of outside characters and the social history issues of abolition, immigration, and religion, the book was a quick, fun read. And Swerling leaves the door open for more tales.
The only thing that bothered me was the pidgin English
Sharon Young
May 10, 2014 Sharon Young rated it it was amazing
Shelves: done
Loved this trilogy of the history of New York. Swerling is a great historical fiction writer.
Feb 11, 2009 Damian rated it it was ok
First "The Godfather Part III" and now this! Well, at least there weren't any surreal George Hamilton cameos...or were there??? He might as well have been playing one of the miscellaneous characters who wander into the plot for apparently no other reason than to attempt to nudge the narrative forward. I'm sure it must be hard to maintain the same level of intensity and creativity throughout a trilogy, but there's no excuse to coast to the finish line. Nonetheless, since the descriptions of old N ...more
Kyle Wendy Skultety (
So far, the best one of her 5 book series. Funny, enthralling, and vivid, without pages and pages of boring politics and history minutia like the first two. The chinese women's language was often funny and the characters held my attention right to the very end. I can only hope that the next two are written as well.
Apr 11, 2012 S rated it liked it
Beverly Swerling did a very good job of making history interesting in this book. The plot was complicated enough to keep me reading, which is usually hard, and kept me from guessing exactly what would happen next; I did occasionally get the feeling of "oh-no-I-know-what-this-character-is-going-to-do-and-I-wish-I-could-jump-into-the-book-and-stop-what's-coming." That, in my opinion, is not an entirely bad thing. The characters were likable and despicable as needed and were fairly easy to acknowle ...more
Oct 29, 2015 Bob rated it really liked it
4 1/2 Stars -- Informative And Hard-To-Put Down!

Beverly Swerling's City Of God is the fourth installment of her five fictional treatments of early American history. City Of Glory is another sweeping epic of (primarily) two competitive families that takes place in New York City from the 1830s up to shortly before the start of the Civil War; and addresses issues of the times such as poor immigrants living in unsanitary neighborhoods, progress in health and medicine, religious conflict, entreprene
Jun 06, 2012 Mighty_k24 rated it it was amazing
In’t kort:
Vervolg op City of Dreams en City of Gold (cfr elders op deze blog), waarbij opnieuw enkele telgen van de families Devrey en Turner worden gevolgd. Nicholas Turner is een gewaardeerd dokter, die gefascineerd is door de mogelijkheden die narcose en anesthesie zouden bieden. Sam Devrey heeft zich ingewerkt in de scheepvaart en koopvaardij. Op één van zijn reizen naar China heeft hij zijn jonge vrou Mei-hua mee terug naar New York gebracht. Hij huwt echter ook nog Carolina, al is dat alle
Mar 01, 2012 Todd rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book! Based in New York, gives the reader an understanding of what the "New World" was like and how religion was looked upon. This book doesn't cram the history or religion to you but tells a story and gently gets you into the timeframe and circumstances. I was even so intrigued by a few things>like the "golden lilies",I did an internet search to learn more about them. Intoduced me to new things and made me think of a few in terms of the way things used to be and are now ...more
Oct 01, 2011 Rebecca rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you love historical fiction, run to the library to pick up this fast-paced, riveting story of two families set in the early 19th century NYC. The story follows the amazing rise of the city with underlying themes of the shipping business including the opium trade with China, the immigrant tensions, the conflicts between Catholics and Protestants, the medical field at the time, and the very harsh lives of the poor and orphaned. The main character has a Chinese wife (with bound feet) that he kee ...more
Randi Reisfeld
Sep 10, 2011 Randi Reisfeld rated it really liked it
Sometimes there's nothing for it but a great, sweeping, "Swerling" saga. You get involved in the generations of families, their history as well as the history of their cities, countries, causes, etc. Beverly Swerling is my go-to author for her "City Of" books; the city being my own, New York. Mostly, she follows two intertwing (and often quarrelsome) families, but she rarely fails to make you care about them. I confess to not reading this series in order--but I would recommend it. (City of Dream ...more
Mar 12, 2011 Erin rated it liked it
Shelves: pioneer-america
Another chapter in the Devrey and Turner families. I was a little disappointed in this one. I expected the events leading up to the Civil War to be more a plot device. New York in the 1860s is packed full of things. However, we spend very little time in that period. Instead, you suffer through another cheating husband/mistress plot that could be during any time period. Carolina as a character was no Manon, so I became bored of her shenanigans. And of course, we get more lectures from the newest ...more
Sep 04, 2011 Michaela rated it really liked it
This is the third book in the series, and, after having been disappointed by the second book, I was glad that this one got back to what made me love the first book so much. There were moments where I felt as though the plot was moving along way too fast, but the family relations and medical history were fascinating and more than made up for it. I found myself learning a lot about neighborhoods in current NYC and how they came to be, and about the political machines and how they began. In fact, I ...more
Apr 12, 2010 April rated it liked it
This book was over all quite pleasing. The historical view of old New York was pretty fascinating. I liked the development of the characters, but the only thing wrong is that they were a little flat. If you were a protagonist, you were really good: an angelical widow who becomes a nun, who loves taking care of the poor, sick and elderly. If you were the antagonist you were really bad: an importer of opium who beats his wife, neglects his child, has an open affair, and (spoiler alert!) eventually ...more
Jul 05, 2014 Sandy rated it liked it
It's 1834 and the Devrey's and the Turners are still at odds. Young Dr. Nicholas Turner comes to New York and meets his cousin Samuel Turner and his beautiful wife Carolina. Samuel is keeping secrets that he doesn't want the rest of NY to know; but eventually has to call upon his cousin Dr. Turner for help.

All during the building of NY we find the struggles of the Jewish, Irish and Italians in a City that doesn't want them there. But lavishes in all that they bring with them.

In the background t
Dec 26, 2014 Sharon rated it it was amazing
This is the third in the Old New York series and so far the best. This story continues the rivalry between the Turner and Devrey families. It is a time of great growth in the city, a horrible fire burning down most of it (while displacing many poor families,) the rebuilding of it with fine mansions, an expanding Wall Street, and the growth in the shipping and opium industries. The book is a great history lesson of New York during a time of clashes between Jewish, Italian and Irish cultures. It a ...more
Mar 16, 2010 Julie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The next piece of Swerling's saga of old New York. This work takes place in the mid-1800's and it deals more with personal relationships than with history; but it was very compelling, and captured the feel of the time in New York. The story of the Turners and the Deverys continues, with the introduction of Samuel Devery's Chinese "wife", his legal wife, and their children and problems, including the opium trade. Dr. Turner is focusing on the affects of germs and the lack of the acceptability of ...more
Jul 05, 2013 Jacqueline rated it it was ok
The plot line was quite novel, which is the only reason I was able to complete the book. The author seemed to focus so much on name dropping events and famous people of the time that she failed to focus on her character development. I never once could relate to her characters and the seemed way too fantastical for the novel. It could have been so much better!
Additionally, her use of the flashback was a complete failure. The literary device is supposed to be smoothly interwoven so that the reade
Jul 08, 2009 Dkeslin rated it it was amazing
A aof two cultures melding in New York. The child bride brought from China wedded to a powerful shipping businessman in a chinese ceremony and kept in secret in the Chinese section of lower New York. At the same time, he marries another who he ignores but who is a member of society and is convenient for his rise to power. Interesting detail about the traditions of old China and her customs. A three generational saga of their parallel lives. A wonderful read about the famous people who establishe ...more
Aug 26, 2012 Patty rated it it was amazing
At first I thought I was drawn to this series for the history of NYC. After finishing the 3rd book now I realize I am drawn to it for the characters (of which the city is one) and Swerlings writing. I'm capitvated by the Turners and the Devrys and all the family history they bring. If you love a great generational saga and have any interest in the history of this great city (home to me) then you will love this series. Who knew (not me) the Chinatown was once "China Village"?!
I have the next book
Sep 09, 2015 Wynne rated it liked it
I love big historical novels with family trees so I can keep track of the characters. I liked this one best of the 3 I have read in this series. But I do like to have some explanation of why a character behaves cruelly to others. This author gives one no clues. For this novel one would have to conclude that being raised as a male in Chinese culture (Sam and Kurt) would lead one to be a cruel, avaricious bully. I don't buy that. So why is one person cruel and another kind? You won't be able to fi ...more
Helen Southall
Aug 04, 2009 Helen Southall rated it really liked it
Read as part of a book club. Outstanding historical fiction. Beverly Swerling is a wonderful author. Her work is always well researched and her characters and plotlines are fully developed. It is like reading living history. This is the third book in the series: City of Dreams, City of Glory and City of God.

Contact with the author through the book club indicated that she is working on the fourth book in the series. More good reading to come.
Nov 20, 2009 Patti rated it really liked it
This is the third in a trilogy, however it is not necessary to read the prior two books to get into this one. The setting is Manhattan at the time of the civil war, although, not much attention is given to it. The plot deals more with the stories of two families and the ending was a little flat, I think the author is leaving the door open for another in the series. I'm not sure I will read the other two books. Jury is still out.
Oct 26, 2012 Erin rated it liked it
Mmmm... I give this book the stars for the historical context. I love this period in American history, and found the historical portions of this book fascinating. The characters were flat- I didn't connect with them or care about them- and the plot was slow, which is painful for a book this size. Could be my current stage of life; constantly chasing after a toddler all day, I'm not too interested in a slow, panoramic story in my "me" time. I need something to grab me, and this, sadly, did not.
I have enjoyed all these books set in the history of New York. In particular I like the theme that follows a family of doctors. But I am weary of the author's need to inject her current thoughts on abortion into a historical story. This time it is awkwardly shoehorned in and takes away from an otherwise great flow. Same with the pidgin-rendered thoughts of the Chinese people. Does anyone actually think, "Oh great lord white father bring much good for tai tai, Aiii!"
Mar 13, 2010 Alexandra rated it liked it
I liked more of the Turners and Devreys in this third book but sometimes the plot seemed rushed and as if the author had forgotten minor details of the previous books. The ending was very rushed and did not give me the sense of finality that I was looking for. However, as usual, the feel of New York's changing atmosphere/structure/cultures was facinating as usual.
Oct 06, 2010 Ruth rated it it was amazing
Interesting story! Learning a lot! Many different characters and some times confusing--a lot going on at the same time, but seems to come together every now and again. Like the character build--very interesting. Some characters I love and dislike at the same time. Lots of emotions flying around in the story. Again, very interesting so far! Looking forward to how it ends.
Jun 15, 2009 Mary rated it it was amazing
Beverly Swirling writes a complex, engrossing tale, rich in detail,with memorable characters. Her research of historical New York City is outstanding. The reader has no problem following the generations in this series. I was intrigued by plot, setting and characters. City of God hooks the reader, leaves them hoping for more.Clearly a five star!
Apr 10, 2011 Susan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a great historical fiction book. Took me a while to get into the book, but once I understood this was the third in a series and the story picked up from another book I really enjoyed the characters. Hurt my heart when she found out about her husband when the fire swept the city. But so glad she and Nick "found" each other.
May 13, 2009 Al rated it really liked it
Excellent novel which provides a very good cross-sectional perspective of life and society in Manhattan during the 1834-1863 time period.... during this period what is now mid-town was just beginning to evolve from a very rural landscape as the population moves north on the island of Manhattan and immigrants stream into the city from across the globe.
Jul 11, 2014 Shannon rated it it was amazing
I really liked this book, just like the two that came before it. My only complaint, which isn't really even about this book, is that I wish the author had spent so much time on one generation in the first book as she did in that one. There just aren't enough books about early New York and New Amsterdam, and I wish there had been more than just a few pages set in the seventeenth century.
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I’m told that a number of critics who have said kind things about my books, have been less kind about the very brief bio on my book jackets. First, don’t blame Simon & Schuster; it’s my fault. Publishers use the data supplied by the author for this kind of thing, and I didn’t supply much. I guess because it seems that almost everything needs a long explanation. Which is probably me being egoti ...more
More about Beverly Swerling...

Other Books in the Series

Old New York (4 books)
  • City of Dreams: A Novel of Nieuw Amsterdam and Early Manhattan (Old New York, #1)
  • City of Glory: A Novel of War and Desire in Old Manhattan (Old New York, #2)
  • City of Promise: A Novel of New York's Gilded Age (Old New York, #4)

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