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Make Me a City

3.60  ·  Rating details ·  185 ratings  ·  59 reviews
A propulsive debut of visionary scale, Make Me a City embroiders fact with fiction to tell the story of Chicago's 19th century, tracing its rise from frontier settlement to industrial colossus.

The tale begins with a game of chess—and on the outcome of that game hinges the destiny of a great city. From appalling injustice springs forth the story of Chicago, and the men and
Hardcover, 448 pages
Published March 19th 2019 by Henry Holt & Company
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Average rating 3.60  · 
Rating details
 ·  185 ratings  ·  59 reviews

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May 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Make me a city
First I want to thank the publisher HenryHold for sending me a copy of "Make Me A City" and the author for writting a great story.

I give the book 4.5 stars, the book captures and takes place in chicago in a way of a serie with the same place and different stories.

I recommend you to read this amazing novel because you won't be disappointed about it, the author is able to write an interesting story with great meaning that are interesting to know and read.

As a debut author the book is
Apr 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Big-hearted, brawling, grand, intimate, inquisitive, and full of judgment - this is a novel that captures the dynamic of Chicago in its madcap first century of existence. Carr's novel, which is structured as a series of interlocking short stories, scratches an itch I have long had for good historical fiction set in Chicago's past. It's not quite E.L. Doctorow or Hillary Mantel, but what is? This wonderful re-mythologizing of how a prairie swamp became the city of the century is instantly one of ...more
David Eppenstein
This was one strange book. It is a work of historical fiction and probably the most unusual book of that category that I have ever read. I am at something of a loss as to how to approach writing a review of this book. To start I should note that I am a lifelong resident of the Chicago area and an avid fan of the history of Chicago. When I saw this book being offered for review on NetGalley I had to apply for the opportunity to read it. I have given this book 3 stars because it is a satisfactory ...more
Amanda Barlow
Apr 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I read this having seen it as Times Book of the Month and wasn't disappointed. It is a fascinating depiction of the rise of Chicago, which is an interesting story by itself, but it is the journey of the characters through which it was so cleverly portrayed. Took a while to get used to the different voices, but very well worth it, and a great read. Really recommend it.
Hugo Glass
Apr 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I thought this was an incredible book, I haven't seen one written in this style before. With each chapter the character changed and the medium changed, it starts off as a history book "the alternative history," before visiting a range of characters - an upcoming entrepreneur (and real estate gambler), Irish canal builders, an engineer, and others in a range of mediums - third person, diary entry, news article etc. It was this variety that made the book such a fascinating read. For someone lookin ...more
Scribe Publications
Jonathan Carr’s brilliant novel could not be more relevant to today’s world. Make Me A City explores the nature of history itself — both the official record and the suppressed stories that lie beneath. Covering a century, from mid-western wilderness to the bustling modern city of Chicago, it has a correspondingly large cast, but incidents and characters are interwoven to create not just a satisfying narrative but a working model of how civilisation comes into being, for better or worse. This nov ...more
Erin Cataldi
Feb 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019
Dense and overwhelming at times; but the scale, beauty, and depth of this novel is jaw dropping and makes it worth the effort. Make Me a City is a novel that shows the rapid growth of Chicago from 1800 to 1900 from a variety of different viewpoints and formats. From letters to chapbooks to interviews to essays and orations; the character building is immense. And what's crazy is most characters are just minor footnotes, there are a few who keep popping up over the decades along with their descend ...more
Joan Happel
Mar 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Carr’s entertaining and uniquely written novel relates the “history” of Chicago’s first hundred years. Using many plot devices to unfold the story to readers, the novels storyline comes to us through excerpts from an “alternative” history manuscript, journal entries, letters, and newspaper articles among other devices. There is an eclectic mix of characters and their descendants, both historic and fictional, some who travel through the narrative, while others appearing only briefly.

This sweepin
Melissa Dee
Mar 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Make me a City is a sprawling, raucous, noisy novel set in the early years of Chicago. Told through the lens of the founding father Pointe du Sable and his descendants, “City” delves the depths of the striving, ambitious, often criminal but always energetic stories of the first inhabitants of the city on the prairie.

I loved the way story kept returning to the family of du Sable. In every generation, the history kept returning to the lie that formed the founding story, and its reverberations thro
Oct 08, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: netgalley, nook
Make me a city 1.5⭐️

Chicago intrigued me because thats my home but it fell flat.
The characters were richly developed (a bit too much at times) and the city was minuscule in comparison.
I wasnt a fan of the writing and found it difficult to get through. We bounce through so many timelines and so many people that it was hard to follow and even harder to enjoy.

Thank you so much to Henry and Colt Co via netgalley for sending me an ARC copy of Make me a city by Jonathan Carr. This will be released
Fran Fisher
Apr 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A marvelous story, with a cast of characters as deep and varied as the Chicago weather. History, invention, effort and chance play their parts while the writer challenges and informs us. Good work, Mr. Carr, and thank you for this tale.
Memu Jophat
Apr 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Wonderfully creative and an exceptional novel
Apr 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The roots of a rackety town.

To the outside world, Chicago epitomises America – a raucous, bustling city thrusting ever upwards, sinking sometimes to the very depths of squalor and depredation. Sinatra sang about “Chicago, that toddlin’ town”, others called it “the windy city”, skyscrapers sprang up and gangsters were mown down, ethnic divisions ran deep, corruption appeared endemic.

Jonathan Carr goes back still further than this. He provides an alternative view of Chicago’s history throughout t
Jude Lawes
Apr 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The sheer scale of this book is incredible. This is not a straight forward book to read, with many characters and many voices, but it's worth it. Really enjoyed it, many congratulations to the author ...more
Chaya Nebel
Dec 15, 2018 rated it it was ok
This is mischaracterized. It is not a novel, but a collection of short stories/vignettes, all peripherally rather than fundamentally involved with the city of Chicago. The first story starts out with the very beginning of the town and a man named Kinzie, who buys a "mansion" from a man named Sable.

From there we jump some decades, to the story of a woman and a man named Wright, a short portion of whose relationship is depicted. The book moves from one vignette to another, often jumping decades, n
Kathleen Gray
Mar 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Don't expect a straight narrative from this tale of Chicago between 1800 and 1900. Carr has used a variety of voices and sources to pull together what is more a series of vignettes than a conventional novel. This makes for some confusion early on but is ultimately rewarding because it reflects the patchwork nature of a great city. Jean Baptiste Pointe de Sable and his descendants figure prominently, as is appropriate. You might find one voice more compelling than another but don't count on it ne ...more
May 25, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: arc
"But if what survives of our legacy is a patchwork of threads, I believe the historian has a duty to try to stitch them together." ~the ficitonal Mr Winship, Professor of American History at University of Chicago, in Make Me A City by Jonathan Carr

As a family genealogy researcher, I have delved into many turn-of-the-century place histories in which people still living recollected earlier days. Make Me A City is patterned in part on these late 19th c. volumes. Central is a fictional history of
James Henry
Jun 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This novel has been on my radar for a while now after seeing it as Times Book of the Month. I was certainly not left disappointed. Through its many voices, Make Me a City takes the reader on a journey through Chicago’s 19th century. The style is unusual in that the novel is broken up into many shorter stories which are then linked together by certain reappearing characters and themes. I would argue that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, but having said that all of the parts are uni ...more
Aug 28, 2018 rated it liked it
The book starts with a note about Pointe de Sable, who in 1785 moved to Echicagou to an inhospitable wilderness, where he developed a trade.

The story starts with Eulalie and Isack in 1812, who were to travel to Fort Dearborn due to possible attack of Potawatomie on Echicagou. The same year, she comes back home to St. Charles without Isack and is very sick.

Then the story moves to 1834 Echicagou, where John Wright at the age of 19 is already a notable merchant and storekeeper, and owner of notable
Dec 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Make Me A City by Jonathan Carr

Set in Chicago from 1800-1900 the story revolves around prominent, and founding people in Chicago. Jean Baptiste de Sable, Antje Hunter the First female reporter of the Chicago Tribune (News Paper) to name a few. Told in alternating voices, and different time (frames) we learn of their lives in the "Windy City".

The story moves at a slow pace, with a lot of narrative, and less dialog. There are a lot of characters, but as the story progressed it was a bit easier to
Apr 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is an original and ambitious novel, which weaves fiction and non-fiction into a chronicle of the first century of Chicago, from its (disputed) founding to its rise as a major city. With real and imagined characters and a variety of narrative forms – diaries, letters, newspaper articles – plus a framing device in the form of a book “Chicago: an alternative history 1800-1900” by a Professor Milton Winship, which lends an air of authenticity to the narrative, it’s wide-ranging in its scope but ...more
Feb 27, 2020 rated it it was ok
Oh my, what to say, where to begin. I have very mixed feelings with this book.

On one hand- Well, it took me a very long time to get into this book. I found the flow of it to be rather choppy and just too many characters to keep straight. I thought about making a flow chart for myself at one point, it was that confusing, as we'd meet a character and then see that name again many pages later and have to remember why that name sounded familiar- that got tedious. The mention of "excerpts" and "sour
Faye Purcell
May 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book took me by complete surprise. Expecting a more detailed history of Chicago, when I read the first chapter, which is labelled as an "alternative history" I couldn't work out what was fiction and what wasn't- a story of a city founded by a game of chess seemed quite extraordinary! It becomes apparent further on the style of this author, and the true complex and appealing nature of this book. It tells a story of Chicago in an array of different voices, perspecitves and time frames weaving ...more
Apr 03, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: from-publisher
“The nearer I get to the end, the more shame I have and the less shame I feel. Every year we pile it up, don’t we, all of us excepting the angels? Maybe that’s why we don’t all go lunatic. And why some of us do.”

MAKE ME A CITY is an intriguing tome—marketed as a fictional and “alternate history” to the building of Chicago, the novel follows many disparate threads of remarkably different individuals over the course of one century. Beginning in 1800 “Echicagou” on the estate of Jean Baptiste Point
AJ Conroy
Jun 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Howard Zinn meets Devil in the White City meets Micheal Chabon.

I wish I knew whether any of it is a true story, so it's frustrating that there is no author note either way. Even so, I want it all to be true.
Rowena Hill
Jun 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I must confess to having little prior knowledge of how Chicago came about until I was recommended Jonathan Carr’s beautifully written debut novel, Make Me A City. The author cleverly draws the reader in through a rich and diverse mix of characters alongside various objects such as a watch and a kettle which appear again at different times throughout the book. The individuals’ stories link and interweave and through these different voices, the story of Chicago is told. This is definitely a book w ...more
May 15, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had a galley of this 2019 release, and I got overwhelmed and bogged down, and then had a little reading slump. I finally got to it, and I'm so glad I did.

In this novel Carr tells the story of the first hundred years of Chicago, framed around the supposed 1902 "Alternative History of Chicago" by one Milton Winshop and a variety of "primary sources". He starts with the mulatto first settler of Echicagou, Jean Baptiste Point du Sable--who, we know, really was the first settler of Chicago, but th
Alison Hardtmann
Mar 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: my-library
Taking the first hundred years of Chicago's history as his starting point, Jonathan Carr has written a novel composed of inter-linked stories in the form of letters, news articles, excerpts from history books and biographies, as well as traditional story-telling. Make Me a City focuses on the ordinary laborer, the failed businessman, the dispossessed, and outsiders to tell the story of Chicago, from it's beginnings through to the early years of the twentieth century. The protagonist of one chapt ...more
Donna Davis
I am always on the lookout for something different, and so I leapt at the chance to read this publication free and early. Thanks go to Net Galley and Henry Holt. It’s for sale now.

The story is set in and around Chicago, back when the city was first born. It tells a tale of shifting alliances and double crosses; yet in other ways it is an old story, one in which a Caucasian interloper cannot bear to see a Black man rise to a position of wealth and influence. It’s not an easy read.

Conceptually t
Jan 12, 2019 marked it as to-read
Make Me a City is a lot of book to read. It is indeed slow going and just frustrating at times. I usually like this type of sweeping saga story, but I got stuck with this one. Maybe too many facts and not enough story to carry it along. Chicago's development through the 19th century is an epic journey, but this book just doesn't quite capture the grandeur of that. ...more
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  Kerine Wint is a software engineering graduate with more love for books than for computers. As an avid reader, writer, and fan of all things...
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