Wednesday, October 14, 2009

October 2009 Book Club Meeting

Summary: Step into the perfumed parlors of the Everleigh Club, the most famous brothel in American history–and the catalyst for a culture war that rocked the nation. Operating in Chicago’s notorious Levee district at the dawn of the last century, the Club’s proprietors, two aristocratic sisters named Minna and Ada Everleigh, welcomed moguls and actors, senators and athletes, foreign dignitaries and literary icons, into their stately double mansion, where thirty stunning Everleigh “butterflies” awaited their arrival. Courtesans named Doll, Suzy Poon Tang, and Brick Top devoured raw meat to the delight of Prince Henry of Prussia and recited poetry for Theodore Dreiser. Whereas lesser madams pocketed most of a harlot’s earnings and kept a “whipper” on staff to mete out discipline, the Everleighs made sure their girls dined on gourmet food, were examined by an honest physician, and even tutored in the literature of Balzac.

Not everyone appreciated the sisters’ attempts to elevate the industry. Rival Levee madams hatched numerous schemes to ruin the Everleighs, including an attempt to frame them for the death of department store heir Marshall Field, Jr. But the sisters’ most daunting foes were the Progressive Era reformers, who sent the entire country into a frenzy with lurid tales of “white slavery”——the allegedly rampant practice of kidnapping young girls and forcing them into brothels. This furor shaped America’s sexual culture and had repercussions all the way to the White House, including the formation of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

With a cast of characters that includes Jack Johnson, John Barrymore, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., William Howard Taft, “Hinky Dink” Kenna, and Al Capone, Sin in the Second City is Karen Abbott’s colorful, nuanced portrait of the iconic Everleigh sisters, their world-famous Club, and the perennial clash between our nation’s hedonistic impulses and Puritanical roots. Culminating in a dramatic last stand between brothel keepers and crusading reformers, Sin in the Second City offers a vivid snapshot of America’s journey from Victorian-era propriety to twentieth-century modernity. -- Random House

Last night The Preschool Moms Book Club met to discuss SIN IN THE SECOND CITY by Karen Abbott. I actually read and reviewed the book when I first started this blog, so I didn't actually read the book again before our meeting. I knew going in that I wasn't going to be the best contributor to the meeting, but I really needed a night out!

It ended up that we only had three members come to this meeting. I was disappointed not to see my friends, but I also felt bad for our hostess. I know how much work I end up doing when I host book club -- cleaning, cooking, etc. She was concerned that no one enjoyed the book and that's the reason they didn't come; however, I just think it's a very busy time of the year for everyone.

To be honest, we really ended up talking about everything but the book. One things we learned about our group is that we enjoy reading fiction much more than non-fiction. I'm glad our hostess picked this book because it was definitely a change of pace for us, but I have a feeling that we're going to lead more towards historical fiction the next time we want to "learn" something!

And speaking of historical fiction, next month we are reading ONE THOUSAND WHITE WOMEN: THE JOURNALS OF MAY DODD by Jim Fergus. I have heard wonderful things about this book, and I'm really looking forward to reading it. I actually received this book last Christmas during our book club's book swap from my friend, and I've been looking for a good reason to read it!

Summary: One Thousand White Women is the story of May Dodd and a colorful assembly of pioneer women who, under the auspices of the U.S. government, travel to the western prairies in 1875 to intermarry among the Cheyenne Indians. The covert and controversial "Brides for Indians" program, launched by the administration of Ulysses S. Grant, is intended to help assimilate the Indians into the white man's world. Toward that end May and her friends embark upon the adventure of their lifetime. Jim Fergus has so vividly depicted the American West that it is as if these diaries are a capsule in time. -- St. Martin's Press

11 comments:

Just Mom said...

I have One Thousand ...in my TBR pile - I'll look forward to hearing what you think!

bermudaonion said...

Hey, at least you got a night out!

A Bookshelf Monstrosity said...

Thanks for the post. I think both books sound excellent; I'm a huge fan of historical fiction and non-fiction.

Joy said...

We are reading ONE THOUSAND WHITE WOMEN: THE JOURNALS OF MAY DODD by Jim Fergus for our Nov book discussion selection. This month is Lovely Bones. Have a great week!

Heidi said...

I can't wait to hear what you think about One Thousand White Women. It comes so highly recommended but my book group ripped it apart. I was shocked! I'll hope you have a more restrained discussion. :)

Ti said...

It is a lot of work to put a meeting together but like you said, it seems like it's a busy time right now. I'm sure it wasn't the book alone that caused them to miss it.

Tell your friend that one time I suggested a movie night for Lolita. We read the book and then scheduled a date to watch the movie and I was the only one that showed up!It was just me, the host and her husband. I felt like in idiot!

Booklogged said...

I'm so glad my book club doesn't meet in members' homes. I wouldn't be able to stand the stress. Isn't that crazy?

Serena said...

sorry this meeting was a bit of a disappointment, but at least you guys picked a good one for the next meeting. That sounds like a fantastic book..can't wait to see what you think.

Beth F said...

Sometimes life does get in the way. But like Kathy said, you got a night out with adults!

D.M. McGowan said...

I'll always take historical fiction ahead of history even though I like both. History is great for finding something I can include in one of my novels but it seldom tells you anything about who the people are. Perhaps you'll discover some facts about what they did but you won't learn about them as people except in a work of fiction. You then have to keep in mind that this 'person' that is being presented is from the mind of the author. The next step is to create your own 'personality' for the character in question.
Dave
www.dmmcgowan.blogspot.com

J.T. Oldfield said...

I've wanted to read 1001 White Women for a long time. Looking forward to your review!