Karen Abbott — Sin in the Second City

This book caught my eye because early 1900s-era Chicago is the sort of ridiculous and awesome place that makes for a rollicking story. The specific subject here was also interesting: it’s the story of Ada and Minna Everleigh, two sisters who were the proprietors of one of the most lavish and successful brothels in the city, founded upon the ideas that no women should be forced into anything they didn’t want to do, they should be treated and paid well, and kept healthy. It worked. And the story of the Everleigh sisters doesn’t need much embellishing; the eccentric customers and habits of the women themselves make for a fascinating story. And Abbott writes well, mostly, a mix of short chapters, long chapters, and photographs and illustrations. I wasn’t totally wild about certain parts of the book’s writing, however, when she seemed to delve more into historical fiction style than history–I don’t really know how to explain it other than that. I started skimming when I got to those bits. But if you’re looking for a colorful, lively depiction of sinning in the early 1900s, and in particular, the grandiose version of the American dream that Ada and Minna managed to pull off on their own, I’d definitely recommend this book. Serious history–maybe not so much. But there’s a place for pop history in every shelf.

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