How does a place become a city? Whose stories will survive and whose will be lost? How do you know if you truly belong?
It is 1800. On desolate, marshy ground between Lake Michigan and the Illinois River, a man builds a house and a city is born …
This masterful debut novel spans Chicago’s tumultuous first century, showing how a city is made: by a succession of vivid, sometimes villainous individuals and their cumulative invention, energy, and vision.
We meet the city’s unacknowledged founder, a descendant of colonisers and slaves; witness the dispersal of the indigenous Native Americans; hear stories of an entrepreneur, an engineer, a courageous female reporter, and a corrupt alderman; and track the lives of immigrants from all over the world, as they struggle for acceptance in a country they have built.
Chicago, its inhabitants and its history are brought to dazzling, colourful life in this epic tale that speaks of not just one city but America as a whole, and of how people come to find their place in the world.
About the Author
In between periods spent living in the UK, Kenya, Gambia, Greece and Louisiana, USA, Jonathan Carr first visited Chicago in 1983. A graduate of Cambridge University, he has worked as a travel correspondent, a book reviewer, and a teacher of English. He holds a PhD from Bath Spa University in Creative Writing. Make Me A City is his first novel.
"The rise of Chicago in the 19th century provides the frame for a trove of colorful stories and characters in this entertaining debut novel … Carr has a sure touch, and in many extended anecdotes, his narrative skills show exceptional detail, pacing, and tension. A solid storyteller enlivens a rich patch of American history."
"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 novel itself is a city, one that contains the myriad hopes, ambitions, disappointments and loves of its citizens, as they work like coral insects to build the structure in which they live and die."
Richard Francis, Author of The Old Spring and Crane Pond