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.
‘A sprawling epic … An absorbing fictional chronicle of a city and its place in American history.’
Antonia Senior, The Times‘Book of the Month’
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‘Make Me A City is a multitude of novels all rolled into one — a wonderfully sprawling epic about Chicago’s founding fathers (and mothers), a searching exploration of colonialism in action, and a compelling collection of stories about people and places. But it is something else too, the one thing that is known to all of us, namely a single, tender map of the human heart. In Make Me A City Jonathan Carr draws on his considerable talent to tell the story of Chicago through the eyes of its many inhabitants, exploring life, death and what is left behind with admirable deftness and style. This is a bold, thrilling debut from a seriously good writer.’
Francesca Rhydderch, author of The Rice Paper Diaries
‘Absolutely magnificent. Carr grasps the complexity of a city’s history, the individuals who shape it, those who gain and those who suffer. The prose is graceful and vibrant, the gradual unfolding of the interrelated lives of these people is superbly done. This is an elegant, richly enjoyable book.’
Tricia Wastvedt, author of The River
‘Make Me A City’s scope and scale is quite breathtaking. It digs deep into the history of Chicago to uncover hidden stories about the people who built it. Its clever way of dealing with competing historical narratives is very exciting. A real pleasure to read!’
Gerard Woodward, author of I’ll Go To Bed at Noon
‘Make Me A City is a thrillingly ambitious and ingeniously accomplished first novel. This is a stunning debut by a new and instantly important literary voice.’
Robert Olen Butler, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction
‘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.’
‘An enticing debut ... a gritty and entertaining fictional history of a great American city.’
‘I've had the pleasure of reading this novel through its draft stages. An epic tale of the foundation of Chicago. A must-read for historical fiction fans!’
James Aitcheson, author of the Conquest series
‘Carr's debut novel is an impressive literary experiment blending epistolary narratives, fragmented journal entries, and historical book chapters into a sprawling chronicle about the founding and development of Chicago in the 19th century … An ambitious literary debut that occupies a liminal space between alternative history and experimental literature.’
Joshua Finnell, Library Journal
‘There is much of the panache of David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas here: it is an epic story that sweeps the reader from a single log-house to a mass of steel-frame skyscrapers. It moves from bloody tragedy to financial skulduggery and farce, all through a subtle variety of narrative voices and perspectives. A notably rich, rewarding read.’
Fanny Blake, Daily Mail
‘Carr's kaleidoscope debut embroiders fact with fiction to tell an alternative history of Chicago's 19th Century in a symphony of voices. Using real-life historical figures, colorful stories and fictional journal entries, Carr traces Chicago's rise to an industrial titan and all-time great American city.’
Barbara VanDenburgh, USA TODAY
‘These mini biographical sketches impart serious commentary on aspects of history such as racism, greed, and love.’
‘An exhilarating ride.’
Linda Jaivin, The Saturday Paper
‘Daring and unruly … Jonathan Carr ambitiously attempts a reconstruction of the development of Chicago … Often entertaining and very readable.’
Sean Hewitt, The Irish Times