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City of Glory

City of Glory

A Novel of War and Desire in Old Manhattan

  • reading group guide
Set against the dramatic backdrop of America's second war for independence, Beverly Swerling's gripping and intricately plotted sequel to the much-loved City of Dreams plunges deep into the crowded streets of old New York.

Poised between the Manhattan woods and the sea that is her gateway to the world, the city of 1812 is vibrant but raw, a cauldron where the French accents of Creole pirates mingle with the brogues of Irish seamen, and shipments of rare teas and silks from Canton are sold at raucous Pearl Street auctions. Allegiances are more changeable than the tides, love and lust often indistinguishable, the bonds of country weak compared to the temptation of fabulous riches from the East, and only a few farseeing patriots recognize the need not only to protect the city from the redcoats, but to preserve the fragile Constitutional union forged in 1787.

Joyful Patrick Turner, dashing war hero and brilliant surgeon, loses his hand to a British shell, retreats to private life, and hopes to make his fortune in the China trade. To succeed he must run the British blockade; if he fails, he will lose not only a livelihood, but the beautiful Manon, daughter of a Huguenot jeweler who will not accept a pauper as a son-in-law. When stories of a lost treasure and a mysterious diamond draw him into a treacherous maze of deceit and double-cross, and the British set Washington ablaze, Joyful realizes that more than his personal future is at stake. His adversary, Gornt Blakeman, has a lust for power that will not be sated until he claims Joyful's fiancée as his wife and half a nation as his personal fiefdom. Like the Turners before him, Joyful must choose: his dreams or his country.

Swerling's vividly drawn characters illuminate every aspect of the teeming metropolis: John Jacob Astor, the wealthiest man in America, brings the city's first Chinese to staff his palatial Broadway mansion; Lucretia Carter, wife of a respectable craftsman, makes ends meet as an abortionist serving New York's brothels; Thumbless Wu, a mysterious Cantonese stowaway, slinks about on a secret mission; and the bewitching Delight Higgins, proprietress of the town's finest gambling club, lives in terror of the blackbirding gangs who prey on runaway slaves. They are all here, the butchers and shipwrights, the doctors and scriv-eners, the slum dwellers of Five Points and the money men of the infant stock exchange...conspiring by day and carousing by night, while the women must hide their loyalties and ambitions, their very wills, behind pretty sighs and silken skirts.
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  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 592 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780743298728 | 
  • January 2007
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Reading Group Guide

QUESTIONS AND TOPICS FOR FURTHER DISCUSSION:
1) City of Glory opens with an act of heroic chivalry by Joyful Patrick Turner. Why do you think Beverly Swerling chose this incident as a springboard for her novel? What does it reveal about Joyful? How does the alliance he forges in the prologue affect his successes and failures later in the story?
2) "Joyful knew joss was more than luck, it was fate, something you had to accept. But in New York as in Canton, money trumped luck every time" (50). Joss, both good and bad, is a recurring theme in the novel. Note the references to it throughout the story and discuss the circumstances under which the characters mention that they either rely on or fear joss. Does the conclusion of the book prove that Joyful's theory about money and joss is correct?
3) Delight Higgins, Joyful Patrick Turner, Bastard Devrey, Vinegar Clifford -- in the early nineteenth century it was common to assign names and nicknames that sound strange today. In the nove,l do these names have any symbolic meanings that point to larger themes? How did they influence your opinion of the characters? Are these names accurate assessments of their personalities? Did they entertain you, or would you have preferred everyone be called the equivalent of Dick or Jane?
4) Two of the main characters in this novel are surgeons, and amputations and amputees figure prominently throughout the story. Why do you think the author chose this imagery? How d see more

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About the Author

Beverly Swerling
Photo Credit: Sigrid Estrada

Beverly Swerling

Beverly Swerling is a writer, consultant, and amateur historian. She lives in New York City with her husband.

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