I love a good Chicago story. This one started the night of the Chicago Fire – and the night of the opening of the Palmer House. This isn’t a true story, but is based in historical fact, and thoroughly researched. Either you way, you get a glimpsed of Golden Age society in Chicago, as it emerges as a modern city, and an engaging version of Marshall Field and his mistress.
I kept thinking back while reading this to American Princess, and a lot of similarities to Downton Abby. Adjusting to electricity, society parties and trips to Europe for the appropriate fashions each year. There is one big difference: in Chicago in the Golden Age the highest ranking in society where the people who built the city. That’s literal in the sense of the architects who helped rebuilding it after the fire, and hotel and shop owners, like Potter Palmer and Marshall Field.
I’ve had this issue ever since Macy’s bought Marshall Fields. After reading this I’m pretty sure Marshall Field wouldn’t be pleased. The story of his rebuilding post fire, or rather, fires, with input from those closest to him – including Delia – the story into how it came to be the building I know today.
Field, known for the motto “Give the lady what she wants”, built a store the women of Chicago would want to shop in. And the women did. Mistress and friend, Delia, along with friends, based on real Chicago women, including Bertha Potter, shopped the story regularly. The store becomes the backdrop to the saga of Delia and Field.
Two couples, neighbors, and what seems like happy lives. But nothing is ever quite what it seems. How many people will survive when society turns its back, family questions family, and marriages crumble? For fun, the story runs around Chicago over decades.
Time to place tourist in my own city again, and find my way to some of the mansions that still exist.
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