Powerful Examination Of Oft-Ignored Areas. Know up front that there is a LOT going on in this book, and to me it absolutely warrants the 400 page length. The book begins and ends in Galveston during the Depression, when one family had absolute control of the island. In between, we see a lot: the burlesque shows of the era – including their seedier sides engaging in open pedophilia, the dance marathons that were cheap entertainment for so many in this pre=television era and the marathoners that endured so much just to stay off the streets, the politics of the era (where your mileage is absolutely going to vary, but was true to the period at minimum), the treatment of homosexuality in the era, a new surgery meant to cure so many mental health issues – including homosexuality – that was just as barbaric as described late in the text here, and so much more. For those that care about precise historical fact in their historical fiction – I personally tend to give authors at least a touch of leeway, depending on particulars including overall story – know that this surgery was real, and the details provided about both it and the doctor that originated it – Dr Walter Freeman – are real. Bird simply moved up the timeline by about 15 years or so, and used it to great effect within the confines of her story. Truly a remarkable work, and very much recommended.
Note: For those seeking more details on the real horrors of the transorbital lobotomy described in this tale, My Lobotomy by Howard Dully – which I first encountered as a late night NPR broadcast – is truly tragically horrifying.
This review of Last Dance On The Starlight Pier by Sara Bird was originally written on April 23, 2022.
Those That Do Not Know History… The time period is (basically) a century ago. Most of the action is taking place within about 3 years either side of 1920. And you have a nationally popular and very rich business tycoon running in an election that ends with allegations of fraud and demands for recounts. Sound familiar? This is only *part* of the story of a piece of American history that despite having a tangential connection to (my step-grandfather – the only second grandfather I ever knew – was from the Muscle Shoals region and was born there during the period discussed in this text), I had never heard about before seeing this book. I’ve known of the TVA, I’ve even considering applying for jobs there in my professional career. But this story of how they began – really nearly a decade *before* the Great Depression and FDR’s New Deal – is quite fascinating on so many levels. Hager does a tremendous job of showing the breadth of what was happening and why as it relates to his central thesis, and people would do well to learn the lessons of this particular episode of American history. While the Bibliography was a bit lacking (at roughly 9% of this text vs a more common 20-30% or so), the author explains that much of his research was from original records and correspondences not captured in any previous volume, so that makes a fair amount of sense. On the whole, this seems well done and well balanced, and is very much recommended.
This review of Electric City by Thomas Hager was originally written on January 11, 2021.