CITY OF ASH by Megan Chance


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The fates of an ambitious young actress and an exiled society lady intertwine in 1889 Seattle when the Great Fire nearly burns the fledgling city to the ground.

Geneva Langley, daughter of a wealthy railroad tycoon, has it all, inviting the greatest artists of the day to her Chicago salons. All, that is, but a happy marriage. She poses nude for a sculptor, calculating that the ensuing scandal will force her husband Nathan to divorce her. Instead, she’s sent to Seattle, where her husband smells political opportunity in the soon-to-be state. Seattle’s cultural life pales beside Chicago’s, but it does host theatres where Geneva, shunned by society, seeks solace and meets talented young playwright Sebastian DeWitt. Mrs. Langley, an art patron, is thrilled when her husband begins underwriting the production of a play DeWitt has written to showcase the acting of Beatrice Wilkes, whom he admires. Frustrated to have been thrown over for many a leading role and lacking qualms about using sex to gain advantage, Ms. Wilkes becomes Nathan Langley’s mistress. The love triangle grows a fourth corner when lonely Mrs. Langley gravitates toward the playwright and her husband encourages their relationship, going so far as to suggest she take the stage, and in the very part meant for Ms. Wilkes, a complete reversal of mind given that he had previously forbidden such scandalous behavior since it caused their exile. Does Mr. Langley’s interest in the theatre have more to it than lust for an actress resembling his wife? Mistress and wife ally against Nathan Langley’s nefarious schemes, intricately developed against a scorched backdrop. Strangest of all, real life mimics DeWitt’s play as they find themselves living parts to rival Hamlet’s drama and deception.

With an Art-Nouveau-and-absinthe sensibility, tight plotting and stagecraft complete with traps and twists, Chance (Prima Donna, 2009, etc.) breathes a vitality into her frontier characters á la David Milch’s Deadwood.




Pub Date: June 7th, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-307-46103-2
Page count: 448pp
Publisher: Broadway
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 2011


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