Three Star review, originally posted here on September 19, 2016
Oh boy. So, this book was all over the place. The basic idea is good:
The fire at the center of the book only lasted a few minutes, but the book pulled in tons of related narratives and facts and tried to use the fire to tie them all together. Most of the related narratives were, individually and the surface, quite interesting, from the history of the garment business, to the world of wealthy suffragettes, to the corruption of Tammany Hall. A super talented writer could have spun them together to craft an engrossing and educational book that effectively snapshots this point in American history. Alas, this author just missed the mark a little, which is a shame, because you could see the enthusiasm and the work that went into this attempt. I think 80% of the problem was simple structuring. We jumped from topic to topic so gracelessly that it was difficult to keep track of which one of the many involved characters we were following, or how they were supposed to link to the people in the previous paragraph. It also felt redundant at times. We get taken to a handful of union rallies and meetings, and they all blurred together, as did most of the people involved. Still, I learned a lot, and the things I managed to learn were still very interesting, so overall I’m pretty neutral on this one.