About the Book
Title: Shadows of the White City
Series: #2, The Windy City Saga
Author: Jocelyn Green
Publisher: Bethany House
The one thing Sylvie Townsend wants most is what she feared she was destined never to have–a family of her own. But taking in Polish immigrant Rose Dabrowski to raise and love quells those fears–until seventeen-year-old Rose goes missing at the World’s Fair, and Sylvie’s world unravels.
Brushed off by the authorities, Sylvie turns to her boarder, Kristof Bartok, for help. He is Rose’s violin instructor and the concertmaster for the Columbian Exposition Orchestra, and his language skills are vital to helping Sylvie navigate the immigrant communities where their search leads.
From the glittering architecture of the fair to the dark houses of Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods, they’re taken on a search that points to Rose’s long-lost family. Is Sylvie willing to let the girl go? And as Kristof and Sylvie grow closer, can she reconcile her craving for control with her yearning to belong?
I’ve never been to a World’s Fair, but after reading Jocelyn Green’s Shadows of the White City, I felt like I had. Ms. Green vividly describes the setting so well. I can almost see the massive buildings, feel the pressing of the huge crowds, hear the violin and orchestra music and smell the food aromas of the many countries represented on the Midway. Green tells us the Museum of Science and Industry is one of the original 1893 World’s Fair buildings, so I can only imagine what the whole fair settlement must have been like, teeming with crowds.
Into this surreal setting Green inserts Sylvie Townsend, single, middle-aged Mimi to 17-year-old Rose. While Rose is longing to spread her wings and is searching for her biological family, Sylvie is holding on to her daughter tightly enough to suffocate her. As Sylvie struggles to sort out her relationship with Rose, she leans heavily on her neighbor, concertmaster Kristof. Kristof, in turn, struggles with his talented but slothful brother. We also see Meg, Sylvie’s sister, who is more prominent in the first book.
Sylvie has a lot of re-evaluating of her life attitudes to do. Will she emerge bitter at God, Jozefa, and Rose, or will she be better? Kristof is a bit of a stuffed shirt, albeit with a tender heart. He makes a journey of self-discovery as he helps Sylvie and tries to deal with Gregor. He is a romantic, fluid character to cheer on he begins to view life through different eyes.
Green’s poetic description of the orchestra music is entrancing. She obviously understands music well. Her research is impeccable, shown in her incredibly detailed descriptions.
Twists are subtle. In several places, I felt like I knew what would happen, but a bit of a change causes the story to flow differently than expected.
This book can stand on its own, but you will get so much more out of it if you read book one first.
“It wasn’t Father’s timepiece I wanted. It was his time.”
“…you can stop striving to earn a place you’ve already been given. You’re already a beloved child of God. You can’t perform your way into or out of His family.“
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author and publisher. All opinions are my own, unsolicited.
About the Author
Jocelyn Green is a former journalist who puts her investigative skills to work in writing both nonfiction and historical fiction to inspire faith and courage.
The honors her books have received include the Christy Award in historical fiction, and gold medals from the Military Writers Society of America and the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association.
Complex and nuanced characters, rich historical detail and twisting plots make her novels immersive experiences. Her fiction has been praised by Historical Novel Society, Romantic Times, Library Journal, historians specializing in her novels’ time periods, as well as popular and acclaimed authors Laura Frantz, Lori Benton, Jody Hedlund, Sarah Sundin, Joanne Bischof, Julie Lessman, and more.
Jocelyn loves Broadway musicals, the color red, strawberry-rhubarb pie, Mexican food, and well-done documentaries. She lives in Iowa with her husband, two children, and two cats she should have named Catticus Finch and Purrman Meowville.
Visit her at jocelyngreen.com.
More from Jocelyn
(Provided courtesy of Jocelyn’s blog and Bethany House)
- Shadows of the White City takes place in Chicago during the World’s Fair of 1893. What is so special about this setting?
The World’s Fair itself was spectacular. With my heroine, Sylvie Townsend, acting as a part-time tour guide, readers get an inside look into many aspects of the Fair. Part of what made it such an amazing place was that, in addition to six hundred acres of the world’s most
impressive accomplishments and inventions, people from all over the world connected in one place. The Midway, especially, played host to cultures from across the globe, opening people’s eyes to other perspectives they’d never considered before. Now add to all of this the
fact that, outside the dazzling fairgrounds, Chicago and the entire nation were in the midst of a financial depression. The juxtaposition of splendor and hardship is always a poignant one.
- What kind of research went into this book?
So much. There is a ton of information available on the World’s Fair. Aside from reading every book and article that seemed relevant for my story (and then some), I toured Chicago with a guide who designed a tour based specifically on what I wanted to know and see before I started writing the novel. On the same trip, I spent time in the Chicago
Historical Society’s archives and the Newberry Library, reading primary source material. A second trip to Chicago gave my daughter and me a chance to experience other aspects
important to the novel, such as a concert with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, a visit to the Art Institute, and a stop at the Palmer House hotel.
- What kind of research went into this book?
- In what ways do you relate to the character of Sylvie Townsend?
Sylvie is a book-loving introvert who doesn’t like crowds but enjoys public speaking when the topic interests her. That’s me, completely. On a deeper level, I understand Sylvie’s tendency to keep a tight rein on her daughter, Rose. As a parent of a teenager, I identify with
that struggle to find the right balance of letting my daughter make her own decisions and mistakes as part of growing up and wanting to protect her from them. As Sylvie finds out in the novel, that desire to protect can lead to both a grasping for control and the realization of
how very little we do control. I relate to all of this.
- This is your second novel in The Windy City Saga series. We’ve gotten to know sisters Meg and Sylvie pretty well by now. Who will be the focus of the third book?
Book 3 in the series will pick up with Meg’s adult daughter Olive in 1915, which is when the Eastland Disaster took place in the Chicago River. You’ll meet Olive as a child in Shadows of the White City, and she’ll be twenty-nine when we focus on her story. Each book in this
series explores a seminal part of Chicago’s history and how the Townsend family overcomes in the face of change and trials.
- Are the novels in this series classified as mysteries?
Readers will discover that these novels have an element of mystery to them, but they remain firmly in the historical fiction genre. The main priority of the story, as ever, is given to the developing characters and the history-in-the-making around them.