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Publisher's Summary

Operating in Chicago's notorious Levee district at the dawn of the 20th century, the Everleigh Club's proprietors, two aristocratic sisters named Minna and Ada Everleigh, welcomed moguls and actors, senators and athletes, foreign dignitaries, and literary icons, into their stately double mansion, where 30 stunning Everleigh "butterflies" awaited their arrival. Courtesans named Doll, Suzy Poon Tang, and Brick Top devoured raw meat, to the delight of Prince Henry of Prussia, and recited poetry for Theodore Dreiser. Whereas lesser madams pocketed most of a harlot's earnings, and kept a "whipper" on staff to mete out discipline, the Everleighs made sure their girls dined on gourmet food, were examined by an honest physician, and were even tutored in the literature of Balzac.

Not everyone appreciated the sisters' attempts to elevate the industry. Rival Levee madams hatched numerous schemes to ruin the Everleighs, including an attempt to frame them for the death of department-store heir Marshall Field, Jr. But the sisters' most daunting foes were the Progressive Era reformers, who sent the entire country into a frenzy with lurid tales of "white slavery" - the allegedly rampant practice of kidnapping young girls and forcing them into brothels. This furor shaped America's sexual culture and had repercussions all the way to the White House.

With a cast of characters that includes Jack Johnson, John Barrymore, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., William Howard Taft, "Hinky Dink" Kenna, and Al Capone, Sin in the Second City is Karen Abbott's colorful, nuanced portrait of the iconic Everleigh sisters, their world-famous club, and the perennial clash between our nation's hedonistic impulses and Puritanical roots. Culminating in a dramatic last stand between brothel keepers and crusading reformers, Sin in the Second City offers a vivid snapshot of America's journey from Victorian-era propriety to 20th-century modernity.

©2007 Karen Abbott (P)2007 Tantor Media Inc.

Critic Reviews

"An entertaining, well-researched slice of Windy City history." ( Publishers Weekly)

What listeners say about Sin in the Second City

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Great book - brilliant narrator!

Ms. Abbott's history of this little niche in Chicago's history and an important step in the take over of the politics by the religious right makes this book interesting beyond just the salacious subject matter. She handles the story with the class and wit that would make the Everyleigh sisters proud.

The other delight of this book is it's narrator Joyce Bean. I'll simply say: I want her to narrate everything I listen to!

9 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Every woman should read this!

This is my favorite book ever . Karen Abbott not only connected me to her antagonists. She also made me ask myself a lot of questions on feminism. What does it truly mean to survive in a man's world?

As a life long Chicagoan, I have an obsession with my city's history. Initially, I picked up this book out of curiosity. I had heard of the Everleigh Sisters before. However, what surprised me was how moving their story was. How could I feel respect two madames of a brothel? The answer lies in the parallel of womens' oppression during their time, and how women are still held under glass ceilings today. As poor unmarried
women, , these sisters were denied a "respectable "life. They chose to take back their power and profit off the men who would never let them succeed.

I think every woman should read this book , and have conversations about it with every woman she knows. The most important question to ask is: Does society respect women with untraditional lifestyles any better today than in the past? How much pressure does society still put on beauty, landing a husband ,and having children?

6 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

A Losing Battle

This was a very good book, I wasn't fully prepared for the depth of human trafficking that came with it. Not knowing the long and hard to believe history that America had with what was called "white slavery" the sale of young women to brothels and pimps. I am very interested in Chicago's history and there is a lot of it here. I recommend this book for sure, but be warned that there were some horrible things going on at the turn of the century and that it is all covered here. As far as the performance, I felt that it was a very good reading, not one of my favorites but good none the less.

3 people found this helpful

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Interesting listen

Excellent perspective on Chicago in this era...not just the brothel but in general Chicago at this time

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars

How to make sin boring.

I really don't quite know how this author could have made this topic boring, but she did. It was so choppy, jumping from one story to another without any sense of continuity. It was like reading someones notes for a thesis that were dropped, got mixed up and weren't put in order. I am a diehard audible fan, and will listen to books I that I would never finish in hard copy, but I couldn't even be bothered with finishing this book. After 7 hours my ears were bleeding, I could take no more. And to top it off there were several lousy edits of repeated dialog that were not cut out of the narration. Don't bother with this "sin" of a book.

6 people found this helpful

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I could not look away.

This book is about two sisters who made a ton of money being madams. It's like watching a train wreck in slow motion and I couldn't look away. I found it incredibly engaging even as I was wincing at some of the things they said and did (spoiler; they were not nice people).

1 person found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Could have told more of a story

Any additional comments?

Many of the other reviewers were very harsh. I agree that this felt very unfocused. I understood that the story was told of the sisters chronologically, but I really though that there could have been a stronger theme presented. Perhaps, some artistic license as to describing the characters. Some of the ancillary characters were described in far too great of detail making things very confusing.

I mean come on! When you have to have a LIST OF CHARACTERS at the beginning just to keep track of everyone, that should be the first clue that something isn't done well.

2 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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A bit of unknown history

I am fond of this author and writing style.. This was a very interesting story. I had never heard of the levee district in Chicago or this famous brothel. I suppose brothel is a bit harsh but accurate.

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Tugs on your heartstrings

this was an amazing story informative but definitely major heart bleed for these poor young girls and the life they were thrown into.

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I wish I could buy the film rights

The way that Karen Abbott can dig up the tiniest pieces of information and assemble them into a beautiful storyline mosaic is a rare gift. I enjoy the overarching storyline a lot more when an author like her or Erik Larson can make me feel like I’m in that time and close to the characters. This story of the Everleigh sisters would make a great movie and an interesting case study for MBA’s.