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City of God” is book four in the City series by amateur historian and author Beverly Swerling. It is set in Manhattan between 1834 and 1857, in the years
leading up to the Civil War.City of God” is book four in the City series by amateur historian and author Beverly Swerling. It is set in Manhattan between 1834 and 1857, in the years leading up to the Civil War.
While the heart of the narrative lies in the longstanding conflict between the fictional Turner and Devrey families, it plays out against the larger issues of abolition, immigration, religion, com-merce and public health.
As do other writers of historical fiction, Ms. Swerling involves her characters with real people and events. In mid-century New York City religion is in turmoil – synagogues proliferate, Evangelical Christians challenge traditional Protestants and Catholic nuns make their first appearance.
Dr. Nicholas Turner practices medicine at Bellevue Hospital amidst corrupt politics and impediments to his research such as a religious ban on the dissection of cadavers other than those of hanged criminals, doubts about germ theory and the use of ether. His cousin Sam Devrey, head of a shipping company, has a wife who is Nick’s true but forbidden love.
It is his hidden Chinese wife who entangles Sam’s life with Nick’s, when the doctor saves her life and keeps their secret. Added to these are such characters as an illegal abortionist, a mistress in league with a crooked policeman and a Chinese servant. They bring to life the clamoring hubbub of New York in a long-ago time.