"Neither stiff, boring, snobbish, or formal, the evenings are invariably thought-provoking, inspirational, engaging, and quite often, fun."

History comes charmingly to life in this well researched and gracefully imagined recounting of the Cary sisters’ life in New York City from the 1850s to the 1870s. Their ascent from farm girls to popular, respected writers plays out amid some of the most engrossing times of the nineteenth century and among some of the most influential people of the period.

After Alice’s work catches the eye of famed New York Tribune founder and editor Horace Greeley, she makes the decision to pursue a life of letters. Soon, her sister Phoebe joins her. Together, they begin to come in contact with a coterie of notables who become constant guests at their Sunday evening social gatherings. Literature, performing arts, philosophy, religion, politics, and more fill the air with vibrant conversation from such attendees as Greeley, John Greenleaf Whittier, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and the irrepressible P. T. Barnum. The abolition of slavery plus women’s rights and suffrage continually take center stage. Participants don’t always agree, but civility reigns and lifelong friendships are forged.

The author does a particularly good job of intermingling important events of the time into her narrative. Continental communication via the Trans-Atlantic Cable, Commodore Perry’s opening of Japan, architectural accomplishments in the East, and gold-fueled prosperity in the West remind readers what a profoundly energetic period it was. Well-selected photos and illustrations add interest and involvement, but never lost is the story of the sisters themselves. Their loving and supporting relationship is vividly captured in believable dialogue and absorbing prose. While many will find this chronicle engaging, history and literature buffs particularly are apt to treasure their time with these Sunday Cosmopolitans.

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