The Pursuit of Lucy Banning

Written by Olivia Newport
Review by James Hawking

In 1892-93 Chicago was preparing for the World Columbian Exposition, the greatest world’s fair held up to that time, and still the most memorable. (The same Chicago chauvinism reflected in that statement earned us the nickname “Windy City” during the efforts to win the right to hold it.) Newport was inspired by Glessner House, the only remaining sign of the avenue’s past magnificence. In addition to the architecture, she provides rich descriptions of the clothes, table settings, decorations and other trappings of late 19th-century affluence.

The main emphasis is on character, particularly Lucy, a young lady who hides her attendance at the newly opened University of Chicago from her conventional family and her stuffy banker fiancé. Her maid has an even bigger secret, a baby boy who is quiet enough to remain hidden in the large house for several days. Lucy meets her brother’s friend, a poor but honest architect with hair the color of honey and cobalt blue eyes. We end with the opening of the Fair, but the novel is intended as the first in a series called Avenue of Dreams. Recommended for Chicagoans.