Monday, March 13, 2017

Review: Windy City Blues

Windy City Blues
by Renèe Roseni

Why did you choose this book? I’ve had this author on my radar for awhile
When did you read this book? March 2017
Who should read this book? Readers of historical fiction; especially those with an interest in mid-century Chicago or music
Source: library ebook
My Rating: ✰✰✰½    3½Stars

Here is a synopsis of Windy City Blues from Goodreads

The bestselling author of "White Collar Girl" and "What the Lady Wants" explores one woman's journey of self-discovery set against the backdrop of a musical and social revolution.
In the middle of the twentieth century, the music of the Mississippi Delta arrived in Chicago, drawing the attention of entrepreneurs like the Chess brothers. Their label, Chess Records, helped shape that music into the Chicago Blues, the soundtrack for a transformative era in American History.
But, for Leeba Groski, Chess Records was just where she worked...
Leeba doesn't exactly fit in, but her passion for music and her talented piano playing captures the attention of her neighbor, Leonard Chess, who offers her a job at his new record company. What begins as answering phones and filing becomes much more as Leeba comes into her own as a songwriter and befriends performers like Muddy Waters, Howlin Wolf, Chuck Berry, and Etta James. But she also finds love with a black blues guitarist named Red Dupree.
With their relationship unwelcome in segregated Chicago and shunned by Leeba's Orthodox Jewish family, she and Red soon find themselves in the middle of the Civil Rights Movement and they discover that, in times of struggle, music can bring people together.

My Review

I’ve had most of Renèe Rosen’s novels on my TBR list for quite some time, but had not read one until now. I’d read a review for Windy City Blues recently, so when I was looking for something quick and fun to read and this popped up as ‘available’ on Overdrive, I downloaded it. I’m glad I did.

This was a quick read and very interesting.  The book is set in post-WWII Chicago and tells the story of Chess Records and the evolution of blues. Though I was unfamiliar with the label ‘Chess Records’, I was familiar with much of the music.

The story is based on real events, but many of the main characters are fictional, including Leeba, a Jewish woman who falls in love with a black man, Red Depree, also fictional. The civil rights movement arose during this time, and many of the events of the movement were woven into the story. I really gained some insight on what it must have been like too be black or a Jew during that period.

One thing I really liked was that at the end of the book the author took some time to explain what characters were fictional and where she took poetic license with the facts. I was a little disappointed to learn that Leiba and Red were not real! One thing that left me confused was the relationship of Leonard Chess with his wife and his high school sweetheart. I was left wondering how much of that was based on fact. I was also left a little sad for his family, particularly his wife.

Like all good historical fiction, this one had me googling to learn more. The author provided a bibliography at the end of the book with suggestions for books and films to learn more. There is also a set of discussion questions provided.
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