Cover Image: Spindle City

Spindle City

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Member Reviews

Great story with a lot of well planned characters. Great cast of characters we meet and get to know.
I was engrossed with this historical taking place in Fall River, Massachusetts in this early 20th century industrial town .

Pub Date 21 Jul 2020
I was given a complimentary copy of this book. Thank you.
All opinions expressed are my own.
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This wasn’t like what I usually read but I must admit that I did really enjoy it. I loved the world building but would of liked a little more description on the historical aspects, for example what it would of been like at a mill.

As for characters there were a lot at the beginning which was a little confusing but once you go back and read about Joseph’s story then it all comes together which I liked. 

A good book in all that is definitely recommend.
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This story had abundant potential, not all realized. It's been hard for me to summarize the book itself and my feelings about it.

The historical aspect (it's set 100-plus years ago) was only dimly portrayed, with little of the nuts-and-bolts, gritty reality it could have offered. The period setting felt like a painted stage backdrop rather than a 360-degree film set. The occasional early-20th-century slang term thrown in did not enliven the dialogue, which was largely stilted.

The author does show us the tragedy that can often underlie a progress-and-growth economy, with 1911's industrialized prosperity-for-some paralleling our digital age wealth gap. The main character, Joseph Bartlett, was a sad man with a sad life among the trappings of success.

Maybe the story would be more lively and colorful if it were narrated by one of the immigrants, and not yet another white male partiarch.

Thanks to NetGalley and Blackstone Publishing for an advance readers copy.
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So, unfortunately, this book was not for me. I really struggled to get through this one and if it hadn't been an ARC, I probably wouldn't have finished it?? (But I feel like I give better feedback on a book I've completed so I powered through.)

This is marketed as a historical fiction but, unfortunately, there doesn't really seem to be a lot of the historical aspect. There are a few scenes thrown in to make it feel like more of a ~period piece but that's never really explored or expanded upon. Aside from the opening chapter, the tour of Sarah Strong's building and Hollister's experience in the war, this novel could've taken place at any time and the reader wouldn't have known the difference. So I definitely wanted more history from this. Especially after that Sarah Strong chapter was dangled in our faces and then never expanded upon again.

There are also waaaaay too many characters in this story and they're all pretty underdeveloped? So it was really hard to keep track of them and, honestly, tell them apart. By the end of the book, I still couldn't tell you exactly who everyone was and what their relationship was to one another. I think narrowing down the main characters and developing them more would've helped this story a ton. Plus doing a little more showing instead of telling. Because I also struggled to keep track of events and when they happened as well. The timeline was also a little wonky?

Honestly, this whole book felt very meh to me. I'm not entirely sure what the story was supposed to be about? I think it was supposed to be character driven but I also struggled with the characters. So. The whole thing didn't really compel me to continue reading. Unfortunately, this one just wasn't for me and I'm glad to be done and moving on to other things. Overall, I think this book could've greatly benefited from some serious editing and consolidation. And, of course, more history.

Thank you to NetGalley and Blackstone Publishing for allowing me to read this one in exchange for an honest review.
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I originally got interested in getting an advanced reading copy of this novel after noticing in the description that it was set in Fall River, MA. I live in Southern New England and have long been fascinated by the history of some of the cities around here: Fall River, New Bedford, Newport etc. Many of them had their heyday over a hundred years ago and we can see the evidence of their past grandeur even today: from rows of former factory buildings in Falls River, to the whaling history of New Bedford, to palatial mansions of Newport.

Set against the backdrop of textile manufacturing in Fall River in early 1900s, the story at its core is a family drama. Joseph Bartlett manages the Cleveland Mill. We follow the story of his rise to power, his personal tragedy, parenting difficulties and struggles with doing what is right for thousands of workers that are in his employ. 

Burrello gives a great snapshot of the city during the time when it rivaled Boston and Chicago due to its thriving textile industry. Thousands of immigrants came to Fall River chasing their American dream. In 1911 President Taft visited the city during the Cotton Centennial celebration. Burrello gives us a glimpse into the lives of the very wealthy and the very poor. He also paints the larger historic background with the suffragist movement, unionizations, and World War I. I also thought he did a great job outlining the causes of the industrial decline in New England. The mills of Falls River simply could not compete with the lower costs of production in the South.

Even though I really enjoyed the historical aspects of the novel, I was also completely engrossed in the Bartletts' family drama. The novel is filled with memorable characters and their nuanced stories. Overall, this was a great read. I would say Burrello wrote a love letter to Fall River, or at least to its history. I devoured the book in 2 days and highly recommend it. 5 out of 5 stars.
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This family saga set in Fall River is really the story of Joseph Bartlett, who, in a sense, failed up so that in 1911, he's the chief of the Cleveland Mill.  And his life is a mess.  His sons Will and Hollister have issues, his wife Elizabeth is dying and while he's aware of the dreadful conditions his workers endure, he does little to nothing about them.  There are a lot of characters in this novel- perhaps to give the reader the panoply of people involved in the manufacturing- but few besides Joseph Stand ou.  Chief among these is Sarah, a union organizer.  I would have liked to see more of her woven into the story.  It's an interesting read.  Thanks to the publisher for the ARC.  For fans of historical fiction.
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In Spindle City, Jotham Burrello provides an unusual take on American history—the dramatization of an early 20th century industrial town at the height of its success as the lives of some of its residents spin out of control.

Using the historic nickname of Fall River, Massachusetts at a time when the number of spindles in a cotton mill indicated its productivity and potential profit, Burrello thrusts readers headlong into what may well have been the town’s greatest moment—the 1911 Cotton Centennial.  

As visiting President Taft delivers his much-anticipated speech, Cleveland Mill’s Joseph Bartlett—a man haunted by secrets--stands with other local business leaders who had served with him on the centennial committee.  Carnation wreaths and American flags adorn every building on the block, young women toss confetti, and the din of bands, singing Portuguese immigrant boys, and cheering crowds with noisemakers replaces the usual roar of a hundred and eleven cloth producing mills silenced for this one jubilant day.

Amid the joyous revelry, all hell breaks loose for Joseph Bartlett.  He, his family, and Fall River will never be the same. 

As the descendant of Fall River townsfolk, Jotham Burrello heard stories.  He has spun those “stories of triumph and tragedy” into his narrative.

Although I worked to understand occasional business conversations, Burrello easily captivated me with his vivid language, dramatic plotline, and the diversity of his characters—rich and poor, ruthless and humane, native-born and immigrant.  They comprised historic Fall River, and they propel his novel.  Spindle City grabbed my attention and never let go.  It educated me about a little-known industry and a community I had known only as the place where Lizzie Borden took and axe and gave her mother forty whacks.  

Many thanks to NetGalley, Blackstone Publishing, and Jotham Burrello for the advance reader copy of Spindle City.

4.5 stars
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A great story with a great cast of characters. It's engrossing, entertaining and you cannot help being sucked in it.
Highly recommended.
Many thanks to the publisher for this ARC, all opinions are mine.
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In 1911 Fall River in Massachusetts is celebrating a century of cotton manufacture with a carnival and parade, topped off by a visit from the President. Mill manager and part owner Joseph Bartlett is in the grandstand watching the events, unaware that his wife has just died and his future plans for his family and the mill are about to start unravelling.

Joseph took over the running of the Cleveland Mill after a terrible accident killed the previous manager. He has his work cut out juggling the demands of the Unions and the welfare of his workers and competing with cotton manufacturers in the union-free southern states. He also has secrets that will have repercusions for his sons and others around them. Set against this background and the coming world war, this novel is a family saga on a grand scale.

Although I found the novel a little confusing initially with the number of characters involved, it is worth reading further until earlier events are clarified and the narrative settles around Joseph and his sons. I was disappointed not to get more of a sense of what a working cotton mill was like in those days and what was involved for the people working there. We're told the conditions are poor for the workers (although better in Joseph's mill than in others) but don't get a sense of what this actually means in the historical context. I would also have liked to get a stronger sense of the main characters, particularly Joseph's sons and Mary's family to understand their actions better. Otherwise, this unique time in history worked well as the backdrop for a family saga and made for interesting reading.
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This novel is set in the early 1900's as America celebrates its Cotton Centennial with an appearance by President Taft. Other political happenings of the day (manufacturers vs. unions, improving the working conditions of the employees, the suffragette movement, etc.) get their due over the course of the book, but this is primarily a family saga of Joseph and Elizabeth Bartlett and their two sons, Hollister and Will.

The author does a fine job of setting the time period, although so many characters were introduced early in the book it took me some time to sift out who was who and who was important enough to keep track of.

Not one of my personal favorites it was a so-so read for me.

My thanks to NetGalley and Blackstone Publishing for allowing me to read an ARC of the book in exchange for an unbiased review. All opinions are my own.
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Spindle City follows the family of Joseph Bartlett in the early 1900s as he becomes a mill manager and eventual owner in Fall River, Rhode Island.  The entwined lives of Joseph, his sons Will and Hollister, and family members of his employees cross paths repeatedly with disasterous results in many cases.  I found there were some unnecessary plot points that didn't add to the story or my understanding of the characters.  An interesting read, but not great.
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I can honestly say that except for the movie the Pajama Game the mill industry never made it much into my reading/history education. This book doesn't actually make up for that gap but is a glimpse of that world and the writing was quite lovely.
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Spindle City tells the story of working class America in the early 1900’s. Textile mills were a large part of the industrial revolution and although this book is based on such a mill and the family that runs it, the book itself left much out. While only one chapter revolves around it, there was little to do with the immigration workers or woman’s suffragette movement, both topics that I thought could have been more involved and covered better. Unfortunately, this book left me wanting a lot more and not in a good way.
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I feel so bad but I just did not enjoy this book.  The writing is nice, the time period is interesting.  It was, for me, just pretty boring with looming walls of text and a lot of characters introduced in a somewhat confusing, not intriguing manner.  It didn't grip me in the beginning and so it was difficult to care and stay attentive through the rest.  But just because it wasn't for me doesn't mean it's not worthwhile to someone else!
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This story brings a historical background for a city once prospering from textile mills and now facing union strikes. But for most of the part this is a moving story of a father, who after losing his wife, struggles to keep his family together.

Fall River, Massachusetts, in 1911 is celebrating one hundred years of being America’s “largest cotton manufacturing city in the country.” The owners are very proud of it and pretty sure that the city will have another centennial celebration.

Joseph Bartlett is one of the owners, which happened by accident. He sympathizes with labor, which doesn’t put him in a good position with other owners. Now, his wife passes away and at the same time his older son assaults a young woman. And later, he notices his younger son being diverted in the wrong direction by his friend’s daughter.

On a sunny August day, Sarah Strong, a suffragist, approaches Joseph as he understands, unlike his peers, that the hardships at the mills don’t need to be endured. He knows her name well. At the age of seventeen, her mother dies working at textile mill. Sarah uses her mother’s savings to go to college. Once with degree, her career options are very limited. Upon learning about impending strike, this puts her on a path “to labor terrorism” as seen by some, “depending on your point of view.” She is the Robin Hood of union organizing for others.

She convinces him to show him something first before presenting her proposal to him. She takes him to the worst of the worst mill’s boardinghouses and tenements routinely sited with health violations. He is enlightened that the abuse doesn’t stop with mill’s conditions; it extends to young girls being abused by their bosses. “When they announce they’re pregnant, they get dumped, and blackballed.” She presents her proposal and asks him to open his books. This way putting pressure on others. Having two sets of books is a common practice, one with true numbers, the other for officials to show there is not enough profit to pay higher wages. She wants him to improve the conditions of all workers, thus giving him legacy.

This was the moment I was waiting for in this story such character as Sarah Strong. She is a phenomenal character giving the story the richness of historical background I wanted to see. And I kept waiting and waiting for her appearance again, but it never came.

Then the story goes back in time, revealing Joseph’s career’s climb and connecting him with the names presented at the beginning of the story. Which certainly is very engaging.

This story is mostly concentrated on Joseph and his two sons. It is a touching portrayal of a human being, a father, who makes his share of mistakes. He acknowledges that he never had the patience to sit with the boys and look for example what Hollister was drawing, which later turned out to be a talent for military mapping. He provided well for his sons, but at the same time didn’t want them to feel privileged. Thus, he never hired nannies or a butler. He wanted them to be well-grounded and humble as he himself came from humble beginnings. And hoped that one day, one of them would take over the family business.

The story is vividly presented, you can feel what the father and each son go through, their pain and humiliation.

Even though, the story didn’t bring the historical background I was looking for, I still have to give credit for how well this story is crafted.
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Thank you for the opportunity to read this book. The characters are immediately real and distinct. And the sense of time and place is very convincing. Well done.
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I absolutely adored this book. The characters were so real that it sucked you in and made you feel a part of the story. You didn't want it to end!
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