‘Carr’s kaleidoscopic debut embroiders fact with fiction to tell an alternative history of Chicago’s 19th century in a symphony of voices. Using real-life historical figures, colorful stories and fictional journal entries, Carr traces Chicago’s rise to an industrial titan and all-time great American city.’

- Barbara Vandenburgh, USA Today


‘There is much of the panache of David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas here: it is an epic story that sweeps the reader from a single log-house to a mass of steel-frame skyscrapers. It moves from bloody tragedy to financial skulduggery and farce, all through a subtle variety of narrative voices and perspectives. A notably rich, rewarding read.’

- Fanny Blake, Daily Mail


“A wondrous, bold and playful first novel. Seductively fascinating characters, real and imagined, populate this fiction with their interweaving and intergenerational stories. But the hero’s journey belongs to the city itself … An exhilarating ride.”

- Linda Jaivin, The Saturday Paper


‘What is the history of a city if not an amalgamation of myths, stories and archival documents ... Carr effectively weaves the stories of his sprawling cast of minor and major figures to underscore the city’s myriad threads of development: economic, political and social. With minimal dialog, he melds the historical construction of the railroad and canals with a population struggling to define its political and social stratification during the Civil War. An ambitious literary debut that occupies a liminal space between alternative history and experimental literature.’

- Joshua Finnell, Library Journal


‘A sprawling epic … An absorbing fictional chronicle of a city and its place in American history.’

- Antonia Senior, The Times


‘Carr’s intricately woven debut evokes the history of nineteenth-century Chicago while showcasing important but little-known historical figures and fictional people from different walks of life who contribute to its development. The chronologically arranged chapters vary in style, from straightforward narrative to spot-on pastiches of news articles and diaries to excerpts from a compiled “alternative history” text whose contents are cleverly self-referential … Ambition, injustice, and opportunity all play roles as Chicago expands outward and upward. Over time, the disparate stories, which span the entire century, intersect in delightfully unexpected ways.’

- Sarah Johnson, Booklist


 ‘Carr’s enticing debut is an “alternative history” of the first 100 years of Chicago’s history as a city, using real-life historical figures to tell of a century of idealism, optimism, imagination, risk, and corruption. The book begins in 1800 with a chess game determining who would be the founder of Chicago, a homesteading mulatto or a drunken white man, and ends in 1900 with the opening of Chicago’s Sanitary and Ship Canal, an engineering marvel. Through the decades, dreamers, speculators, inventors, politicians, and scoundrels are connected by Carr’s clever use of a dented copper kettle, a silver watch, and an old painting passing through the generations. Carr introduces John Wright, an irrepressible land speculator and hopeless romantic; Eliza Chappell, Chicago’s first schoolteacher; civil engineer Ellis Chesbrough; the city’s first female newspaper reporter, Antje Hunter; nutty inventor Jearum Atkins; Irish politician and crook Oscar Brody; charlatan and petty thief James Cloke; and other fascinating characters. Significant historical events and thorny social issues are here, too, including the creation of the Chicago Anti- Slavery Society, the Great Fire of 1873, the anarchist Haymarket riots in 1886, the World’s Fair in 1893, pollution, political and financial corruption, and even murder. This is a gritty and entertaining fictional history of a great American city.’

- Publishers Weekly


‘The rise of Chicago in the 19th century provides the frame for a trove of colorful stories and characters in this entertaining debut novel. The first chapter begins with a wink, a label describing it as an "Extract from Chicago: An Alternative History 1800-1900." That conceit also prepares for the book's variety of textual "sources," including a journal, letters, a chapbook, newspaper clips, an interview, and, in a meta wink, a book review of the alternative history. They give a period feel, add colorful voices via dialect and accents, and allow Carr some narrative maneuvers ... his narrative skills show exceptional detail, pacing, and tension. A solid storyteller enlivens a rich patch of American history.’

- Kirkus Reviews


‘Carr’s prose is often amusing and heartfelt... and pulls readers through the joys and pains of the people who made Chicago a city... If you are looking for a gritty, unapologetically unique “alternative” history of the Windy City, this is the place to start.’

- Bryan Dumas, Historical Novel Society


Make Me A City is a thrillingly ambitious and ingeniously accomplished first novel. This is a stunning debut by a new and instantly important literary voice.’

- Robert Olen Butler, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction


‘Jonathan Carr’s brilliant novel could not be more relevant to today’s world. Make Me A City explores the nature of history itself ― both the official record and the suppressed stories that lie beneath. Covering a century, from mid-western wilderness to the bustling modern city of Chicago, it has a correspondingly large cast, but incidents and characters are interwoven to create not just a satisfying narrative but a working model of how civilisation comes into being, for better or worse. This novel itself is a city, one that contains the myriad hopes, ambitions, disappointments and loves of its citizens, as they work like coral insects to build the structure in which they live and die.’

- Richard Francis, author of The Old Spring and Crane Pond


Make Me A City is a multitude of novels all rolled into one ― a wonderfully sprawling epic about Chicago’s founding fathers (and mothers), a searching exploration of colonialism in action, and a compelling collection of stories about people and places. But it is something else too, the one thing that is known to all of us, namely a single, tender map of the human heart. In Make Me A City Jonathan Carr draws on his considerable talent to tell the story of Chicago through the eyes of its many inhabitants, exploring life, death and what is left behind with admirable deftness and style. This is a bold, thrilling debut from a seriously good writer.'

- Francesca Rhydderch, author of The Rice Paper Diaries


Make Me A City’s scope and scale is quite breathtaking. It digs deep into the history of Chicago to uncover hidden stories about the people who built the city, and its clever way of dealing with competing historical narratives is very exciting. A real pleasure to read!’

- Gerard Woodward, author of the Man Booker shortlisted I’ll Go To Bed at Noon


‘Absolutely magnificent. Carr grasps the complexity of a city’s history, the individuals who shape it, those who gain and those who suffer. The prose is graceful and vibrant, the gradual unfolding of the interrelated lives of these people is superbly done. This is an elegant, richly enjoyable book.’

- Tricia Wastvedt, author of The River and The German Boy