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I am a Denver-based writer, travel lover, and author of The Drive North and Destination Paranormal. I have several other books in the works, including fiction.

The Chicago of Europe

It is no secret that I’m not a fan of Mark Twain’s work. I have not attempted to conceal this in any way, and actually have been rather up front about it. So, when I was offered a copy of a compliation of some of Twain’s writing, I made darn sure the publisher knew that they were ice skating uphill on this one. Yet, for some odd reason, that didn’t stop them. Either very confident in their work, or foolishly blind, they sent me off a copy anyway of The Chicago of Europe: And Other Tales of Foreign Travel.
I rolled my eyes upon initial inspection of the book. At 500 pages long I knew it wasn’t going to be an easy read. I’ve struggled with Twain’s prose from day one, all the way back to my school days, and have never been able to get by it. Still, I wanted to be fair with this and give it a chance. The book itself looked good, a beautiful binding with a varying cut on the pages to give it an old feel.
As I started to read The Chicago of Europe I quickly came to realize that this is a Mark Twain book that I can actually get into. As a compliation of different travel stories it was hitting on where my interest was, and not in all the other random details he yapped about in other books. I found myself interested in his stories as they only dealt with traveling. Sure, some of the stories I didn’t like, but still I was able to get through the book with very little problem. And many parts I actually found quite interesting.
The heart of the book, the title story, as well as The Awful German Language were by far and away my favorites. I can now see whey editor Peter Kaminsky, Executive Producer of the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, placed them as he did; they are the guts of the compliation and the heart of the book.
On the other hand, I rolled my eyes as Twain gushed about such places like the Palace of Versailles. I understand and appreciate the historical importance of such places, but was not a particular fan of it on my visit. So as I read his take on the palace I couldn’t help but sigh and be thankful the chapter was only three pages long. Still though, despite my dislike, it fit in the grand scheme of the book. Where I struggled in terms of what was included was at the end under the “Fantasies” section. It all seemed a bit of a reach to me and I wasn’t quite sure why Kaminsky included it.
Regardless though, it’s not difficult to bypass those four stories and go straight on to the “Final Note,” where the compliation was well wrapped. And as I closed the cover at that, I realized that I had just read the first Mark Twain book I ever had any sense of like for. The stories were all entertaining; I had no difficulty in following along from one to the other, despite all of them being excerpts from other books, and I found that I was quite pleased with it on the whole. And as none of the stories are terribly long, I quite enjoyed that I could read one or two quickly, as in before bed, and not have any issues on trying to pick things back up a day or two down the road.
If you fancy yourself a Mark Twain fan, then I would recommend The Chicago of Europe to you without a moment’s hesitation. If you’re not a particular fan, and have always been a skeptic like me, I would still recommend it to you as it might just change your mind. It’s a well done book and one that I’m happy I had the chance to read, particularly because of my initial reservations.
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