The Ice Palace Waltz by Barbara L. Baer

Publication Info: Published February 2, 2020 by Open Books. I read the Kindle edition courtesy of the publisher.

Summary: In the late 1800’s, two German Jewish immigrants marry and settle in Leadville, Colorado. Their life wasn’t easy in the rough mining town. As their children grew, some stayed in Leadville, while others moved to find the comforts of big city life in Denver. A few didn’t survive, leaving their families emotionally scarred and in near poverty, while others lived in comfort.

Immigrants continued to arrive, intermarrying with the previous settlers. Some of them blossomed, while others had debilitating health problems due to the high altitude. Some chose to move further away, to seek — and claim — their fortunes in cities like Chicago and New York.

Comments: The Ice Palace Waltz takes its name from a folly built in Leadville in 1895. When the town’s fortunes started to die along with the silver boom, Leadville tried to turn itself into a tourist destination by building an enormous replica of a Norman castle out of wood framing and ice. The palace included a ballroom, skating rink, a restaurant, a carousel and other marvels. Tourists did flock to see it, but it melted within three months after an unusually warm winter. The feat was never attempted again.

The Ice Palace Waltz describes the Jewish American experience of a couple extended families from the late 19th century until the beginning of the Second World War. It is richly detailed with historical facts, like the stock market crash of 1929, and real people, such as the Guggenheims. In the author’s acknowledgments, she mentions that the story is strongly drawn from her own family’s experiences. As I read the novel, I could tell the author was fully invested in the story. This final note gave me more insight into her motivation for writing this family saga.

Recommended for readers of Historical Fiction and Family Sagas, especially those interested in the history of Colorado or the early 20th century.

My Rating: 4 STARS

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