Books Magazine

24 Hour Read-a-Thon Update #1: “Give The Lady What She Wants”

By Bellezza @bellezzamjs

johnjosephbaker.netThose words have more to do with a very famous man in Chicago’s history than they do with the read-a-thon taking place today.

For before Macy’s became a poor replacement for Chicago’s favorite department store, Marshall Fields was the quintessential place to shop.

If my mother didn’t sew my clothes herself, of a quality which would be hard to replicate, she bought them at Marshall Fields. We made a day of it, going to the State Street store, with layers upon layers of floors and departments. There was anything available to buy that anyone could ever want, from French perfume to evening dresses to mattresses. There was even a notions department, for sewing things, and a foundations department for lingerie.

There were men running the elevator, dressed in red coats and white gloves, turning a brass well when you entered, and asking, “What floor, please, Ma’am?”

And Christmas wasn’t complete until we had dined under the enormous Christmas tree in the Walnut Room after viewing the windows on the streets. Each window fit a theme for the year, perhaps Cinderella, and the windows told the story in successive rows with mechanical figures doing, or making, something to fit the theme.

When Macy’s came, my sisters-in-law and other dear friends, cut up their Fields’ credit cards vowing never to return again. And really, though I still have mine for a store now defunct, the trip to the store on State Street is no longer worth the effort.

So why this tale of shopping? Because I am reading What The Lady Wants by Renee Rosen, and it is bringing back such happy memories as it tells the story of Marshall Field and his (previously unknown to me) extramarital affair with Mrs. Arthur Caton. Perhaps the book dwells a bit too much on Delia, but I am fascinated in learning more about the man who established this magnificent Chicago landmark. One which is missed to this day.

A proper review will be forthcoming when I finish the novel.

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