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In 1901 Evelyn Nesbit, a chorus girl in the musical Florodora, dined alone with the architect Stanford White in his townhouse on 24th Street in New York. Nesbit, just 16 years old, had recently moved to the city. White was 47 and a principal in the prominent architectural firm McKim, Mead & White. As the foremost architect of his day, he was a celebrity, responsible for designing countless landmark buildings in Manhattan. That evening, after drinking champagne, Nesbit lost consciousness and awoke to find herself naked in bed with White. Telltale spots of blood on the bed sheets told her that White had raped her.
She told no one about the rape until, several years later, she confided in Harry Thaw, the millionaire playboy who would later become her husband. Thaw, thirsting for revenge, shot and killed White in 1906 before hundreds of theatergoers during a performance in Madison Square Garden, a building that White had designed.
The trial was a sensation that gripped the nation. Most Americans agreed with Thaw that he had been justified in killing White, but the district attorney expected to send him to the electric chair. Evelyn Nesbit's testimony was so explicit and shocking that Theodore Roosevelt himself called on the newspapers not to print it verbatim. The murder of White cast a long shadow: Harry Thaw later attempted suicide, and Evelyn Nesbit struggled for many years to escape an addiction to cocaine.
The Girl on the Velvet Swing, a tale of glamour, excess, and danger, is an immersive, fascinating look at an America dominated by men of outsize fortunes and by the the women who were their victims.
PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Anonymous User on 01-29-18
strange and interesting tale
Fewer adverbs would improve style.
Story held my attention. More discussion of the large legal and moral questions involved, such as the insanity defense, and whether murder is ever justified, would have been interesting.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
By Polly L. Mccall on 07-12-18
"The Girl" is barely in this book
I got this book after being introduced to the story through "Ragtime." I hoped to learn more about Evelyn Nesbitt, but this was not the boik for that. She disappears from the narrative for chapters at a time as the author focuses on the legal journey of her husband, Harry Thaw.
Moreover, the story the author chose to tell was told in a very repetitive manner. For example, the story of Evelyn's rape at the hands of Stanford White is told in a virtually identical manner several times. Was the author trying to get his word count up?
We get a taste of what I wanted in the book in the epilogue, as he finally gets to Evelyn's post-Thaw life, but it is perfunctory.