Book Club Travel

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Connecting the Dots

There are three main areas of interest when it comes to seeing everything you’d like to see to immerse yourself in an adventure based on The Pursuit of Lily Banning.  You’ll want to trip around the Prairie Avenue neighborhood, you’ll want to go walk around the University of Chicago and check out the remnants of the World’s Columbian Exposition. And then you really – always – want to enjoy downtown Chicago and Michigan Avenue.  With the itinerary below you can do all three.

The Pursuit of Lucy Banning

Sample Itinerary


Early check in or drop bags at  Palmer House Hotel or Wheeler Mansion

Glessner House Tour

Tour of Prairie Avenue Neighborhood

Banning House Dinner and Book Discussion at Wheeler Mansion


Stroll and Shop Michigan Avenue

Ride the Ferris Wheel

Tour Marshall Field Building

Lunch at Walnut Room

Tour Palmer House Hotel

Dinner at Lockwood Restaurant


Walk around World’s Columbian Exposition grounds and University of Chicago

Lunch and Check Out

Getting Around

You could really go both ways on this.  It would be a very Lucy Banning to take street cars and cabs around town. However, that might get time consuming and exhausting.  Driving would probably be the best.  You can park on the street if you stay at the Wheeler Mansion and if you stay at the Palmer house, the parking is standard big city hotel parking fee – a lot.

Building the Excitement

Olivia Newport rattles off a lot of Gilded Age menu’s in The Pursuit of Lily Banning.  I think it would be a complete blast to enjoy the kind of food the Banning family enjoyed during your book club weekend.  If you’re staying at a private home this is a slam dunk.  If you’re staying in a hotel in Chicago you might be able to work with the place you stay to created a meal like one of these below.


In The Pursuit of Lucy Banning:

“At her instructions, Mrs. Fletcher had prepared a particularly of compote of dried fruits, poached eggs, bacon and bread pudding.”   Page 113

In The Pursuit of Lucy Banning:

“An hour later, Lucy entered the dining room.  Leo, Richard, and Daniel were feasting on eggs and fried potatoes with dried apricots, toast and jam, and a robust tea.  Bessie was attending to their needs.”  Page 230


In The Pursuit of Lucy Banning:

“At lunch, Lucy had overheard her mother approve the dinner menu: watercrss soup, roast port and potatoes, baby carrots, cranberry-walnut salad, and baked apples.  Lucy had to admit it sounded appealing.”  Page 45


In The Pursuit of Lucy Banning:

“At last dessert was served – Mrs. Fletcher’s lemon raspberry pie was incomparable -and Flora and Samuel decided to take their coffee in the parlor.”  Page 221

In The Pursuit of Lucy Banning:

“Lucy had not indulged in red velvet cake since the last time she had dinner at the Jules house – the night she broke her engagement.”  Page 173

Talking it Over

The Gilded Age was a heady time in American history.  How did it come about?  How long did it last?  What brought it to the end?

Discuss the celebrities of the Gilded Age whom Lucy Banning moved among.

How did Lucy Banning differ from the other women of her time?  Would you call her a radical?

How did Lucy’s Aunt Violet inspire her?  How did her mother, Flora Banning, influence her?

What does Charlotte Farrow’s life say about the life of a servant in the Gilded Age. Could that really have happened?  Talk about how servants were treated.

The book illustrates how the World’s Columbian Exposition created quite a stir in Chicago. List some examples.

What were the pluses and minuses of each of the two men who loved Lucy Banning?  What do you think attracted her to Will Edwards?  Why do you Daniel Jules came unglued?

Bertha Palmer was a character in the book, in the Gilded Age and in Chicago history.  Talk about her role in the World’s Fair and on the hotel front.

Lucy Banning is a barrier breaker.  If she were alive today what kind of barriers would she be breaking?

Discuss some of the architecture and the decorating names, William Morris.

 Literary Loot

The Pursuit of Lucy Banning takes you to Chicago at a completely different time. There are many jumping off points for gift bags, bed turn down gifts and prizes for big winners.

University of Chicago

In The Pursuit of Lucy Banning:

“Clearly the founders of the school did not intend for it to go anywhere anytime soon.  It was a fortress of learning, of history, of tradition even though its doors had opened just a year ago.”  Page 15

What to do:

Order some University of Chicago apparel for a prize or party favors.  Or how about a shot glass or a coffee cup.  Or maybe you could order a lanyard?

Palmer House Brownies

In The Pursuit of Lucy Banning:

“Plenty of restaurants closer to the exhibit building would have sufficed, but Bertha Palmer would not miss a chance to direct every detail to her advantage and dramatically arranged for a Palmer House feast to be delivered with accompanying china and crystal.” Page 236

What to do:

Bertha Palmer also directed the invention of the brownie when she asked her chef to make something people could eat while they walk.  You can make some from this original recipe and put them in a gift bag.

World’s Fair Basket

What to do:

It wasn’t just the brownie, some other pretty cool products were introduced at the World’s Fair, among them – Crackerjacks, Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, Juicy Fruit gum, Shredded Wheat cereal and Aunt Jemima pancake mix.

Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management

In The Pursuit of Lucy Banning:

“Her mother, as poor as she was, had a copy of Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management, and Charlotte had read it more than once for lack of anything else to peruse.”  Page 18

What to do:

Buy the book.  You can give it out as a gift.


Here is a list of songs you could buy on iTunes to make CD’s and hand out or just make one and play it through the weekend.

Crazy Love by Van Morrison

Crazy Love by Rod Stewart

Rich Girl by Hall and Oates

I Want to Hold Your Hand by The Beatles

Wild World by Cat Stevens

Ferris Wheel by the Everly Brothers

Chicago, That Toddlin Town by Frank Sinatra

Chicago, My kind of Town by Frank Sinatra’

School’s Out by Alice Cooper

Big Ballin’ in the Gilded Age

Literary Links

Parlour Games

Lucy and Will played Crambo on New Years Eve.  They also played the game Cheat.

Calumet Club

The Calumet Club is gone but you can still read their minutes.

Ferris Wheel

The wheel that Ferris built was all the rage at the fair.  Here’s what it looked like.

William Morris

William Morris is long gone but he’s still doing business.



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