The Great Mistake
March 26, 2021

Book Review

The Great Mistake

Jonathan Lee

What shaped Andrew Haswell Green to help shape the map of New York City into its modern form? And what drove someone to murder him?

NYC, 1903: “The last attempt on the life of Andrew Haswell Green took place on Park Avenue.” Mrs. Bray, a housekeeper, is questioned at a police station, repeatedly by different officers. She relates the events of the day leading to murder, and through her eyes we glimpse who her employer was—a pioneer.

As a young boy growing up on a farm in Massachusetts, Andrew enjoys the farm choirs and the long walks in nature. He enjoys the feeling of adventure and exploration, and though he isn’t one for reading, when his sister puts him to shame he develops a technique for reading certain pages and imagining the rest.

His farm life ends when his father arranges an apprenticeship at a general store in New York. While he doesn’t want to leave the farm, once in the city, his first independent income gives him a thrilling satisfaction. And it’s here he meets and forges a friendship with Samuel Tilden, who later becomes a prominent New York lawyer.

The title of The Great Mistake comes from the story of New York’s consolidation. “A project his critics described as the Great Mistake of 1898.” The Father of Greater New York was the founder of many public places, including museums, zoo, parks, and more. Places that are enjoyed by many New Yorkers and visitors every day.

The proceedings in the murder case create underlying suspense and the character development gives The Great Mistake an interesting depth, which is the strength of this story.


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