Book Review – Sensational Victoria: Bright Lights, Red Lights, Ghosts and Gardens

Author: Eve Lazarus (Anvil Press, 2012)

I’m a sucker for local history books. Whenever I travel I try and find a book store or museum gift shop to look for something to add to the bookcase. So when local author, Eve Lazarus’ new book about Victoria, my hometown, landed on the desk I was eager to tuck into it’s pages.

Sensational Victoria: Bright Lights, Red Lights, Ghosts and Gardens is a collection of histories and stories based around the buildings and gardens in Victoria and its suburbs. Ten chapters divide the book into a series of themed vignettes and entices with headings about murders, ghosts and red light districts. And there are even a couple of walking tours.

The sensational bit is for marketing purposes only. There are murders but they sit a little uncomfortably within in the book’s format, while the ghosts seem to be reasonably gentle and not overly scary. Inside its covers you’ll find that Eve’s relaxed writing style blends her copious research with informative interviews of the home’s owners. Some of Victoria’s big names are there such as the Carr family, the Hatleys and Dunsmuirs, but what I liked were the less glamorous properties, seemingly ordinary homes which have great stories to tell. For instance, I’ve always liked 3210 Bellevue Road, a striking little streamlined-moderne house that sits surrounded by fairly ordinary suburban homes, but who knew that Spooran “Spoony” Singh, the owner of LA’s Hollywood Wax Museum, built the house for himself and his wife in 1954.

Some of the stories are well known but presented from a different perspective, and the chapter on the Linners brings to light a creative group many may not know. Overall, Sensational Victoria: Bright Lights, Red Lights, Ghosts and Gardens provides an interesting portrait of Victoria and some of the personalities that call the city home.

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For more information on the book, visit the Anvil Press website.

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John Atkin is a civic historian and author who organizes and conduct tours for groups and individuals. John has explored Vancouver like few others have and offers an interesting and offbeat insight to the city’s architecture, history and neighbourhoods. He has created, and conducts, a number of unique and popular walking tours throughout the City of Vancouver. You can visit his website to his tour schedule.