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Spin: A Novel Based on a (Mostly) True Story

by Peter Zheutlin

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Spin: A Novel based on (Mostly) True Story by Peter Zheutlin is a 2021 Pegasus publication.

This is a fictional account of Annie Londonderry’s infamous bicycling marathon around the world in 1895.

You must read the book to fully understand the meaning of the title. Apparently, Annie Londonderry knew how to weave a very colorful tale, and used that gift to promote herself with lively embellishments about experiences on her journey around the world by bicycle. It was the first such feat ever attempted by a woman- and despite rumors of a wager- it was all most likely a publicity stunt.

There are so many half-truths or outright lies that Annie told in order to create publicity, that now it is almost impossible to tell what the entire truth really was- but what we do know is that Annie did embark on an around- the world trip on a bicycle, and her adventure made her a brief celebrity, enabling her to begin a career as a journalist.

The novel details both the verifiable facts and the wild stories Annie often told, along with a fictionalized imagining of her personal life.

Today, Annie’s adventure is but a small footnote in history, but I’m happy the author discovered his ancestry and brought Annie’s story back to life.

Annie appears to be quite a colorful character -both in real life and in novel form. I’m not sure what she would think of her nephew’s ‘spin’ on her life story- but I have a feeling she would have gotten a kick out of it.

3.5 stars ( )
  gpangel | Sep 17, 2021 |
In June of 1894, a Boston housewife and mother renamed herself Annie Londonderry and set off from Boston to go around the world by bicycle. Peter Zheutlin’s new book, SPIN: A Novel Based on a (Mostly) True Story, follows an extensive trail of newspaper coverage of Annie’s travels, augmented by imagination and historic details.

In addition to Annie’s quirky story, SPIN looks at how the bicycle radically transformed the lives of women in the late 19th century. Annie’s story illustrates the quote by Susan B. Anthony on the book’s cover: “Bicycling has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world.” ( )
  RoseCityReader | Aug 9, 2021 |
This is a fascinating story of a young, Jewish mother who, in 1894, took on a wager to be the first woman to ride a bicycle around the world. She must do it in 15 months and earn $5000 enroute. She had to begin the journey with no money and was not allowed to accept anything free along the way. If she succeeded, she would collect $10,000. The book is structured as an imaginary letter that Annie writes to her granddaughter Mary.

Annie Londonderry was actually Annie Cohen Kopchovsky and was the author’s ancestor. She wasn’t fond of marriage, although she was married. She also wasn’t fond of children, although she had three. Having to self-promote herself all along the way, she became a creative storyteller. She made some decisions that were questionable, but haven’t we all done that? While I didn’t find her very likeable, she was certainly brave, bold, and had real chutzpah. Without a doubt, she was certainly well ahead of her time.

Annie was somewhat of a family secret, so Zheutlin had to do quite a bit of research to piece together Annie’s amazing story which he now presents as a historical fiction novel. The “P.S.” at the end of the letter was emotional and helped me understand Annie a bit better.

I chuckle a bit at the simple title “Spin”, which may refer to the bicycle wheels spinning or perhaps to the tales Annie spins along the way. There were some good ones.

I never realized just how important the invention of the bicycle was, especially for women. Susan B. Anthony is quoted as saying “Bicycling has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world.” With the bicycle, Annie helped pave the way to the rights we women have today.

I recommend this book to those who want to know about another courageous woman in history that refused to be caught confined and instead set her own path. ( )
  BettyTaylor56 | Jun 5, 2021 |
A global sensation in the 1890’s, the story of Annie Londonderry was mostly forgotten.
Based on long lost facts the author discovered in his own family, Spin is the story of the 1890’s around the world bicycle journey of Annie Londonderry. The first woman to circle the globe on a bicycle. -This at a time when women could not even vote and rarely worked outside the home, let alone travel the world.

Her real name is Annie Kopchovsky, a great storyteller, brilliant self-promoter and saleswoman. Transforming herself into Annie Londonderry, she uses her skills, and some mighty creativity to try to win a $10,000.00, wager placed on the uncertain prospect of a women’s ability to bike around the globe.
The terms of the wager were such that not only did she have to complete the ten-thousand-mile journey in 15 months but earn $5,000 dollars along the way. If anyone had the spark and determination to complete the challenge it was Annie.

Very few books compel the reader to want to know more about the origins of the story. After reading Spin, I not only craved more information about Annie Londonderry herself, but dare I say, I wanted to learn so much more about the circumstances that brought this book into being. The story behind the story captured my imagination as much as Ms. Londonderry herself.
A series of events led Zheutlin to discover the details of his family’s history from a second cousin. Deep in her basement are boxes filled with forgotten family secrets and history. After extensive research and time piecing together the puzzle, he has created a novel, mostly based on fact, of this amazing woman, Annie Londonderry.

In 1895 The New York World declared Annie’s round-the-world bicycle tour “the most extraordinary journey ever undertaken by a woman.” A hundred years later, the extraordinary journey of discovery Peter undertook to bring this story to life is just as fascinating.

I highly recommend the book, and suggest you check out the authors 2008 account of Annie Londonderry’s extraordinary ride: “Around the Word on Two Wheels.” ( )
  57thbook | May 22, 2021 |
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