I love board games nearly as much as I love stories, so when I saw Mary Pilon's book on the sordid origins of Monopoly, I immediately wanted in on the scandal. Thank you to Bloomsbury USA for an advanced copy of The Monopolists in exchange for an honest review.
PLOT - In The Monopolists, Mary Pilon investigates the origins of arguably, America's most popular board game. For years, game manufacturer, Parker Brothers, has perpetuated the myth that Monopoly was created by Charles Darrow as a diversion for his children when their family was poor during the depression. Darrow sold the game and the fantasy to Parker Brothers and for years this story was printed on all Monopoly boxes.
During the 1970's, Ralph Ansbach invented a game called Anti-Monopoly and was sued by Parker Brothers for copyright infringement. It was a David and Goliath battle and Ansbach never backed down, eventually winning the case on an appeal. During the trial, it came out that Darrow was not the original creator of Monopoly. Pilon's book explores the origins of the game, the cover-up by Parker Brothers and Ansbach's court battle.
LIKE - The best part of the book was learning about the origins of Monopoly. Pilon is a deft writer and this book is well researched, but really the material is so interesting that it would seem it could practically write itself. The phrase, "You just can't make this stuff up" comes to mind.
The origins of Monopoly are just crazy, especially when the story focuses on the Ansbach lawsuit and the Parker Brothers reaction. I enjoyed learning about Atlantic City and how it relates to the spaces on the Monopoly board. Also interesting, were the notes by the champion players on winning strategies. As mentioned in the book, most people ( myself included), play by their own set of rules. I was surprised to learn that if played by the rules, the game usually lasts 90 minutes. I've never had a game last less than half a night! I need to try playing by the rules next time. It was fascinating to learn that the origins of the game are against monopolies and that it was devised as a economics teaching tool. I left having gained a solid History lesson and a new appreciation for Monopoly.
DISLIKE - Overall, I enjoyed The Monopolists, however there were times when it was a bit of a dry read. This was especially true during the Ansbach trial, where I caught myself skimming, rather than engrossed in the text.
RECOMMEND - I'd recommend this for board game fans and History buffs. If you read The Monopolists, I guarantee that you'll never look at a Monopoly board the same way again.