While I was living near London a friend of mine recommended that I read London by Edward Rutherford. I had some issues with the writing itself (Rutherford tended to write himself into a corner and then skip forward decades or centuries), but the book was great for waking me up to the story of the city. Suddenly all the places I passed all the time took on new significance.
It made sense, then, to read Rutherford’s book New York now that I’m living relatively close to New York. I don’t know the city as well, but I’ve been there a number of times.
If it seems like forever since I posted a review, it’s because this 860 page book took almost a month to read. That makes sense, since it’s the length of 4 regular books.
I really enjoyed this book. I didn’t connect with the city as much as I did with London, but I thought the writing was better and I connected more with the characters. It’s a very different book. Whereas London starts with pre-Roman London, New York starts with the Dutch settlement of New Amsterdam. London jumps century to century . New York jumps decade to decade. This means that you stay with characters from chapter to chapter, rather than getting a whole new cast with each chapter, which helped me a lot.
New York felt very telegraphed. You know who’s going to die long before it happens. The shocking moments are heavily foreshadowed. You only need to know the barest US history to see how things will unfold. However, somehow this is forgivable in a book this epic.
The book ends soon after the 9/11 tragedy. After such a long book, to ended it in such an emotionally demanding event completely drained me. Perhaps it was the reminder of my own experience with 9/11 that left me completely dazed.
I would recommend this book to those who like epic stories and historical fiction. You definitely get your money’s worth!
Note – After the emotional end to the book and my own remembrances of 9/11 (when I lived in Boston), within 24 hours two bombs blew up in downtown Boston. Never has a book foreshadowed life like this for me before and it’s a little creepy.