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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Book Review: New York by Edward Rutherfurd


New York by Edward Rutherfurd
Unabridged, 36 hr. 5 min.
Random House Audio
Mark Bramhall (Narrator)
November 10, 2009
★★★★★

Genre: Historical fiction

Source: Downloaded Audio from my Library
“The bestselling master of historical fiction weaves a grand, sweeping drama of New York from the city's founding to the present day. 
Rutherfurd celebrates America's greatest city in a rich, engrossing saga that showcases his extraordinary ability to combine impeccable historical research and storytelling flair. As in his earlier, bestselling novels, he illuminates cultural, social, and political upheavals through the lives of a remarkably diverse set of families.

As he recounts the intertwining fates of characters rich and poor, black and white, native born and immigrant, Rutherfurd brings to life the momentous events that shaped New York and America: the Revolutionary War, the emergence of the city as a great trading and financial center, the excesses of the Gilded Age, the explosion of immigration in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the trials of World War II, the near-demise of New York in the 1970s and its roaring rebirth in the '90s, and the attacks on the World Trade Center. Sprinkled throughout are captivating cameo appearances by historical figures ranging from George Washington to Abraham Lincoln to Babe Ruth. 
New York is the book that millions of Rutherfurd's American fans have been waiting for. A brilliant mix of romance, war, family drama, and personal triumphs, it gloriously captures the search for freedom and prosperity at the heart of our nation's history.”
From the outset of reading this book I wasn’t sure how the author was going to be able to tell 400+ years of history within the confines of about 800 pages – but somehow he did the job and did so beautifully. Edward Rutherfurd makes New York into a character all its own that has highs and lows, good days and bad days, and grows and evolves over time. He integrates the story of New York so well with the lives of his characters that you don’t even notice that you are getting a very thorough history lesson at the same time.

As the author has said in interviews, this story is about the roots and family of his characters as well as the evolution of the city itself. Even though the story covers over 400 years you don’t lose connection with the characters because you are following a family and with each new decade or event you still usually have at least one character you already knew. The main family that is followed is the Masters – they have their roots in the founding of the city – from the settlement by the Dutch right up until the present day. At different times we also follow a slave family, a group of Native Americans, Irish and Italian immigrant families and a couple others as well. I really liked how people from these core families would re-encounter and interact with each other as time went on.

To give you a taste of just a few of the topics covered in this book: Dutch settlement, Revolutionary War, Slavery, Civil War, Blizzard, Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, Women’s Suffrage Movement, Draft Riots of the Civil War, Depression, 9/11, and many more.

I haven’t encountered any novels prior to this one that included 9/11. This event was handled so well – it wasn’t dramatized, it was more about how it affected the characters who represented different experiences had during that fateful day. I was very impressed with the handling and sensitivity given to this topic.  The combination of the way it was written and the way it was narrated absolutely made me cry.

There was only one event in this book where I could tell where the author himself had his roots, and that was during the Revolutionary War. Even though he spent equal time with the Loyalists and Patriots, you could tell there was a Loyalist/British leaning. I actually would catch myself from time to time rooting for the British – that was quite a shock for me!

I highly recommend this read and can’t wait to get my hands on some of his other books.

★★★★★

The narrator for this book was AMAZING! He made each character truly unique – he had great and somewhat convincing accents for all. I think some of the events were made more poignant because I was listening to this book rather than reading the words off of the page. As I was listening to the section on 9/11 I had goosebumps on my arms and tears in my eyes – that is how much feeling the narrator can evoke.

Edward Rutherfurd has also written several other historical fiction books: The Princes of Ireland, Rebels of Ireland, The Forest, London, Russka, and Sarum. You can visit Rutherfurd’s website for additional information about these books. If you would like to preview the story before reading it, check out this excerpt.

You can also watch the book trailer below – which looks pretty awesome!


or watch this interview with the author about this book:

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Here are some choices for purchasing the book: Amazon, B&N, RJ Julia (my fav indie bookstore).

 



Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court

8 comments:

  1. I enjoyed reading your write up, Heather! Large, sweeping historicals are wonderful and New York sounds fascinating.

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  2. Mystica - it was a great book.

    Joanne - I had never read such a saga before - but it was done so beautifully.

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  3. I have to get my hands on this book! Love Rutherford's writing. Have you read London? One of my favorites. I'm part way through Sarum and it's good too. Great review!

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  4. Michelle - I have not had the chance to read London, but it is the next one of his that I want to read!

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  5. I think I would start with London myself. This author puts me in mind of Michener, who includes the very beginnings in his books. Excellent review and thanks for bringing this author to my attention :)

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  6. I have several of his books on my "I really am going to read these some day" shelves. This one sounds like the audio version is something we need to look into. My husband doesn't have time to read but can listen to audio books while he commutes. We have shared some excellent books this way. A really good narrator can make listening to the book a better experience than reading it.
    The trailer was really good. Will have to go find this one sooner than later. Thanks for the review.

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  7. Jenny - I started with New York because my library had it on audio and didn't have any of his others. But I have been eyeing London on the shelf for awhile!

    Librarypat - I wish that I could get more of his books on audio (on cd) - only about half of them are. Hopefully that will change soon.

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