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New York: The Novel Paperback – September 21, 2010
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Strangely, I suspect it was Viking ancestors who drew me to New York.
For centuries my father's family lived on Britain's biggest tidal river, the Severn, on which there was a huge trade with the interior, and through the port of Bristol with America. In the nineteenth century they were in shipping from the Baltic to the Black Sea, and on the great rivers of Europe--the Rhine, the Danube, even the Russian River Dnieper. I myself was born beside a river--the Avon in Sarum. So when I first encountered New York's great harbor and the Hudson River as a teenager, and came to understand their historic canal and railroad links to the vast spaces of the Midwest, I felt both the thrill of a new adventure, and a deep sense of homecoming.
I first considered writing New York in 1991. I'd been in the city for a decade, was married to an American wife and sending my children to New York schools. I was even on the board of a coop building. But I wasn't sure how to organize such complex material, and for many years I put the project aside.
It was kind encouragement and old-fashioned editing from William Thomas at Doubleday that finally persuaded me to try again. And soon I was hooked.
New York's gift to the storyteller is magnificent: Indian and Dutch beginnings; larger-than-life historical characters like Lord Cornbury, the transvestite British Governor, the socialite Mrs. Astor, and the titanic J.P. Morgan; huge events from the Revolutionary War and the Civil War--when New York threatened to secede from the Union--to the Crash of '29 and the tragedy of 9/11. But it's the ordinary people I discover in my research--African slaves, Irish laborers, society ladies and sweatshop workers--whose lives move me most, and who provide so many of my plots and characters.
My own personal experiences also helped. I descend from both Philadelphia Quakers and Carolina colonists whose families were separated by the Revolutionary War. That helped give me insight into the agony of Patriots who, until the British government denied their claims, had always, like Ben Franklin himself, thought of themselves as free-born Englishmen. One of my closest friends since university is an Italian immigrant. Understanding the poverty and humiliations of her childhood helped me create the book's Caruso family who came through Ellis Island and lived in Little Italy.
I also love discovering how things work. It was as fascinating to study the history of Wall Street banking--and how financial crises always repeat themselves!--as it was to learn how the Empire State Building was constructed.
But above all, what I love about New York is that people have always come there in search of freedom, and usually found it. I was lucky to be born beside Sarum's Avon. But I'd like my New York children to scatter my ashes in the Hudson. --Edward Rutherfurd
(Photo © Jeanne Maseoro)
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“Sweeping . . . History has never been so fun to read.”
“In the tradition of James Michener, Rutherfurd unfurls more than three centuries of the city’s history as seen through the eyes of the descendants of [the] van Dyck and Master [families]—and the many other colorful characters he introduces along the way.”
—Detroit Free Press
“Incredible storytelling . . . Readers will fall in love with the iconic city.”
—The Post and Courier
“[A] riotous, multilayered portrait.”
—The Washington Post
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Top Customer Reviews
"New York" is just as good as Rutherfurd's other works. The author takes us on a 350 year ride through New York's history, from the 1600s to the present day. The fictional characters are well-developed and interesting and we follow them through multiple generations alongside all of the major events in New York's history. New Amsterdam, the Dutch, the War of Independence, Tammany Hall, the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, through to the inevitable and tragic conclusion at the World Trade Center. The chapter covering the Panic of 1907 is especially fascinating, given the obvious parallels with recent events: the near-collapse of the financial system, narrowly averted with millions of Government money, and the ability of J.P. Morgan himself to bring Wall Street's top money men together and convince them to do what was needed.
With Rutherfurd's books it feels more like you're living through the history than reading a history book. There are many enjoyable storylines involving the fictional families, with the historical events as a backdrop, and several of them incorporate real characters from history. George Washington, Ben Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, Churchill's family, Boss Tweed, and many others, are all here.
At school I thought history was a boring subject. But I found it very hard to put this book down, and very much missed my daily excursions into New York when I was finished.
Now the latest offering "New York" - is a very well written and researched novel, and this in itself makes it a worthwhile read. However, I have to admit that I found it vaguely disappointing.
The city of New York has a fascinating history and has been at the forefront of much of the world's history, both good and bad. What I have found disappointing is that the storyline seems to only touch lightly on some of the more high profile events in its history, placing them in the context of the families that have been developed to populate the story.
Now this is a tried and true narrative technique, and it would be far more effective if the families were more interesting. But alas, somehow the story moves either too slowly, making the reader think surely something big will happen soon, or in such great leaps that we miss a lot of what makes the characters truly engaging, and limiting the sense of dynasty that makes these types of novels so engaging.
Having said that, it is still a very good read. The research undertaken is excellent and the characters are for the most part interesting and engaging (though I still believe that the characters that we don't get to know as well had the potential to be far more interesting!). Plus its about New York - one of the greatest cities on earth!
I can recommend it, it is entertaining and well written. It is NOT the great novel I hoped it would be, but perhaps I am just a victim of my own high expectations!
New York is the third of Rutherfurd's books I've read, after Sarum: The Novel of England and London: The Novel. His previous two books covered all of English history, from prehistory to the present; New York only covers about 350 years. There are good and bad things about focusing on such a (relatively) short period of history. On one hand, it's a lot easier to keep track of the generations through the years, and there's a lot more room for character development. On the other, I really wish that Rutherfurd had covered Manhattan history during the time it was owned by the Dutch.
The focus of the novel is on the Revolution and Civil War, particularly the Draft Riots of 1863, and the financial panic of the turn of the last century. The Great Fire of 1835 is ignored, as are the (often confusing) politics of Tammany Hall, the Astor Place riots, the amalgamation of the Boroughs, the General Slocum disaster in 1904, or the building of the subways.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This novel tells the history of New York City from the time of the Native Americans until the beginning of the 21st century. Read morePublished 19 hours ago by MALA 21
Better format than Paris, did not jump around so much, but I thought Paris more well writtenPublished 1 day ago by Amazon Customer
Too long, with too many details. Lost it towards the middle of the book.Published 2 days ago by photo gal
A page turner! He make history come alive through his fictional characters commingling with the real people in each generationPublished 4 days ago by Jolaine lanier
Very interesting history of the major events in New York City over the past 350 yearsPublished 5 days ago by Amazon Customer
A great book - history and interesting generations of the same family all rolled into one! The only reason I didn't give it a five was the length of the story. Very well written.Published 6 days ago by Faye Baggett
This is the first book I've read by this author and I'm sure it won't be the last. It had a Michneresk feel which I consider to be very high praise. Read morePublished 9 days ago by Maypo
This is the second Edward Rutherfurd book I've read. The first being "Paris, The Novel" which I loved. Read morePublished 10 days ago by Lo