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The Rags of Time: A Novel Hardcover – October 15, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Central Park features prominently in this rambling final installment of Howard's Novels of the Seasons quartet. Plagued by heart trouble, an aging novelist is confined to her New York apartment, with slow walks through the park as her only relief. Soul-baring confessions, many of them rants, are directed against Bush and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as the narrator weaves commentary on contemporary events with meditations on her past as a writer and political activist. These thoughts, blended with detailed descriptions of her walks, become entries in her daybook. Characters from previous novels in the series reappear: Artie, the math Ph.D. candidate and his painter wife; Sylvie, an elderly refugee from Nazi-occupied Austria; Marie Claude, a recently widowed American history professor. But the narrator's main focus, in the most engaging passages, is three prominent figures: Christopher Columbus, Sir Walter Raleigh and Frederick Law Olmsted. Quotations and photographs flesh out learned reflections, but Howard's digressions are too lacking in direction to hold our attention through the endless high-brow references. The marks of a master—beautiful prose and ambitious structure—are not enough to hold together the rich strands of this patchwork novel. (Oct.)
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About the Author

Maureen Howard's nine previous novels include Grace Abounding, Expensive Habits, and Natural History, all of which were finalists for the PEN/Faulkner Award for best American fiction. Her 1978 memoir, The Facts of Life, was the winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award. She is a recipient of an Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult; First Edition edition (October 15, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670021326
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670021321
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,839,857 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Chaya Bhuvaneswar on November 8, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Readers should not miss this beautiful book -- beautiful in its descriptions and the crisp economy of its prose, as well as in the photographs and illustrations that grace many of the pages. If you liked that big book on T.S. Spivet; if you are a fan of A.S. Byatt and Joanna Scott; or if you love Central Park, architecture, Renaissance and Cubist paintings; layered narratives that still engage with a driving story and a warmly honest single narrator -- you will LOVE this book.

The style is very visual. You are taken inside the mind of a writer who lives near Central Park and who circles through the Park often, discovering its treasures, while revisiting characters in her novels in dazzling flashes. The book's enormous talent is to make you care about the day to day experiences of this main writer-character -- a woman with an unmistakable voice who is increasingly confined and vexed by a heart condition. At the same time, you get a lot of flashes of a wider world -- a silly, misguided President called "Cheerleader" (hmm, "What Happened" readers, anyone?); the people the writer encounters in the hospital where she's taken after various medical events.

What stays with you, as you read the book is the arc of a life, the arc of a lovely marriage and what it's like to value every moment with grandkids. Every sentence is carefully crafted, looks effortless, yet holds a penetrating observation or a heartfelt thought.

The book has been highly anticipated and the previous novels in the series very well received critically. DON'T MISS IT!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By carole okeefe on December 18, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is an amazing meditation on death, on life, on writing. Central Park is a major character in the book or, more accurately, a stage--for its history and those whose stories are ghostly presences in the Park. Maureen Howard "strings" a variety of stories and characters together like so many pearls and the "necklace" of the book presents the major themes of all people's lives, including family, aging, marriage, and the resilience and generosity of spirit with which we are all invited to live. The narrative threads are complex and all threads lead somehow back to the Park setting. This is one book I have now read twice and keep on my nightstand because a third reading is coming up.
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