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The Street Sweeper Hardcover – January 5, 2012


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Editorial Reviews

Review

Praise for Elliot Perlman’s The Street Sweeper
 
“[I]t seems somehow fitting that the author of The Street Sweeper, a wonderfully rich, engaging and multilayered new novel about blacks and Jews in Chicago and New York, would hail from Australia. I’ve been a fan of Elliot Perlman’s work since his 1998 novel Three Dollars. That book and his massive Seven Types of Ambiguity (2004) revealed him to be an author of rare erudition and compassion. But The Street Sweeper is his boldest work yet…” –  The Washington Post


The Street Sweeper is an impressive literary achievement, complex in its organization, meticulous in its plotting and deeply satisfying in its emotional payoffs.” – The Wall Street Journal


“In the best kind of books, there is always that moment when the words on the page swallow the world outside — subway stations fly by, errands go un-run, rational bedtimes are abandoned — and the only goal is to gobble up the next paragraph, and the next, and the next… A towering achievement: a strikingly modern literary novel that brings the ugliest moments of 20th-century history to life, and finds real beauty there.” – Entertainment Weekly


“As characters interact and fates intertwine, Perlman tells an engaging multi-generational saga witnessing personal histories that heroically endure and survive brutal and horrific racism to become what we know as the history of the Holocaust and the American Civil Rights movement. At his best, Perlman accomplishes this literary feat by evoking remarkable depth and meaning in otherwise commonplace events and characters…. [W]hat is most memorable about this richly woven tale is the lessons about the importance of memory and remembering, and the novel’s underlying compassion and sense of history.” – USA Today


“An epic tale that spans decades and bridges generations while chronicling the predominant chapters of racial persecution perpetrated in the darkest hours of the 20th century… Perlman is a consummate storyteller… This stunning novel works, and matters, because of the expert way Perlman has recorded both the agonized howl of the past and the plaintive echoes of the present.” – San Francisco Chronicle


The Street Sweeper connects up its large cast of characters, telling a grim but buoyant story, full of humanity and brave acts. Reading it provides that uncommon thrill in fiction: a philosophical page-turner.” – Cleveland Plain Dealer


The Street Sweeper is a big novel in every sense… It’s filled with color and characters whose unlikely connection tells the stories of contemporary New York, 1930s Warsaw and 1950s Chicago.” – The Forward


“Perlman offers an affecting meditation on memory itself, on storytelling as an act of healing.” – The Guardian (UK)


“An expertly told novel of life in immigrant America--and of the terrible events left behind in the old country.” – Kirkus Reviews (STARRED)


“Brilliantly makes personal both the Holocaust and the civil rights movement.... A moving and literate page-turner.” – Publishers Weekly (STARRED)


“Perlman’s compulsively readable wrestle-with-evil saga is intimate and monumental, wrenching and cathartic.” – Booklist (STARRED)

About the Author

Elliot Perlman is the author of The Reasons I Won't Be Coming and Seven Types of Ambiguity. He also cowrote the award-winning screenplay for a film version of Three Dollars, his first novel. He lives in Australia.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 640 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover; 1St Edition edition (January 5, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594488479
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594488474
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.7 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (168 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #588,972 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

52 of 54 people found the following review helpful By Bonnie Brody TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 5, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Tell everyone what happened here" is the mantra of Elliot Perlman's new novel, The Street Sweeper. Perlman has an uncanny and unique way of connecting people, history, psychology and contemporary events as he writes his tome of a novel. It is a history of the holocaust as well as the story of two men who are connected through time and events.

Lamont Williams is a poor black man who is relatively unsophisticated. He has just got out of jail after serving six years for a crime he did not commit. He has one main objective - to locate the daughter he lost touch with while he was incarcerated. Lamont lives with his grandmother in Coop City in the Bronx. He was very close to his cousin Michelle while growing up but she grew apart from him while he was in jail. Lamont manages to secure a job in building services at the Sloan Kettering Cancer Hospital through a back-to-work program for ex-cons. While at Sloan Kettering he is anxiously awaiting his six month probation to be over so he can be a regular employee with benefits.

During his time at Sloan Kettering, Lamont befriends an elderly holocaust survivor named Henryk Mandelbrot. After hours, Lamont visits Mr. Mandelbrot and is told his story of life in Auschwitz. Lamont learns the difference between concentration camps and death camps, of the inside uprisings at Auschwitz and Mr. Mandelbrot's intimate and detailed history as a Jew during World War II. Mr. Mandelbrot tells Lamont that he must remember everything that he is told by him. Lamont takes this at face value and studies the particulars of the story every night.

Meanwhile, at Columbia University, Adam Zignelik is an untenured professor of history who has not had a new idea in years. He knows he will not get tenure.
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71 of 81 people found the following review helpful By Curious on January 20, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Mr Perlman has created another ambitious and epic length novel. I have read all of his outputs, including Three Dollars, Seven Types and Reasons he won't be coming (short stories). I am actually a fan. So this review is not a flippant dismissal.

The novel is a mammoth project, taking 5 years to write and spans 3 continents. Other reviewers have covered the plot and themes of the book comprehensively, so I won't duplicate all that good work. There is absolutely no disagreement with the importance of the subject matter, nor of the creative mind at work. The sentiment and the political persuasion that proudly underpin the book are actually completely aligned with mine. Mr Perlman, in his interviews, has talked about the painstaking research and visits to Europe to interview witnesses and people who survived the monstrous events. So why do I only give it 2 stars?

Fundamentally, I felt talked to, reading the book. The fervor and emotional tensions of the story was not weaved into building the characters or setting the foundations for the reader to participate in the journey. It was articulated in long, laborious sermons that sounded like it has come straight out of the pulpit of Mr Perlman. The complexity of the story and creativity of the plot was not match by the quality of the writing in this instance. The irreverent humor of Three Dollars or the subtle short scenes of Seven Types was absent. The endless repetition of the same message, filled in by long rambling sentences that did not go anywhere new or exciting, just made reading this novel hard work. I did not feel Lamont, Adam or Diana are real people, they were just pawns in the story to make you believe the story. The were manipulated, rather than built, as characters in a story.

I am not a novelist.
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20 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Man of La Book on January 5, 2012
Format: Hardcover
The Street Sweeper by Aus­tralian his­to­rian Elliot Perl­man is a fic­tional book which deals with the Amer­i­can strug­gle for civil rights and the Holo­caust. The book beau­ti­fully ties together the idea that we are all human and touch each other's lives.

Lam­ont Williams, an ex-con African Amer­i­can, is try­ing to return to nor­mal life after being at the wrong time in the wrong place. Lam­ont gets a job at a hos­pi­tal where he works as a jan­i­tor and befriends a can­cer patient who is also a World War II sur­vivor. Lam­ont learns about Poland, the Jews, exter­mi­na­tion camps, gas cham­bers and the Sonderkommando.

Adam Zigne­lik is an untenured Colum­bia his­to­rian whose career and rela­tion­ships are falling apart. Adam pur­sues a research topic about African Amer­i­cans being part of lib­er­at­ing con­cen­tra­tion camps and finds a dis­cov­ery of a lifetime.

he Street Sweeper by Elliot Perl­man is sto­ry­telling at its best. The book man­ages to bring com­plex ideas to the fore­front of the reader's atten­tion such as what is his­tory, how do we record it or pass it along as well as the impor­tance of first­hand accounts.

A well writ­ten and sweep­ing book which touches many sub­jects and ties them all together in a humane sense rather than the metic­u­lous books we read about his­tory. How­ever, the main point of the book, for me, was the impor­tance of remem­ber­ing his­tory, not as dry dates and fig­ures but from the point of view of peo­ple who are real peo­ple, fathers, moth­ers, daugh­ters, broth­ers and sisters.

The book inter­weaves two main sto­ries, an ex-con named Lam­ont Williams and the his­to­rian Adam Zigne­lik. The book has its own unique rhythm which is intri­cate and involved.
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