- Paperback: 768 pages
- Publisher: Mariner Books; 1 edition (June 1, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0156031191
- ISBN-13: 978-0156031196
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1.8 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars See all reviews (1,123 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #91,565 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Winter's Tale Paperback – June 1, 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
Issued on audio for the first time to celebrate the 25th anniversary of its publication, this version of Helprin's classic novel is a huge disappointment. Helprin's book is one of the great works of American fiction of the last quarter-century and a classic New York novel, but Oliver Wyman reads it as if it were a bedtime story for children. Playing up the whimsy of Helprin's urban fantasy, Wyman entirely misunderstands the nature of the book, which is more philosophical than fanciful, and with a sense of imagination not childish but deeply adult. Not grasping these facts, Wyman treats the book as a New York Harry Potter, and the result is a mess unworthy of this great book. A Harvest Books paperback.(Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
"This novel is imaginatively engaging as well as entertaining, and it will find an eager audience among adults and older adolescents alike," predicted LJ's reviewer quite accurately (LJ 8/83)?the book became a smash best seller. This magical story of the multiple lives of protagonist Peter Lake is now available in an oversized trade paper edition.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
The story begins and ends with Peter Lake: orphan, master mechanic, and master second-storey man. One night Peter attempts to rob a fortresslike mansion in New York's Upper West Side. Although he believes the house to be empty, it is not. Beverly Penn, daughter of the owner is home. Home and dying, and thus begins a love affair between a middle-aged Irish burgler and a fatally-ill heiress.
A simple and uneducated man, Lake cannot understand the love in which he becomes so thoroughly entangled that he is driven "to stop time and bring back the dead."
Inbetween the story of Peter Lake and his quest to overcome death through the power of enduring love, Helprin shows us a magical view of a New York City that is, at times, so extraoridnarily real you think you are there, and at other times so magical you only wish you could be.
All of Helprin's protagonists, however, are not native New Yorkers and have come from elsewhere to seek their destiny, a fact that goes a long way towards helping those of us not familiar with the city feel that we have come to both know and love it.
Winter's Tale spans the entire twentieth century and we get a glimpse of everything from horse drawn carriages on cobbled streets to lunatics who rub elbows with sable-wrapped heiresses on Fifth Avenue.
Ignoring reality, Helprin's book is a glorious and ethereal melange of magic and insanity in which people are picked up by a wall of clouds that engulfs the city and then deposited in other times and other places. Although it can seem disjointed to someone not accustomed to this style, it is always a delight.
Helprin never fails to reward readers with one surprise after another: a village hidden on an island in a solid lake of ice where time stands still and the inhabitants do nothing but skate, ice-sail and star gaze, equipped with sparkling lanterns and mugs of hot-buttered rum; dead loved ones who are not really dead at all but simply living joyously in another time and place awaiting our own arrival; and a majestic white horse that can actually jump five city blocks at one time and help its rider to escape anything that happens to be in pursuit.
In Winter's Tale, anything that can happen, does happen, and while some of it is impossible, though still always glorious, much of it really is possible, though not quite probable. There is Beverly, who sleeps on the roof of her father's mansion, in the cold, winter air, in a specially-made bed of furs and canopies, watching the stars and defying the advent of death; there is Lake, himself, who makes his home in the rafters of Grand Central Station; there are midnight horse-drawn sleigh rides from the heart of New York City to the almost mythical Lake of the Coheeries which can only be found by the light of the moon across almost endless expanses of ice and snow; there are the clouds that drop a living man into the icy waters beside the Staten Island Ferry; and there are boats that simply vanish into an opaque, lightening-flickered fog bank, never to be seen again.
Winter's Tale, however, is fantasy and intense romanticism, not magic realism. But fantasy and intense romanticism are exactly what are called for in this fantastic and intensely romantic tale.
The protagonists of Winter's Tale all meet, lose contact with one another and then meet again as destinies cross, lose their way, and then double back to cross again.
Helprin drops many hints along the way that New York is heading for its Armageddon, a point where all good and evil will finally meet in one climactic moment and a golden light of peace, love and justice will usher in a new life for this glorious city. It could happen, and then again, maybe not, but Winter's Tale is certainly worth the trip to see.
Told in gorgeous prose throughout, Winter's Tale weaves an insanely magical tapestry of beauty and love that is both death-defying and life-affirming. After you read it, you will feel that it is something you could not have lived without.
In fact, I was so enraptured with the book as a 13-year-old that for many years I was afraid to pick it up again, for fear I'd find it a lesser piece of work than I'd remembered. A Soldier Of the Great War had not had the same effect on me (though I still thought it was a superb book), and Memoir From Antproof Case had struck me as entertaining but erratic. Finally, a couple of years ago, I fetched my old hardcover Winter's Tale from my parents' house and got up the nerve to page through it again. Right away, I was swept right back into Helprin's fairy tale New York. It is what a great city ought to be: larger, wilder, more beautiful, a place where dramas play themselves out on a cosmic scale. And the thief Peter Lake remains one of my favorite characters in all of literature.
The book does have its flaws, but what novel doesn't? The sections with Peter Lake are far and away the best; Part Two feels like Helprin is marking time (it was the slowest part of the book even when I was 13), and there are some who might find his italicized introductory sections tendentious (though I still get shivery when I read them). The women are all just a little too beautiful, and the men (other than Peter Lake and his nemesis, Percy Soames) just a little too square-jawed and handsome. Those who think of Helprin as a conservative first and a novelist second won't be surprised by his romanticization of turn-of-the-century New York or the messianic overtones of Peter Lake's story; the fantasy is always at heart a reactionary art form.
But all that said, everything I loved about the book the first time through still holds true today. Prose artists like Helprin come along only once or twice in a generation, and Winter's Tale remains his highest stylistic achievement. His descriptions--the fog that hangs over Staten Island, Beverly's tubercular rosy glow, sleighing on a cold clear night, the thunder of hooves on cobblestones, a bridge made of light--still have the effect of altering how I see and think about the world around me. And I'll say it again: Peter Lake is one of the all-time great characters, on a par with Hamlet, Pip, Dorothea, Isabel Archer, Jay Gatsby and Mrs. Ramsey.
Like Helprin's New York, the book's flaws may keep it earthbound, but in its glimpses of transcendence it remains as breathtaking as ever.
There is little point to summarize this novel. Take it as it comes, it will reveal itself in ways that cannot be described. If I managed to jot down a decent summary you still wouldn't really get an idea of the story until you read it yourself. And that's as it should be. This is not a simple genre historical novel. This is no mere adventure story. If that's what you want, look elsewhere. But if you want to sink into a book that will leave you breathless, hungry, filled with beauty, vexed, and even laughing out loud, then set aside a week or two (I read it in a week, but this took great focus) and luxuriate in the richness of its language and fantastical passion.