Sunday, February 22, 2015

455 (2015 #12). New York

by Edward Rutherfurd

I'd read Rutherford's Paris last year, so when I was ill recently and needing something else to read, I borrowed this e-book from the library.  I wasn't able to finish it before the e-book was due (the book is 860 pages long!), but luckily my local library had a print copy available.

As in Paris, Rutherfurd intertwines facts and real people (such as Peter Stuyvesant) with fictional characters and events in this novel about New York City that spans the period of 1664 to 2009.  Most of the action takes place from 1735 to 1790 and from 1825 to 1901, however.

Rutherfurd presents New York history (including some of the state as well as the city) through the lives of members of various families through the ages.  Predominate are the Master family from England, a son of which marries into the early-settling Dutch Van Dyck family.  An African slave to the Van Dykes named Quash and his descendants (many confusingly named Hudson) also appear throughout the book.  Other families include the immigrant German Kellars and Irish O'Donnells in the mid-1800s, the Italian Carusos coming through Ellis Island in 1901, and the Jewish Adler family in 1953.

I liked Theodore Keller, the photographer, best, although his character is rather minor.  The story of Charlie Master and Sarah Adler was poignant, and involves an heirloom that appears at both the beginning and the end of the book.  The chapter about 9/11, near the end of the book, was gripping, and I wondered which of the book's characters would survive and which would not.

Unlike Paris, this book did not have a family tree chart available, so at times it was hard to keep track of whom was descended from whom.  However, this book did not jump back and forth in time as Paris did, which made events easier to follow.  There are maps at the beginning of the book which help to place the action.

I enjoyed this book.  It should be noted that I'm no expert on New York - I've only been to the Big Apple once, and in other parts of the state only a couple of times, so most of my knowledge of the area comes from American history classes.  I'm not sure if one would appreciate this book more with such familiarity and knowledge, or be inclined to criticize it.  As for me, I learned a lot I didn't know about New York, and I plan to read more of Rutherfurd's books in the future.

© Amanda Pape - 2015

[The e-book, and a print copy for reference, were borrowed from and returned to public libraries.]

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