September 6, 2005

“it seemed to be a place of a thousand cities, or the border of heaven”

Posted in books tagged , at 1:39 pm by placeinthestars

So I finished Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin last week, and I keep meaning to talk about it, preferably when I’ve got the book to hand, but that would mean I’d just end up looking for long beautiful passages to quote at you and I’d end up rereading and never posting, and dear god, wouldn’t that be a shame? *g*

In a nutshell, I liked it. I really liked it a lot. I thought it dragged a bit toward the end (DI, you mentioned that, and I noticed it in the last section especially), but overall I really, really liked it. Loved it would not be too strong. Wanted to live in the world it painted, I believe is what I said to someone else, even though I am not a fan of winter at all (or at least not a fan of winter-after-the-holidays).

I think what moved me most was that it felt to me that Helprin loves New York City (always a way to my heart) and it shows. I normally skip long descriptive paragraphs about places, but the descriptions in this book were vibrant and engaging and beautifully written *and* they helped propel the plot. For example, the quality of light over the ice of the Lake of the Coheeries was important, not ornamental. Actually, I loved everything about the Lake of the Coheeries, I especially enjoyed Mrs. Gamely, and I loved the reaction of the Sun’s staff to Virginia that first night.

I tried to lure DD into reading this book with the promise of a horse – a really awesome, superspecial horse – and it is about him, but also about a thief, and a family, and a newspaper, and a town, and love and time and justice and (most importantly to me) New York City – a magic realist New York City that gets right to the heart of the city, I think, and why we love it so much, even when it’s at its worst.

As you can see, I really suck at coherent book reviews, and this book defies it anyway, I think. It’s well worth reading, though – beautifully written, moving, funny, intelligent, lyrical, sharp, heartfelt… Yeah, the ending is a little… flat, but the journey to get there is exhilarating. I wish I could write like Helprin, the way his words spark and flare across the pages is a thing of beauty.