Friday, February 25, 2011

New York, by Edward Rutherford

Whew, this was a long book to get through! Almost 800 pages, I'm glad I have a Nook rather than toting that thing around. This was an interesting take on history; rather than read a textbook history of America, Rutherford takes the reader through 400 years of New York City's history through fictional characters and stories starting with when the Dutch had control of the island and the Hudson River.

While some sections were difficult to get through, and it was necessary to remember what year I was now reading about, I found it very interesting to learn history through a fiction title. The story follows the many, many generations of the Master family, from the 1600's right up to 2009. Other families and characters come and go, but it's very interesting to see how family dynamic changed, as well as views on politics, society, and the city in general. New York takes the reader on a journey through significant periods in the history of America, such as the American Revolution, Civil War, Great Depression, even the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, and it is clear that no matter what was going on in the world, New York continued going to work and trying to survive, much as it does in this day and age. People were diverse from the moment the Dutch settled the island, and their views were just as opposing on any aspect of life (Loyalist vs. Patriots, Pro vs. Anti slavery, hard labor vs. investing/stocks trading, and so on).

The Masters changed immensely from generation to generation, illustrated by young Charlie Master's opposition to the family tradition of going into business and banking. He wanted to live the Bohemian lifestyle throughout the 20's and through the rest of his life! Each of the characters brought to the table a different set of beliefs and ideals, and it was interesting to see the differences in personality between privileged white people and the poor black man, old money and new money, father and son, and so on.

The one downside to this book, besides being 800 pages and taking a month to read, was that the late 20th century was pretty rushed. I would have much rather seen some more dialogue and story about the technological eras of the 1980's and 1990's, than sat through the Revolutionary War for almost half the book. Maybe that's just because I would have been able to point out "I remember that!" but it would have made the ending of the story a little more interesting, in addition to showing that just as much effort went into the recent decades as went into the founding of this country.

Overall, I gave this book a 7/10. It was a very interesting novel, much different from the books I normally read and I was fascinated by this fictional account of one of my favorite cities. The fact that it took me almost a month and a half to read, however, takes away from that a little bit. Less time (and much fewer pages) could have been spent on the 1770's, and the early 20th century, in my opinion anyway. Probably a better idea to read this book over spring break, or any other time than the beginning of my semester though, since I was also pretty distracted by schoolwork.. Ah well, lessons to be learned in planning when I read books!

- Justin

No comments:

Post a Comment