Book Review: New York: The Novel by Edward Rutherfurd
The best fiction, I have long believed, educates as much as it entertains; it is sometimes possible to learn much more social history from a good novel as from a good text book. In its scope and breadth, Edward Rutherfurd’s New York: The Novel can rightfully be compared to the late James Michener’s novels Hawaii and Alaska— meticulously researched and sweeping sagas that deal with generations of characters in a particular place over a long span of time.
Starting in the year 1624 in the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam, Rutherfurd skillfully weaves a story of several families– the Dutch vanDyck’s, the Brittish Master’s, the German Keller’s , the Irish O’Donnell’s and the Italian Caruso’s all of whom settle in and become an integral part of New York City. Rutherfurd clearly did his homework– the lives of his characters are seamlessly interwoven into their historical time lines. Rutherfurd is also a marvelous story teller who achieves a wonderful balance of being both informative and highly readable. The book is very engaging from the start and compels the reader to keep turning fully 859 pages to find out what happens next.
Given the long span of years from 1624 to 2009, there are a few instances where Rutherfurd builds to a moment of high suspense, only to leap forward in the next section to the following generation, such that the reader has to infer or read between the lines to recognize how the dilemma was resolved. Occasionally it is a bit difficult to keep the generations and the many characters sorted out, although the pacing of the novel is superb and Rutherfurd is quite meticulous in tying up each and every loose end. If you live in or have an interest in New York City or if you are a fan of finely crafted historical novels, Edward Rutherfurd’s New York: The Novel is Very Highly Recommended.