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New York - The book of the City
Great Story in an amazing city
Good characters vanish and seems like 2 books in one, no timeline
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This is the first book I have read by Edward Rutherfurd, so my review will be very much on this book and not in comparison to his other books. There may however be things that I comment on that other Rutherfurd readers think - all his books are like that so I apologise in advance.
My mother is a great fan of Mr Rutherfurd and has read all of the books he has written. She suggested this book to me as she knows how much I love New York and American history. I have visited New York a few times with College and it was great whilst reading this book to be able to think I’ve been there I know that place
This book follows the same vein as other books by this author in as much as it covers a city, country or region and tells the historical story of that place. His other books include London, Sarum, Russka and The Forest. This book tells the story of New York from its foundations with the Dutch all the way up to 9/11. This story is told by following first the van Dyck family and then the Master family through about 350 years of history.
The book tells the individual stories of different generations of these families while hanging them on major events that happen in New York or America - for example New Amsterdam, the Dutch, the War of Independence, the civil war, Tammany Hall, the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, and the events at the World Trade Center. A wide variety of famous New Yorkers/Americans appear in the story e.g. George Washington, Ben Franklin and Abraham Lincoln.
Although the main story follows the Master family, lots of other families cross their paths and allow the author to show the diversity of people in New York with Indians, Italians, Jews and Africans all having an impact and story to tell. There is also the wampum belt that starts the story with the native Indians and Dutch traders and pops up throughout the story as it moves through the Master family.
I don't want to go into loads of detail on the story itself as that would spoil the fun for anyone who would like to read the book, suffice to say I really enjoyed it as a story and the 1000 pages seemed to fly by, I did enjoy going to bed at night to read another 30-50 pages and see what was going to happen to the family. At the end of the book I did feel as though I had been on a journey and that I really knew the family and would miss them. It did really make you feel that you knew the city and it taught me a lot of the history of New York that I didn’t know.
Having said all that about how much I enjoyed the book there were things that annoyed me:
# The book started off being very much about New York and the place that is New York and how it grew and developed. The people in the story allowed you to see the expansion of the city, but as the book went on it became much more about the people who just happened to live in New York - which was a shame.
# Certain families/relatives who were introduced into the story and seemed really interesting suddenly vanished and were never seen of again - it sort of left you thinking I wonder what happened to them
# The above point also led to the slave family vanishing when I am sure it would have made a good story to see how their lives developed in New York as it developed. As the story hit the 20th Century it very much concentrated on "Money" and not the poor inhabitants of New York which seemed a shame.
# Apparently most other Rutherfurd books have a timeline to help with understanding the families but this book doesn’t. I think it would have been helpful.
# My mother and I both felt that the last 100 odd pages was poor and when the author had a chance of showing the characters facing the battle of having a mixed religion relationship he decided against it.
Having said all of these things I thoroughly enjoyed the book and will be going out to buy "The Forest" his novel about the New Forest as I love that place. I think that the author could have done with this book the same as he did with "Dublin" and written two books, one up to the Civil War and one from then until now. But he obviously had good reason not to and ultimately that is why he is the author and I am attempting to review his book here!!!