Mark Helprin's enchanting and sweeping new novel asks a simple question: can love and honor conquer all?
New York in 1947 glows with post-war energy. Harry Copeland, an elite paratrooper who fought behind enemy lines in Europe, returns home to run the family business. In a single, magical encounter on the Staten Island ferry, the young singer and heiress Catherine Thomas Hale falls for him in an instant, too late to prevent her engagement to a much older man. Harry and Catherine pursue one another in a romance played out in postwar America's Broadway theaters, Long Island mansions, the offices of financiers, and the haunts of gangsters. Catherine's choice of Harry over her long-time fiancé endangers Harry's livelihood and eventually threatens his life. Entrancing in its lyricism, In Sunlight and in Shadow, so powerfully draws you into New York at the dawn of the modern age that, as in a vivid dream, you will not want to leave.
Three decades after his seminal Winter's Tale, Helprin offers another sprawling novel in which New York City is the participatory backdrop of a love story that begins as an American idyll only to be vexed by a legion of postwar anxieties. One day in 1946, Harry Copeland-recently of the 82nd Airborne and heir to his father's leather goods company-spots Catherine Hale, a well-heeled songstress with a Bryn Mawr pedigree. The two fall immediately in love, despite the objections of Catherine's powerful fiance, and Catherine's career is savaged in the fallout of this star-crossed affair, which, from Penn Station to the Ritz and back to Harry's heroics behind enemy lines, swells to operatic grandeur over the course of 700 pages, drawing specters like anti-Semitism and the Mafia into its orbit and concluding with a desperate, violent scheme that will bring Harry's wartime expertise to bear on his sense of justice. And yet, neither love nor New York has ever seemed less complicated: despite excellent set pieces, Helprin's prose is often ham-fisted, his characters thin, and his invocations of Gotham Americana jingoistic. Still, there's fun to be had, particularly when Gatsbyesque descriptions of "the great financial houses" run for pages, but subtlety is not the author's strong suit, and the lack of moral ambiguity in his larger-than-life characters registers as a missed opportunity. Agent: Wendy Weil. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Showing 1-1 of the 1 most recent reviews
1 . Mostly Shadow
Posted February 26, 2013 by Ben Sefer , Rochester, NYLike an extended, improvised jazz solo, there are notes and passages that are stunning on their own, but as a whole it meanders as if the point is the practice of riffs and ideas, not a carefully tuned composition. The last fifth, in particular, has a some interesting artistic bits and spins and folds around the story, but comes off more as improvising around a theme rather than tying the piece to a cohesive conclusion. Perhaps you will find, as I thought, time better rewarded by rereading Memoirs..., A Soldier of the Great War, or Winter's Tale.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
September 30, 2012
Number of Print Pages*
Adobe DRM EPUB
* Number of eBook pages may differ. Click here for more information.