Review: New York: The Novel by Edward Rutherford

new york“Oh Lord, we thank Thee for this thy gift of lobster Newburg. And grant us also, if it be Thy will, control of the Hudson Ohio Railroad.’
‘But we ain’t wanting control of the Hudson Ohio,” Sean softly objected.
‘True,’ said Gabriel Love, ‘but the Almighty doesn’t need to know that yet.”
Edward Rutherfurd, New York

New York. City of Lights. City of Dreams. The Big Apple. I have always been fascinated by this city, and cannot wait to visit someday. Always a draw to young people from the Maritime provinces looking for employment and/or adventure, my grandparents lived there before they were married. My father’s aunt stayed, spending her adult life there. Because of this, I am even more interested in the city’s history than its present day glitz & glamour (though I will happily take that in as well).

Having absolutely loved Rutherford’s book about London, I was excited to see this one released, and couldn’t wait to read it. it begins with New Amsterdam in 1664, when the city is little more than a trading village at the tip of the island of Manhattan. We meet the VanDyke family, soon to be bonded with the Masters family (English), as well as other important Dutch families like the Roosevelts and Stuyvesants. As with his other novels, Rutherford follows families through history to tell the story of the city, though in this one the focus is primarily on the Masters family, who are among the original English merchants and old Dutch money, and over time become kings of Wall Street. All other characters are somehow linked to them – their slaves, followed by their servants. Their friends and neighbours and classmates.

Overall I really like this approach to novelizing the history of a city or region, though somehow this wasn’t quite as engaging as the story of London. About a third of the book is devoted to the American Revolution – which frankly just isn’t that interesting in comparison to the rest. Yes of course it was important. But it is 10 years of the whole 350 covered by the novel. In my opinion, it was too much. But otherwise there was so much to learn or remember. The history of this iconic city, from the founding of the boroughs to the revolution, the War of 1812 and the Civil War. Slavery and the Underground Railroad. The Irish famines and the Irish gangs. Harlem, and Spanish Harlem. The crash of ’29, and the dot.com boom. So much history in one city. The Triangle Factory fire in 1911 and the terrorist attacks in 2001.

A good, if not great read, and definitely worth the time of anyone who enjoys historical fiction or has a fascination with this city.

Publisher: Anchor Canada (Sept. 21 2010)
Paperback: 880 pages
ISBN-10: 0385664273
ISBN-13: 978-0385664271

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One thought on “Review: New York: The Novel by Edward Rutherford

  1. Pingback: 2015 TBR Challenge – the official one | Musings from NJ

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