New York City is subsumed in arctic winds, dark nights, and white lights, its life unfolds, for it is an extraordinary hive of the imagination, the greatest house ever built, and nothing exists that can check its vitality. One night in winter, Peter Lake, orphan and master-mechanic, attempts to rob a fortress-like mansion on the Upper West Side.
Though he thinks the house i...more
At the September meeting, the attacks started.
"Well," said one woman, "I almost never give up on a book, but I couldn't take more than a hundred pages of this one. And could somebody please tell me just what the heck a 'cloud wall' is supposed to be?"
I started this book with great enthusiasm and marveled at the brilliant language and at the setting of New York City during the Belle Epoque. It was a familiar though strange world-- f...more
There’s a passage somewhere between pages 600 and 700 where Helprin goes hog wild in his description of the opening shot of a billiards game. The spheres are crashing and the green felt is cowering and the angles are all...more
There are many beautifully descriptive passages, mostly of the wind & snow; the best are those concerning the magical horse Althansor. Unfortunately, there are many of them, and I found my heart beginning to sink whenever another chapter began with another beautifully descriptive passage about the wind & snow.
I never did discover a plot. The human characters came and went without any real impact, either on the story or on me, although the magical horse i...more
This is an intense example of magical realism. At times, the reader must willingly suspend his or her disbelief until the very notion of disbelief is shot straight to hell. Still, it is about the journey Helprin takes us on--not the destination we anticipate at the beginning of the story.
Meet Peter Lake: a middle aged, exceedingly clever burglar who...more
To be fair, when Helprin isn't waxing lyrical about 1) snow 2) justice 3) urban planning, the plot chugs along, the fantasy is enchanting, the jokes are funny, and the characters are delightfully anachronistic -- and not just the ones who are quite l...more
Previously read: May 2004
I'd had Winter's Tale on my to read list for a while- I'd picked a used copy of it up a few months ago & and an online review reminded me to bump it to the top of the list.
The story's heart is a fantastical Ne...more
So you’ve got your Russian greats—Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, etc. Without hesitation, I would nominate this novel as an American great.
Written in 1984, Winter’s Tale looks back at NYC of the Belle Epoque and then forward to the next millennium. The story is incredibly imaginative, and the language is often pure poetry. Mark Helprin clearly has fun with it and even winks at the reader from time to time. (As one character decries critics, the author quickly adds in pare...more
I will admit that there are passages - often whole chapters - that I s...more
Every once in a while a book comes along that absolutely changes your life. As readers, I feel like we live for moments like that. I know at least I do. That perfect moment of clarity when a book reaches in and grabs your heart and soul and somehow becomes a part of you. And from tha...more
I like the bits of magical realism and the writing is very beautiful. I was entranced by the beginning, and the gorgeous descriptions of Winter and the Lake of the Coheeries.
However, for me the ending fell flat. I'm not a genius, but I can usually grasp subtleness pretty well. After devoting so much of my life to this novel and spending almos...more
An update: I have now finished the book, and I think it's going to be one of my all time favorites. We'll have to wait and see; it's t...more
This book tries to locate magic and transcendent wonder in the workaday fumblings and intersections of ordinary people and the (truly magical) city they live in, New York (circa 1900 and 2000, but in a universe not entirely familiar). There...more
The almost 800 pages of reading is both taxing and magical. I had to linger on passages and reread them because of the beauty. The opening scene with Athansor, the white horse, is marvelous. The character of Peter Lake, who couldn't seem to die is unforgettable, as is Beverly, the woman who couldn't stop lo...more
It's a profound book, steeped in love and human emotion, and yet whimsical in a lot of ways.
Hurrah for contradictory introductions to reviews!
Winter's Tale initially flirts with introducing philosophy, like an adult t...more
Let me start by stressing that this novel is for READERS. Not people who say they like to read but only do so occasionally or lightly. Or even those who do delve into many wonderful works but only when the stars are aligned. This is a rewarding and wondrous book for those who will actually take time for it and really get lost inside. If you are not that kind of person, than maybe you should p...more
Helprin's style of writing is like the ocean, deep and dark, quietly ebbing and flowing, eroding the edges of continents, but also confident and strong, churni...more
Helprin takes us on a Journey through New York in a fantastic way. Once in what feels like the early 1900's and again in a more modern Manhattan, but both places are of a different dimension altogether, where anything is possible. This is n...more
women impossibly beautiful & wise, men impossibly gallant and fair.
with a white horse & whiffs of fascism if you read that way, which i couldn't quite because of the romance of humans & makings. makings of bridges, makings of machines - and the heart and eternity of the relationships established there... & of course makings of stories. and this story doesn't quite end. any more than we have. or romance has.