Empire Rising: A Novel
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Empire Rising: A Novel

3.53 of 5 stars 3.53  ·  rating details  ·  239 ratings  ·  30 reviews
A Novel of High-Stakes Romance and Betrayal, Set During the Race to Finish the World's Tallest Building

In Empire Rising, his extraordinary third book, Thomas Kelly tells a story of love and work, of intrigue and jealousy, with the narrative verve that led the Village Voice's reviewer to dub him "Dostoevsky with a hard hat and lead pipe."
As the novel opens, it is 1930-th...more
ebook, 400 pages
Published January 24th 2006 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published August 28th 2004)
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Mike Rogers
I was excited about "Empire Rising" when I saw it on the New York Times' "100 Notable Books of 2005" list but Thomas Kelly's novel proved ultimately disappointing.

It has all the ingredients of great historical fiction: New York City, the Empire State Building, racial tension, the Great Depression and a plethora of Tammany Hall politicians and neighborhood gangsters. Sounds pretty good, right? I wish I could say that this were true. Although I did read to the end, I found myself not really caring...more
This is historical fiction of a sort relating the story of an Irish immigrant who is building the Empire State Building, adjusting to life in NYC in the Tammany Hall era, and involving himself in both the underworld of the Irish revolution and the corruption of Jimmy Walker. It is an accurate fictional representation of the Tammany Hall era and Depression-era NYC.
Christina Landrum
This book has all the makings of an epic tale. Depression era NYC, gangsters, corruption, lovers, and characters all fighting internal and external wars. I read to the end expecting things to pick up with every page turn. They never really did. I finished thinking of how exciting the story could have been and never became. The redeeming quality is the historical elements of the era including the construction of such an iconic building.
The book gets off to a fairly slow start as the characters are introduced. I do like how the narrative follows one character to another with relative ease, which adds to the intrigue. My favorite part is when Briody and Grace see each other for the first time. That being said, I never really felt the quickening pace of the story that I was expecting. Whether they were on Empire, or carrying out a 'job,' the narrative all seemed to remain fairly disconnected and slow. I picked up the book because...more
Tania Sleman
A heart breaking story of betrayal and love filled with many unexpected twists and turns. I started this novel with no particular expectations and was suprised at the extent of its complexity and the thorough character development. I was impressed by the easy flow of the book.
Michael Briody may have left Ireland but that does not mean he has left behind his fight for a free homeland. Weapons running by night and building the Empire State Building by day, his life is full of close calls. Then he meets the beautiful Grace Masterson, a painter from back home. But Grace is not the easy romance one would hope for; she is also the mistress of Johnny Farrell the corrupt mayor’s right hand man and his connection to the New York City underbelly and Tammany Hall. Full of suspe...more
Gritty portrait of NY immigrant experience (mainly Irish) and NY politics in the era of Tammany Hall, featuring the construction of the Empire State Building. The action of the story takes kind of a while to get going, but the characters (and I include the City itself as a character) are interesting. The construction of the building is really it's own subplot and it's fascinating (& sobering) thinking about the literal blood, sweat & tears that went into the construction of the skyscrape...more
David Corbett
I'd been meaning to read Kelly for some time and this novel, based in 1930 New York during the building of the Empire State Building, was just the ticket. A thoroughly enjoyable, informative, engaging read, following the intersecting lives of three Irish immigrants -- one a Tammany fixer, the second his artist mistress, and the third an IRA recruit and a rivet gun jockey on the building crew. The stakes rise as the artist and worker/revolutionary meet and become lovers, and as FDR seeks to bring...more
Michael Ostendorp
It's quite enjoyable as a "sequel" to Gangs of New York – a historical fiction account of the end of the New York Irish gangs, set against the backdrop of the construction of the Empire State Building in the midst of the Great Depression. Unfortunately it's also filled with cliches, ham-fisted exposition and a not-quite-believable romance. It was still a page-turner, despite finding myself wishing I had seen a 2-hour movie version instead, when I reached the end.
"Everyone was dressed in their holiday best, cops and firefighters, nurses, local merchants, hooky players, killers, clergy, the milkman, most of them Irish, but some darker, Spanish and Negro, others Jewish and Italian, all believers in the power of the machine, the giver of jobs, and bail, and life, of the cradle-to-grave lookout and all the trials in between. Just turn up on Election Day, the machine will handle the rest."
This one was kind of dull. While I more or less enjoyed another novel by the same author, this one meandered a lot before finally wrapping everything up in the last 30 pages. When your 390 page book takes 120 pages just for your romantic leads to spot each other for the first time, pacing may be a problem. This should be the last time I get a book based simply off the fact I share a name with the author.
NY historical fiction. The building of the Empire State Building. A bigger deal than I thought (no irony intended) because it was done during the Great Depression- it was symbolic of the city/nation's undefeatable will. Very interesting topic with an engrossing fictional plot. I see that Kelly has more books. I will be picking them up.
I was waiting to read the book, nevertheless I didn't like the end of the story at all. It seemed like Author was trying to make it realistic, but he put too much afford on that:/
Overall, I liked the time and place, the way he described those iron workers on the one hand and gangsters, on the other.
An eagerly anticipated book club selection that gels nicely with my obsessive reading of vaguely historical novels featuring famous buildings set in New York City (The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Let the Great World Spin). Plus I hope it's JUST like Gangs of New York.
Lots of action, took awhile to get into it, but once I did (after 100 pages or so), it was a good read. I felt like I was back in NY and was dying for a time machine to go back to the 1930's Manhattan. Author really captured the feel of the place for me. Ending good.
Apr 01, 2008 Marguerite rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Big Apple lovers
I'd heard a lot of stories from Mom's family about New York during this time. Kelly's novel was an immersion in the period, and a fairly riveting read. I recommended it to a couple of natives of the area, but one older friend was put off by the sex scenes. Not me ... or Mom.
This book was fine, nothing remarkable, some interesting history about the Empire State Building (one of my most favorite buildings.) The somewhat exciting end made very little difference after a slow first two-thirds, sort of stopped caring midway...
I really enjoyed this book. It was fun to read and to be able to picture certain areas of NYC. Although the story is fiction, it was interesting to learn about the building of the empire state building.
Harry Annan
Interesting read about the '30's and building of the Empire State skyscraper. Weaves intricate story about Tammany Hall, corruption and mob, as well as the Irish problem. I'll read more Tom Kelly.
NYC in the Depression set against the backdrop of the building of the Empire State Building. Jimmy Walker, Tammany Hall, a Bohemian artist and the IRA. A good read, but predictable.
Loved this book though the ending was not what I'd expected. It's a real page-turner with well developed characters I found myself rooting for and thinking about long after finishing.
Can be considered historical fiction as it accurately portrays Great Depression-Era NYC using the building of the Empire State Building as a backdrop for the storyline.
Sonia Wellington
An amazing piece of historical fiction. Combines amazing personal stories along with details around the construction and politics of the Empire State Building.
I did enjoy this novel about the building of Empire State Building and gangsters in 1930. Interesting love story--it was a good beach read, with history.
A fantastic look at NYC in the 1930s depression era, immigration, boroughs. Excellent characters, great plot, very good writing. Very readable.
Steve P
A novel about the workers, mostly Irish-American, who build the Empire State Building.
epic. depression era, union, empire state building, bare knuckles writing
Stephen Matlock
Solid mid-list book about the raising of the Empire State Building
Mark Feltskog
An evocative, well written and accurate historical novel.
I learned more about corruption!
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Thomas Kelly (b. 1960) is the author of three novels set in New York City. Born in New York, Kelly spent ten years as a construction worker and sandhog—working in the subway tunnels beneath the city—before attending Fordham University and Harvard University, where he received a master’s degree in public administration. Kelly parlayed his experience in union politics into a job as an advance man fo...more
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