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Refiner's Fire
Mark Helprin
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Refiner's Fire

3.99  ·  Rating Details ·  934 Ratings  ·  50 Reviews
Marshall Pearl is orphaned at birth on an immigrant ship off the coast of Palestine in 1947, then brought to americanca. His experiences take him from the Hudson River Valley, to Harvard, to sea on a British merchant ship, then finally back to his birthplace, where he serves as an Israeli soldier in the Yom Kippur War. "Superb...A first-rate odyssey, full of insight and hu ...more
ebook, 384 pages
Published June 5th 2012 by Mariner Books (first published 1977)
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Feb 12, 2016 Helen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There’s a reason I never heard of this book before my Goodreads friend, Sabah, reviewed it. I was in Israel the year it was published, living on a kibbutz, collecting eggs in a henhouse, with no English newspaper, and one solitary payphone to service thirty people.

I am in awe of Mark Helprin’s power with words. Oh, can he write. He makes sentences dance the way chimes move in an evening breeze, with music, in an order unexpected and always new. This is the best depiction of living in the state
Mar 26, 2012 Bryn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a book about people's lives, and it's one of those where saying too much risks spoiling it. There are a lot of lives, and deaths tangled together in this tale, and a lot of references to a history I know very little about. It made me wonder about a lot of things - a quality I always appreciate in a book.

What I enjoyed most was the sprinkling of observation - dashes of broader philosophy, some of which I agreed with more than others, but which made me sit up, and think. I don't need to ag
Aug 01, 2009 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mark Helprin's "Refiner's Fire" is one of the most original fictional books I have ever read. Written in a whimsical, almost magical, style, the book begins with the main character, Marshall Pearl, ailing in a Haifa Hospital, gravely wounded from an artillery shell fired near Mount Hermon in the opening salvo of the Yom Kippur War. From there, the book tells the story of his life, from being born an orphan on a refugee ship in Palestine to fighting Rastas in Jamaica and searching for the story o ...more
Dec 01, 2013 Marguerite rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The key to appreciating Mark Helprin's novel comes 324 pages into the book:

"I insisted that they tell you who you really are, and since you have no way of being that other self of which you were robbed by shifts in history, you're sort of stuck. You don't really fit in anywhere. Where would you?"

Orphan Marshall Pearl is a man without a back story, and his many adventures help him to draw closer to the truth about his origins. Time is porous in Helprin's story, just one of several elements of mag
Feb 13, 2017 Blaire rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Alright, Helprin, I give in. You got me again. I fought you through the first 100 pages and finally surrendered to your prose. You swept me along on a current of 75 pages a day until the end. Well done.
Shane Hall
Aug 05, 2013 Shane Hall rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Sweet, dark chocolate, cool red wine and stolen kisses under a waxing moon.

Ultimately, one of Helprin's lesser works, but only by virtue of it being his first novel. Rumours of too many anti-feminist rants or that it's "a 'guys' book" are greatly exaggerated: it speaks truth, with the passion of an experienced heart.

Read and ascend.
Dec 21, 2007 Margaret rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beautiful writing! This story and its main character Marshall Pearl are full of passion and courage and principles. Helprin writes with such bright and colorful descriptions of all the places Marshall travels that you are right there with him each moment. It's an inspiring story and makes you want to live life fiercely.
Nov 20, 2013 Penny rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: general-fiction
It was overwhelming, and fascinating. Helprin is not for everyone, but I think his books were magnificent. In particular, this book provides the best description of life and events in early Israel that I've ever read.
Oct 04, 2012 Stacey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I would consider this the most "guy" book of Helprin's collection. I remember it as being full of battles and Navy talk and guy moments. But I liked it nonetheless. Perhaps 20 years as a Navy wife, made it more understandable to me.
Jan 23, 2008 Cecilia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone.
This is my favorite novel of all. Helprin is one of the best living American writers. His plots are transcendantly beautiful, and his phrasing is almost unbearably lovely. I wish I could live inside one of his novels.
Helprin is a fine author who more people need to discover.
Feb 14, 2013 Daniel rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I really wanted to give this book another star. The story line is great and much of the writing is well done. Helprin does well at pulling you into the story.

That being said, there are some things that bothered me. First, Marshall Pearl is too much of an action hero. Sure he has seizures, etc....but he's a rich orphan that can do anything he wants to the extent of being an expert marksman from horseback. Not saying that it isn't possible, it just makes him less interesting because his life as a
Jul 12, 2016 Nicholas rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of my favorite books – Helprin writes so well, so beautifully, so fluidly. The story can be outrageous, unbelievable at times – but moving, and a testament to the beauty of life. Plus he rips on hippies at Harvard, which is a plus. I love his writing style, and the story is captivating. The elements of spirituality, religion, family in the story appealed to me as well.

Helprin makes a powerful statement about life which is difficult to articulate but appealing – he writes positively, not wit
Oct 25, 2015 Brian rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Second Helprin book I've read: less hell than the last one. This novel finally started to make some sense as a story. The plot became engaging in the last half. Yet, this author makes each character more a caricature than a believable person. The girls are beautiful and the guys are all heroes. He certainly has an imagination but if there is some underlying meaning in all of it, I missed it. Fortunately, this book did not have the fantasy of some of his others. I am good with straight fiction; t ...more
Apr 30, 2007 Mitchell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Mitchell by: Marty Monsma
Shelves: fiction, favorites
I have to say that this is the best book I have read in years. It is written superbly and the storyline is absolutely wonderful. I couldn't get enough of this book and I wish it would have kept going for another thousand pages. I am certainly ready to jump right into another one of his novels immediately. I can't say enough about how much I enjoyed reading this book. It reminds me of how great books can be and why I read in the first place!!!
Jul 06, 2011 Paul rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This novel has its moments but could have benefited from a good editor who might have advised the author to delete the anti-feminist rants, anti-union rants, sophomoric philosophizing, and strained metaphors.
May 05, 2013 Brent rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I like the author's philosophy, and his characters' episodes are gripping. But, at least on a first reading, I wonder how some of them fit and what the author was trying to do, particularly in the odd section entitled "A Memory of the Plains."
Jan Colle
Sep 08, 2014 Jan Colle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is a wonderful if you don't mind your heroes being to heroic. But for an old Charles Morgan buff like me there is nothing more beautiful than perfect love, perfect courage and perfect beauty.
Steve Congdon
Loved Helprin's In Sunlight and Shadow; this ,however, was no where near as compelling; mostly he stacked as many life threatening, over the top experiences as he could to create this character who amazingly survives anything thrown at him. It just seemed too contrived for me.
Jun 24, 2011 Andrew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Helprin's prose is excellent. I don't quite know what to make of the book, other than to say I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Not quite Winter's Tale - but this yarn holds together. The jaunt in Jamaica was a thrill - along with his military experience in Israel. And with a nice love story in the middle. Enjoy.
Jun 27, 2011 Sskous rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Helprin's writing is absolutely wonderful. his stories are crafted finely and his characters remain with you long after the story ends.
Christel Devlin
Oct 11, 2010 Christel Devlin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
More brilliance from Mark Helprin.
Nick Tomashot
Nov 17, 2012 Nick Tomashot rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of my all-time favorites -- an a timely read given what's happening in Isreal.
Jan 21, 2008 Ashleigh rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of my favorite books of all time. Reading Mark Helprin is such a treat. You get history, the story of individuals, and wild description in one book. SO good!
Curt Batson
Oct 14, 2011 Curt Batson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of my favorites.
Jan 23, 2008 Aaron rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A bit self-serving and a bit forgettable, methinks. Still, I enjoyed it.
Joe Holley
Mar 11, 2013 Joe Holley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Beautifully written.
Dec 26, 2012 Harry rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
OUTSTANDING- Couldn't stop reading.
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Mark Helprin belongs to no literary school, movement, tendency, or trend. As many have observed and as Time Magazine has phrased it, “He lights his own way.” His three collections of short stories (A Dove of the East and Other Stories, Ellis Island and Other Stories, and The Pacific and Other Stories), six novels (Refiner's Fire, Winter's Tale, A Soldier of the Great War, Memoir From Antproof Case ...more
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“A cat can outrace the best thoroughbred horse if only it can grasp the idea of racing.” 4 likes
“You know," said Al in a daze of hunger and cold, "when you see this, you realize that despite all the crap that goes on in the cities, despite all the words and accusations, the country has balance and momentum. The whole thing is symmetrical and beautiful; it works. The cities are like bulbs on a Christmas tree. They may bum, swell, and shatter, but the green stays green. Look at it," he said, eyes fixed on the horizon, not unmoved by the motion of the train. "Look at it. It's alive.” 1 likes
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