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3.58 of 5 stars 3.58  ·  rating details  ·  554 ratings  ·  97 reviews
On a freezing night in the middle of a New York winter, a young immigrant is suddenly awakened by a fire in P. T. Barnum’s stable, where he works and sleeps, and soon finds himself at the center of a citywide arson investigation. Determined to clear his name and realize the dreams that inspired his hazardous voyage to America, he will change his identity many times, find h ...more
Paperback, 496 pages
Published February 14th 2006 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published 2005)
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Richard Fucci
Metropolis was difficult to read. It lacked action and was filled with incredibly long descriptions. All in all, I would not recommend it.
The story opens in 1870′s New York City, where recent immigrant Georg Geiermeier, awakens in a stable where he works for P.T. Barnum’s American Museum. The smell of smoke and the sounds of frightened animals is enough for Georg to realize that his life is in danger. Soon enough, he realizes that he is in more trouble than he thought, because he is not only being framed for the fire that ends his employment – someone has set him up on a murder charge.

What follows is an interesting and suspenseful
Connor Roth
Metropolis by Elizabeth Gaffney is a detailed epic of life in New York at the dawn of the modern age. Gaffney dutifully tends to the development of her characters and the city itself, with no stone left unturned. In addition, Gaffney crafts a compelling love story between the tough Beatrice O’Gamhna and the mysterious Frank Harris. Yet, the book often meanders along, seemingly without any guidance, in detailed descriptions and backstories that lose the reader’s interest. On the whole, Metropolis ...more
I was SO disappointed in this book. I really liked the beginning, especially what seemed to be the premise of exploring a character whose fate rests upon inaction rather than action (and who seems to be like a blank slate -- upon whom others project their fears, anxieties, needs). I also initially liked what seemed to be suspenseful historical fiction, reminiscent of Fingersmith (Sarah Waters).

But as the book progressed, my criticisms were many. My biggest complaint is that the storytelling and
Falls Apart Like A Thin Slice of White Bread In A Rainstorm.

This is a coming to America story with gangs and rats and grit.

It could have been fabulous, unfortunately in my opinion it wasn't very good. I have to say that I agree with the many criticism noted by other readers. I found a distracting inconsistency of style in the writing.

I did not dislike the meticulously detailed style when the author was writing about the sewers, building roads and construction of the Brooklyn Bridge. But unfort
I had high expectations for this one that started out feeling like good meaty historical fiction. But honestly, I can't go beyond two stars. It just never really took off for me, like a rocket struggling to launch and eventually imploding because the mission is doomed.

I kept at it because I think the author worked hard and researched much to put it together, so I felt I owed her. But really, I found the narration too lengthy and, despite all those pages, the character and relationship developmen
Lorin Cary

Elizabeth Gaffney

Metropolis: a novel

The metropolis of New York City in 1869-1870 figures large in this novel. George, a German immigrant was fled an unhappy life is falsely accused of arson and in the process falls in with a gang which provides him with an Irish name and language training. He falls in love with Beatrice, his tutor, but she is chosen by boss Johnny to be his first girl. Frank toils in the sewers and provides the gang with important information, then eases out of the gang and wor
Martin Turnbull
I thoroughly enjoyed this story that took the reader through post-Civil War New York. The historical details felt accurate and yet alive as though the author had actually been there. One of the more enjoyable historical reads I’ve had of late.
Pamela Mclaren
A broad, sweeping novel as much about New York as the charcters in the 1870s. The city is growing -- hence the segments where the main protagonist is working on the sewer system and the Brooklyn Bridge -- and its population is filled with immigrants. The story focuses on one immigrant, who flees Germany to start a new life with the first of several new names. Seemingly, he is unlucky. Working at P.T. Barnum's museum when it is set aflame (a true story), he is blamed for the fire. Determined to c ...more
I wanted to like this book. And to be fair, I did. I just also wanted it to be something it wasn't. I was unimpressed by the characterization- and I don't think it's because of how the main character reinvents himself. As he says, he's still him- but despite learning backstory and following him through years of this book, I still don't know who that is. Also, things happen *to* him; his passivity makes the secondary characters twice as interesting as he is. The other main character, Bea, is far ...more
This was a difficult read for me. The first few chapters brought to mind various works that I have seen or read (Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman in "Far and Away", Leonardo DiCaprio and Cameron Diaz in "Gangs of New York" and Steve Buscemi in "Boardwalk Empire", as well as several different characters from Ken Follett novels, most notably Tom the Builder in "The Pillars of the Earth"). The thing is, I like all of the above movies/shows/books, so the likenesses should have been a positive thing, but ...more
Mar 31, 2008 Kirstie rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Robert's been a couple of weeks since I read this but I'll do my best. I think the writing in this book is really stellar. I'm not necessarily one for period pieces but to envision an altogether different world of 1870s NYC...a bustling city filled with all kind of immigrants trying to make lives for themselves and willing to take any possible job to survive when they realize that it may have actually been easier to do so in their home country anyways (hmmm...I guess not much has changed...exce ...more
As an author who has written about New York’s seminal street gangs, I found the premise of Metropolis irresistible. A German immigrant with a shadowy past is wrongly accused of torching Barnum’s circus, resulting in a nationwide manhunt. The Whyos gang shields him from the law by giving him the new identity of Frank Harris, but for a price: he has to get a job as a sewer man and map the city’s maze of underground tunnels, which would make ideal escape routes. Danger lurks in the form of Luther U ...more
I'm hoping this gets better. 100 pages in, and the narrator is driving me nuts. Could we PLEASE skip all the "what our young hero did not know..."? I'm giving it another 50-100 pages before I call uncle. It's just too annoying.

UPDATE: Ok, finished it. I guess I'm pretty ambivalent about it. I always love a "cheer for the underdog" kind of story and historical fiction, and this fit the bill for both of them. The narration got better... then took a nose dive. Seriously, the book ends with somethin
Cooper Renner
Docked a star for a bit too much pleasure in brutality and the occasional, irritating interruption of narration with commentary. A lot of coincidences, obviously intentional for that Dickensian "feel," and a generally sentimental arc and intent (perhaps also for that Dickensian feel), mute the power of the well-drawn characters and the vivid sense of place--NYC around 1870.
Overall, I really enjoyed this novel of 19th century New York. It was very Dickensian and reminded me a lot of Oliver Twist -- Undertoe was very similar to the menacing character Bill Sikes in Oliver Twist and he like Bill received his just desserts in the end. I did have some difficulty buying into the way the gang communicated through singing or "Whyoing" -- a little hard to believe. But otherwise, I really thought the author captured the feel of old New York and the story was obviously well-r ...more
Donya Ann Leeman
An awkward book, set at the turn of the century in New York City (think Gangs of New York) exloring some rather unpleasant characters and their lives as gang members. Historical setting was interesting but the book seemed to plod along rather than moving betwee pivotal scenes.
Sarah Ringerud
This is an epic and complex novel, with complex,imperfect characters. The picture painted of New York City in this time period really drew me in - so much promise, energy, and industry, while at the same time disorganized and dangerous. But what really made this a great read for me was the characters. They were individuals, but at the same time products of both their past and present circumstances. They were complicated and not necessarily likable, but I couldn't stop thinking about them during ...more
On a freezing night in the middle of a New York winter, a young immigrant is suddenly awakened by a fire in P. T. Barnum’s stable, where he works and sleeps, and soon finds himself at the center of a citywide arson investigation. Determined to clear his name and realize the dreams that inspired his hazardous voyage to America, he will change his identity many times, find himself mixed up with one of the city’s toughest and most enterprising gangs, and fall in love with a smart, headstrong, and b ...more
Lulu Grace
One of the best books I've ever read. After reading Amy Ephron's A Cup of Tea I started wanting to read more period books. And this did NOT let me down in the least. I was hooked from the first page to the very last. And I read it eagerly and with fervor as if I was devouring a big huge chocolate cake for the first time. It was exciting and interesting and dramatic and you just were holding onto your seat wondering what in the world was going to happen next. I put this book on my "book high" lis ...more
Cee Spind
Liked the code research (thinking I could never make it as a Whynot) and details; the historical edge; the second person and occasional crystal-ball gazing I wanted more of so that it was not so random.
Mary Beth
Over all, the book is a winner. She's created a world from a juicy time period in our american history. She really did her research. I just wish the book was not so heavy handed in the descriptions. Less detail, more dialogue would have made the book easier to get through.
The circus, the irish, new york, a gang that doesn't use words to communicate, roads, sewer systems, bridges, family dynamics, heartache, love, murder... (It had me at carnies.)
I saw several people relate this book to the Gangs of New York movie, but I don't think it was nearly as good as that story, or even the book "Paradise Alley" which was one of my all-time favorite books. Someone did point out correctly that there were numerous inconsitancies in the story, that were fairly obvious, and rather than a break in the text when moving from one subject/scene to another, the author just goes right into it, and you have to catch it or realize that she's moved on to anothe ...more
This is the other book I quit. Set in the 1900's it is about a young immigrant man who gets caught up in the gangs of New York. While it is supposed to give you a feel for the time, place and some actual gangs that existed, it has a soap opera feel. The hero stumbles around totally oblivious to what happening around him while it gives the gangs the impression he is super sharp and secretive and scheming. So he just falls in with them and things keep going his way to keep the gang on their toes a ...more
Nari (The Novel World)
The characters are not engaging, the narrator is too full of the author's voice. Statements like: "our man" and "I wouldn't do that to his fate" were annoying and kept disrupting the pace of the story. Gaffney went above and beyond researching the history of New York, and its seedy underbelly. She unfortunately couldn't compose all of the information into a compelling novel. There was too much "telling" and not enough "showing." Pages went on with narration, but none of which added to the plot o ...more
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This one just didn't wow me...although I'm (admittedly) at that point in a reader's life where you get quite "particular". Although Gaffney's writing style was easy going and quite good, I felt a kind of deja vu. Been there, done was not that different from several other historical books about New York City that I've read over the years. After reading the Author's Note at the end (full of I won't recommend reading it at the beginning), I gained some appreciation for the a ...more
A sprawling story set in New York post-civil war, a young immigrant makes his way. Rich in detail and enjoyable.
Interesting historical fiction taking you inside the lives of immigrants and gangs.
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