Mark Helprin
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3.63 of 5 stars 3.63  ·  rating details  ·  15,045 ratings  ·  2,866 reviews

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

Paperback, 704 pages
Published 1994 by Fischer-Taschenbuch (first published 1983)
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Jan 15, 2008 Michael rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: the National Book Award jury
Recommended to Michael by: a former coworker
I have no doubt that there are worse works of fiction in existence, but this is the worst one I've actually read. It is written for people who like the sound of language in their head and want to feel long streams of words washing over them. Judging by the popularity and success of this author, and others like Proulx, there are a lot of those people. But it's a terribly low standard that, in this case, gives us page after page of constructions like this: "Across the river was an eighteenth-centu...more
I wasn't planning to read this book again, when my friend Lynn picked it for our October "real life" book club selection. I'd read it in 1985, and while I didn't remember a lot of details, I do remember absolutely loving it. And then it happened...

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?"

Apr 08, 2007 Helena rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: any fans of heartbreakingly beautiful prose.
Shelves: essentials
"Ulysses" is the most important book in my life. "Winter's Tale" is my favorite. If "Ulysses" is like that boyfriend/girlfriend with whom you're Totaly Fucking In Love, and with whom you constantly fight, and break up, and get back together, and cheat on or get cheated on by, and break up with again, and get back together with again, and sit in your car outside their house listening to Fall Out Boy and crying and about whom you talk incessantly to your friends about what an Impossible Heartless...more
Feb 25, 2014 sckenda rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Winter Lovers; Belle Epoque
I believe; help thou my unbelief. I don’t believe; help thou my belief. Midway through my reading journey, I almost lost faith in “Winter’s Tale,” but I kept the faith and finished this book on Christmas Eve. The next morning I awakened to a White Christmas and Christmas-wonder in the eyes of my three-year old son.

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
Jul 08, 2008 Bart rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who thinks Pynchon and Tolstoy, mixed together, might be delicious
Recommended to Bart by: Peggy Noonan
If it’s possible for a novel to establish its author as a good writer but a poor novelist, Winter’s Tale might be the book to do it. Helprin has great talent for description, good talent for language, remedial talent for storytelling and almost nothing that resembles perspective.

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
So what if Helprin's political views make me want to spew in the nearest barf receptacle? He created Peter Lake, and I don't care about much else.

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
Will Byrnes
The last thing Mrs. Gamely said to her daughter was, “Remember, what we are trying to do in this life is to shatter time and bring back the dead.”
Winter’s Tale is a BIG book. I refer not only to its 748-page length, but to its ambition. It is a big book about big ideas, and it takes some big characters to realize the author’s ambition. There are a few here.

Colin Farrell as …

Peter Lake, the rock on which Mark Helprin builds much of his story, shares his genesis with the likes of Moses and Kal-E...more
Flowery and ultimately meaningless

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
Jan 10, 2008 Courtney rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: readers
Wow. This book is magic. And I do not mean it is "magical" to read, but that literally it contains magic.

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
I feel like it took twelvty hundred years to get through this book. I snowplowed (reference intentional) my way through it, refusing to let its length and byzantine density conquer me, which is most likely why I'm disappointed and annoyed. And tired.

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
Wow. This is the worst magical realism book I've ever read, and I've read Salman Rushdie's Fury. Bottom line is that I don't mind crap, but I do mind deadly dull crap. Everything happens without much point, even within the universe of the book. Why would a super idealistic newspaper run a column entitled The Mayor Looks Like an Egg. Period.? Why is it that the one horrid person in the universe is a complete buffoon? What was the point of the horse other than a deus ex machina? Why did the little...more
In a certain now-distant era in the vestibules of verbiage, a diamond-dusted nor'easter came brightly brushing, softly sifting, sewing the perspectives, peripheries and promenades ... with perilously prolix page-counts .. that persisted then, all along the gridded avenues of the grandest city that Time had surely ever decreed.

It was the City Of Books, and this was the kind of book, nay, the Very Kind and most-principal example, that was written then, and by rights most highly regarded by the Re...more
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Robert Ross
Sep 20, 2007 Robert Ross rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone and everyone
Shelves: favorites
My dad gave me a copy of this book for Christmas one year, and it sat on my shelf for a while until one day I had nothing to read. I haven't finished reading it yet, even though I've made it from the front cover to the back cover at least four times now. I tell anyone who will listen that they should read this book, if just this one, once.

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
Mar 26, 2014 Maciek rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lovers of flying horses
Winter's Tale held the promise of being a book that I would have loved: a fantastical novel set in a New York City of the Belle Epoque but in some alternate universe with perpetual winters, with a large cast of characters and a love story at its core. I really looked forward to reading it, and was actually excited at the prospect of immersing myself into the world that Mark Helprin created, and losing hours for the story that he told, reading deep into the night. This year the novel was finally...more
Mar 13, 2008 Stuart rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who has ever crossed a bridge, ever looked at a bridge or who is a bridge.
Recommended to Stuart by: Shana Cohen
Winter's Tale sat on my shelves for about two years before I started it, taking up far more shelf space than any book has a right to unless it deals with subject matter like the wealth of nations or anatomy, but this book is huge because New York City is squeezed between the covers.

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
Lori (Hellian)
I'm about to start this. We'll see if I can stand to be away from the Malazen series for a bit.

I almost finished this 2 weeks ago, but couldn't bear to so I left the last 10 pages. Now I'm done, and I'm sorry to have woken up from a most magnificent dream. Because that's what this book was for me - reading it I would enter a fugue state, images would move across my internal screen, sounds would erupt and then fade away, I witnessed so many things, some terrible some so beautiful I felt like cryi...more
I can see why this book has its detractors. The author is verbose, and there are nearly too many characters to keep track. I have started it a half dozen times in the past, and always put it down before. This time, I made myself read far enough to get into it. The density of the prose gave way to some stunningly beautiful passages. The quirks of the individual characters and their backstories began to stand out. I was hooked.
I will admit that there are passages - often whole chapters - that I s...more
Nov 27, 2007 Jonathan rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who like magic and words. lots of words.
Boy, I really wanted to love this book. It's got some beautifully-written passages, an acute eye for detail, and utter narrative fearlessness. Unfortunately, it lacks a sense of real-world meaning to back up its monumental linguistic and metaphysical ambition.

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
One of my all-time favorite songs is "Solsbury Hill" by Peter Gabriel. From the warm A and E chords and heartbeat drum of the opening motif to the soaring bridge and the bass that feels as if it's part of your bloodstream, it's a song I want to crawl inside. It fills me with sense of wonder and joy and an aching~ longing~hunger~sadness~bliss that we don't have a word for in English, but they do in Portuguese: saudade; and in Welsh hiraeth. I want to write an entire book about this emotion.

But I...more
I'm only halfway through this book, but so far I'm loving it. I had never heard of Helprin before, but a friend gave me this book during Christmas because someone had given it to her, and she wasn't going to have time to read it anytime soon. It has eclipsed my will to read anything else at the moment. I'll refrain from providing specifics until I've finished it.

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
Feb 11, 2014 Emily rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Emily by: Sean
Shelves: new-york-city
I was completely and utterly charmed by this book when I was 200 pages in. Afterwards, not so much. Slogging through the last 100 pages was really difficult for me ... and I usually love long books.

The summary of Winter's Tale talks a lot about Peter Lake and Beverly Penn, but their story takes up barely 100 pages of this saga. I was most interested in Peter Lake's life and the Short Tails' vendetta; all of those elements vanish toward the middle of the book. Helprin instead takes you on a sweep...more
Branwen *Blaidd Drwg*
"There was a white horse, on a quiet winter morning when snow covered the streets gently and was not deep and the sky was swept with vibrant stars, except in the east, where dawn was beginning in a light blue flood."

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
Jack Rudra
Jul 08, 2007 Jack Rudra rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: thebestofthebest
This is the best book I've ever read. Anyone who has an appreciation for language would fall in love with this book in the first ten pages. Despite it's depth and commentary on the human drama, it is also the most beautiful love story ever written, hands down.

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
Until two weeks ago when a friend recommended this book, I had never heard of it. Having just now finished the final page, I can affirm that this was a treat I would not want to have missed.

For the first twenty pages or so of the novel, I was vaguely disappointed, concluding that it may not be very well written. Somehow, though, thereafter I found it increasingly intriguing and was drawn into its odd world of fantasy and, yes, magical realism, although I know that Helprin himself dislikes that t...more
May 23, 2012 Tracey rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: urban fantasy, with a love of the turn of the century and language verging on the poetic
Shelves: re-read, owned-etext
Made the mistake of setting this aside in favor of library books - read about the last third in dribs & drabs, which didn't do the story justice at all. It gets a tad metaphysical/woo-woo at the end for my tastes, but it's still quite a lovely read.

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
I'm 30% through and I think I may stop here, as I've read that Peter Lake's narrative thread is dropped until the end of the book.

This novel is in a weird place somewhere between magical realism (sorry, Helprin, but it is) and pure fantasy.

The language is evocative, though the imagery often hews toward the saccharine.

The problem is that fantasy does not mean "anything goes." Fantasy must have a self-consistent internal logic. You have magic? Okay. Your magic needs rules, boundaries, limitations....more
Peter Lake and Athansor were such gorgeous characters. Mrs Gamely was delightful. Brenda -eeh (shrugging). Old Mr Penn was wonderful and I loved his egalitarian ways. The story kept me torn between fascination and the desire to trim. I think I need to let this simmer awhile and then write a review so consider this a prelim. And, actually, just read Will's review. He says it all perfectly!
If you ever fell in love with New York, or yearn to fall in love with New York, or simply fall in love at all, you'll adore this book. There aren't many books I want to read twice, but this is at the top of that list.
May 08, 2008 Laurie rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Time-travelers, Philosophers, Lovers of Winter & NY, Magical Thinkers, Lost Fans
Recommended to Laurie by: Greg
This novel is pretty dense. It's taken me months upon months to finish, because every time the story/characters/time period changed, I would lose interest.

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
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Word Count. 3 31 Jun 27, 2014 10:53PM  
Bookworm Bitches : April 2014: Winter's Tale 29 244 Jun 01, 2014 02:07PM  
Anyone else thing this book was terrible? 41 175 May 21, 2014 06:05AM  
Joyce's Reading Log: Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin 1 1 May 17, 2014 10:23AM  
Over but not forgotten 3 41 May 12, 2014 11:47AM  
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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
More about Mark Helprin...
A Soldier of the Great War Freddy and Fredericka Memoir from Antproof Case In Sunlight and in Shadow The Pacific and Other Stories

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“He moved like a dancer, which is not surprising; a horse is a beautiful animal, but it is perhaps most remarkable because it moves as if it always hears music.” 395 likes
“Justice can sleep for years and awaken when it is least expected. A miracle is nothing more than dormant justice from another time arriving to compensate those it has cruelly abandoned. Whoever knows this is willing to suffer, for he knows that nothing is in vain.” 136 likes
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