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Refiner's Fire
Mark Helprin
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Refiner's Fire

3.99 of 5 stars 3.99  ·  rating details  ·  821 ratings  ·  41 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
Mass Market Paperback, 0 pages
Published December 1st 1984 by Laurel (first published 1977)
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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
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
Helprin is a fine author who more people need to discover.
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
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
Jan Colle
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.
Stephen Wahrhaftig
Even though I prefer novels, this selection is just wonderful and worth reading twice.
May 20, 2008 Mitchell rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Mitchell by: Marty Monsma
Shelves: favorites, fiction
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!!!
Shane Hall
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.
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.
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."
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 5 of 5 stars  ·  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.
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.
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.
I have often wondered if this isn't the most autobiographical of Helprin's novels. This is a book I have given as a gift to a few of those that I love, which says a lot.
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!
Caitlin Brady
One of my favorites! Great adventures, and a dramatic metaphor for the strength that comes from the human experience (sounds dramatic, but it's true!)
I didn't like this so much. Still a wonderful writing style, but the story is a little raw. Something of a "man's book", I think.
Helprin's writing is absolutely wonderful. his stories are crafted finely and his characters remain with you long after the story ends.
I'm only about 50 pages in and I've already been sobbing hysterically. Damn you, Mark Helprin. I am a glutton for punishment...
Helprin's prose is excellent. I don't quite know what to make of the book, other than to say I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Gripping, manly stuff until it descends in magical realism, the realism aspect beings somewhate absent.
Yet another fine novel from this man. There's so much GOODNESS in his writing, I just can't stand it.
Nick Tomashot
One of my all-time favorites -- an a timely read given what's happening in Isreal.
A bit self-serving and a bit forgettable, methinks. Still, I enjoyed it.
Ethan Rose
A little more tragic than funny, but still a very good read.
Stephen Murley
Wonderful read based on Helprin's service in the IDF. Well worth it!
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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...
Winter's Tale A Soldier of the Great War Freddy and Fredericka In Sunlight and in Shadow Memoir from Antproof Case

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“A cat can outrace the best thoroughbred horse if only it can grasp the idea of racing.” 3 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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