Oct 08, 10
Read from September 30 to October 07, 2010
Not a historical fiction, but an experiment with the fluidity of identity, where North/South, black/white, male/female, child/adult, and soldier/civilian get commingled and collaged in what is simultaneously a realist setting and a big fat metaphor. (You might ask what kind of true realism wouldn't have those comminglings, and you'd be right to do so.) Sometimes the characterization seems a little perfunctory, which seems to me to be a mistake; fluidity of character is, perhaps, more interesting when it flows out of what has appeared at first to be solid? But I don't think that this amounts to a substantial flaw in the work.
Side note: I suspect that there are additional pleasures to be had from reading this book in connection with the rest of Doctorow's oeuvre, that perhaps a great many of these characters are linked to those of his other books (e.g., I noticed Coalhouse Walker, a progenitor of the Coalhouse of Ragtime).