Tracey's Reviews > Winter's Tale

Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin
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May 23, 12

bookshelves: re-read, owned-etext
Recommended for: urban fantasy, with a love of the turn of the century and language verging on the poetic
Read from February 07 to May 07, 2012 — I own a copy

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.

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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 New York that never was, spanning the turn of the twentieth century through the turn of the twenty-first, with touches of magical realism and steampunk scattered throughout. The main character is Peter Lake, an orphan, thief and lover. We meet him as he is running for his life from one of the most depraved gangs of Five Points, only to be saved by Athansor, a wondrous white horse who steps in and out of the story as needed.

Peter actually disappears for the middle section of the story, where we detour into the stories of Virginia Gamely and Hardesty Marrata, she a country girl from the remote upstate village of Lake of the Coheeries; he a millionaire's son from San Francisco, who meet in the offices of The Sun, the premiere newspaper of the city. The various story threads intertwine into a mystical and spectacular finale, with some scarily prescient elements.

Be prepared to spend time with this book - not only is it long (688 pgs in my copy) but the prose can be very dense going. Lovely, lyrical and downright sesquipedalian at times, Helprin shows a similar love of language as Gene Wolfe or Mervyn Peake. The story is engrossing, and the themes intriguing, but the overarching spirituality fell a bit flat for me at times, almost as if Helprin were trying too hard. In that respect, I saw similarities to the His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman.

Recommended to those interested in urban fantasy, with a love of the turn of the century and language verging on the poetic.
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Reading Progress

02/08/2012 page 144
21.0% "Such lovely writing - finding myself underlining/dogearing even more this time around. Must refresh my memory as to why consumptives slept/lived outside..."

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