Helena's Reviews > Winter's Tale

Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin
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Apr 08, 07

bookshelves: essentials
Recommended for: any fans of heartbreakingly beautiful prose.
Read in July, 2002

"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 Pointless Slutty Asshole they are and then light up like a schoolchild on Christmas morning when you get a text message from them, then "Winter's Tale" is like the best friend who you kind of secretly want to marry one day.

"Winter's Tale" is an 800 [give or take] page metaphysical fairy tale about a fictionalized New York City. Its extremely historical and should appeal anyone who, like me, is a geek for anything about the history of Manhattan--particularly in the sections set amongst the gang wars in the five points neighborhood in the mid nineteenth century--and yet, at the same time, the universe in which the book dwells is just slightly removed from ours, a magic realist retelling of the history of New York [and, by extension, America]. It follows an extraordinarily skilled grand larcenist named Peter Lake, who may or may not in fact be immortal, and through his experience, and the experience of an ever-widening web of those associated to him by degrees, builds a mythology of and for the city in which it is set.
The prose is dense and luxurious, as is the semi-dickensian plotline (There are at least 15 characters who could each support an entire book of their own. I guarantee you will fall in love with SOMEONE depicted in this novel). Unlike many modern authors, who seem to be operating on the assumption that the fewer words you use, the cooler you'll be, Helrpin writes phrases, sentences, and paragraphs like gourmet meals. There are moments in this book so good that they make the reader forget to breathe. It is one of the best literary adventures I've yet had.

Also, I used to own 5 copies of this book, and I currently known none. If you have my copy of "Winter's Tale," please return it, won't you?
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Comments (showing 1-23 of 23) (23 new)

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message 1: by Peter (new)

Peter The first paragraph of your review is possibly the greatest paragraph I've read here. Kudos, Helena.


Helena why thank you! I'm so thrilled to hear that. It's the truth as best I can tell it.


message 3: by K Shawn (new) - added it

K Shawn Yes, truly well written. One of my favorite reviews so far. I am adding "Winter's Tale" to my to-read list.


message 4: by Don (new) - rated it 5 stars

Don Rea The reason I didn't bother including a review when I rated this book is because yours is better than anything I could write. If there were some way to stick my tongue out at you in writing, I would.


message 5: by Karin (new)

Karin I read the book years ago but just wanted to say what a fantastic review.


message 6: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim Like you, I fell in love with Peter Lake and the horse, and the frozen landscape, and well, everything. I'm so glad there's someone else who feels the same way I do - I'm on copy number three!


message 7: by Strings (new) - added it

Strings Loved your review, now I must read the book.


Molly Love the book, love your review.


message 9: by Navin (new) - added it

Navin A wonderful review.


Michael This review and my review are the two most "Liked" reviews of this book on Goodreads. And we're diametrically opposite opinions... like bookends!


Squire The first paragraph is one of the most infuriatingly insightful reviews I've ever encountered. Bravo!


message 12: by Joe (new) - rated it 4 stars

Joe Williams I came back to this site for no other reason than to read your review. Again.


message 13: by Brita (new) - added it

Brita If anything, you have made me feel less alone in my romantic angst.


message 14: by Melissa (new) - added it

Melissa Seriously the best review.


message 15: by Dana (new) - added it

Dana You have made me need to read this book.


message 16: by Emily (new) - added it

Emily Seely I was going to possibly read this book because of the film adaption about to come out. Now that reason has become totally irrelevant due to your review. As a fellow enthusiast of literature, valuing authors who , like kind parents, tenderly raise and nourish theirs stories by actually using the bevy of words our renegade language offers. That is a make or break it for me, if it doesn't capture more than ideas but has the ability to create the sensation of visuals and experience, then why should I care to offer attention to the novel, when apparently the author didn't adequately use the wealth at their fingertips to make something with a soul?
I thank you heartily for the recommendation and look forward to meeting new friends within the pages of this book!!


message 17: by Michell (new) - added it

Michell You make me want to read "Ulysses"!


message 18: by Angela (new) - added it

Angela Hilarious, and exceedingly accurate review. Thanks Helena. I'm rereading it again now. I'm going to assume you've already read Neil Gaiman's "Neverwhere", but if you've not I think you'd love it as well.


vernee Johnson I love the book!!!


message 20: by Kat (new) - added it

Kat Dodge Which 'Ulysses' are you talking about - I want to read that now! But there are a couple of them with different authors!


message 21: by Susan (new) - rated it 1 star

Susan Sopunds like you need some serious counseling if you are in that kind of relationship. It is destructive and can only turn out badly. Get help if you need it.....please....


David Tomlinson Helena, love your review! Also wondered given your love of Ulysses if you noticed the reference to "Stately, plump Craig Binky" in Winter's Tale. Seems it can only be a reference to "Stately, plump Buck Mulligan," the opening line of Ulysses. Your two favorites collide in what's surely a love triangle to come :)


message 23: by Kevin (new)

Kevin J. I've yet to read a better review.


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