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Winter's Tale

3.50  ·  Rating details ·  26,626 ratings  ·  4,207 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, 748 pages
Published June 1st 2005 by Mariner Books (first published 1983)
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Charlotte The movie has no right to call itself 'Winter's Tale.' The two have almost nothing in common except the characters' names. …moreThe movie has no right to call itself 'Winter's Tale.' The two have almost nothing in common except the characters' names. (less)
Gary Barnett Only if your book club is able to span genres and handle an epic masterpiece that was 673 pp long in hard cover. I have read it yearly since it was pu…moreOnly if your book club is able to span genres and handle an epic masterpiece that was 673 pp long in hard cover. I have read it yearly since it was published. You might say I am a Winter's Tale fanatic…(less)

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Average rating 3.50  · 
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 ·  26,626 ratings  ·  4,207 reviews

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Michael J.J. Tiffany
Jan 15, 2008 rated it did not like it
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 read. It is written for people who like the sound of language in their head, who 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-century knoll ...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?"

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
Apr 08, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
May 23, 2008 rated it liked it
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
Sep 14, 2007 rated it it was ok
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 is charac
Violet wells
Sep 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
I've got little chance of meeting my reading challenge this year because I keep reading books that weigh more than I do. This one runs to almost 750 pages. On the back cover someone refers to it as a gifted writer's love affair with language, which perhaps is a polite way of saying it's a very self-indulgent novel. Essentially, it's a writer with prodigious resources of vitality and mental agility enjoying himself. I won't attempt to outline the plot because, at best, I only half understood it. ...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
Jun 20, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
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
Jan 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 27, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  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
Jan 29, 2012 rated it did not like it
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
Aug 30, 2007 rated it liked it
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
Nov 19, 2013 rated it did not like it
I couldn't finish this. I know a lot of people loved it, but it just wasn't for me. I thought it was a turgid mess of cutesiness and magical realism, and I was rolling my eyes so much I finally had to stop. Maybe you will like it more. ...more
Brendan Monroe
Christmas is right around the corner, but I have to confess that I’m just not feeling it this year. I’m not sure why, but perhaps some holiday reading would help?

That’s what I thought I was getting with this, but I have to confess that “Winter’s Tale” (why no article?) is the literary equivalent of a date with a crazy person. Don’t believe me? I’ll set the scene.

You arrive and immediately realize this was a bad idea, because while you’ve only just sat down they’re already on about how cute their
Robert Ross
Sep 19, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Stephanie *Eff your feelings*
I don't know what to think or say about this book.

I started it over three times and every time I lost interest, lost track of what was going on, and I finally decided life was too short.

Winter's Tale had a bunch of sing song prose that really could have used a good culling. Ultimately, I didn't know who anyone was and I didn't care, because all the pretty prose got in the way.

Just say what you mean dammit! Sure, make it a little pretty.....but everything in moderation!

There was a white horse a
This is one of those rare cases where the movie was so much better than the book! This book was very confusing! First off, there were just too many characters (well over a hundred of them) and it was too hard to keep track of who was who and as a result many of the characters were one dimensional and it was hard to care about them. The author introduced characters at random throughout the novel and then seemed to forget about them because they were never mentioned again... for example Willa was ...more
I survived this book!
 photo Killersquirrelmonster.jpg
That's me after finishing this story.

Soooo...I hated it.
I totally read this in the wrong age (both in terms of my physical age and in terms of the century in which I am currently living) - I should have read this when I was in my young 20's, still idealistic and full of wonder, before the world changed over to the new millennium and 9/11.
I think had I read this back then, I'd have been enchanted.
In fact, I was enchanted through pro
Apr 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Julie Christine
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
Jan 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: magical-realism
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
Mar 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Branwen Sedai *of the Brown Ajah*
"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
Aug 18, 2014 marked it as abandoned
Shelves: us
Life is really too short to read this: I stopped at 32%, but I could feel a two-star rating coming.

Helprin's writing is so flowery, so kitchy, so over the top, it's nearly hypnotic. Every half-informative sentence sprouts a completely superfluous one:
Rum, champagne, cakes, and roasts were everywhere. (Well, not everywhere: they weren't in the fireplace, or on top of the harp, or pasted on the ceiling.) The house was warm and bright. Even the cats danced.
This multitude of redundant sentences tha
Oliviu Crâznic
Mar 22, 2017 rated it did not like it
Excellent writing and a very promising beginning - quickly enough ruined (totally!) by a major disappointment: the educated girl finds a burglar in her home and... invites him to bed her?!
I could not read more; it may happen in the real life, I admit (people are strange and often enough, quite insane and depraved, we already know that): but this is no valid reason to read about it.
At least, not for me.
Jonathan Peto
Feb 22, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read Mark Helprin’s A Soldier of the Great War a couple decades ago and enjoyed it. I remember marveling at his descriptive prowess and purchased this novel last winter. Its size, however, kept it on the shelf. I also had buyer’s remorse and wasn’t sure if I really felt like reading it, so some vague impression kept me away too. I kept gravitating to other books. Winter’s coming, I thought recently. If the story doesn’t fly by page 100, I’ll abandon it without regret...

One relief from the very
Holly Weiss
.Update to my review after seeing the movie version 2/2014. The movie focuses on the first 180 pages about Peter and Beverly's magical romance. There are elements of the battle between good and evil, but the movie certainly can't include the entire book. Well done, I thought.

Re-read Winter's Tale in April 2013. Extraordinary writing. I am at a loss to describe this masterpiece of literature. As Newsday Magazine says, "It is a gifted writer's love affair with the language."

The almost 800 pages o
Jack Rudra
Jun 02, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
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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

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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.” 480 likes
“Nothing is random, nor will anything ever be, whether a long string of perfectly blue days that begin and end in golden dimness, the most seemingly chaotic political acts, the rise of a great city, the crystalline structure of a gem that has never seen the light, the distributions of fortune, what time the milkman gets up, the position of the electron, or the occurrence of one astonishing frigid winter after another. Even electrons, supposedly the paragons of unpredictability, are tame and obsequious little creatures that rush around at the speed of light, going precisely where they are supposed to go. They make faint whistling sounds that when apprehended in varying combinations are as pleasant as the wind flying through a forest, and they do exactly as they are told. Of this, one is certain.

And yet, there is a wonderful anarchy, in that the milkman chooses when to arise, the rat picks the tunnel into which he will dive when the subway comes rushing down the track from Borough Hall, and the snowflake will fall as it will. How can this be? If nothing is random, and everything is predetermined, how can there be free will? The answer to that is simple. Nothing is predetermined, it is determined, or was determined, or will be determined. No matter, it all happened at once, in less than an instant, and time was invented because we cannot comprehend in one glance the enormous and detailed canvas that we have been given - so we track it, in linear fashion piece by piece. Time however can be easily overcome; not by chasing the light, but by standing back far enough to see it all at once. The universe is still and complete. Everything that ever was is; everything that ever will be is - and so on, in all possible combinations. Though in perceiving it we image that it is in motion, and unfinished, it is quite finished and quite astonishingly beautiful. In the end, or rather, as things really are, any event, no matter how small, is intimately and sensibly tied to all others. All rivers run full to the sea; those who are apart are brought together; the lost ones are redeemed; the dead come back to life; the perfectly blue days that have begun and ended in golden dimness continue, immobile and accessible; and, when all is perceived in such a way as to obviate time, justice becomes apparent not as something that will be, but something that is.”
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