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In Sunlight and in Shadow

3.45  ·  Rating details ·  3,289 Ratings  ·  750 Reviews
Entrancing in its lyricism, In Sunlight and in Shadow so powerfully draws you into New York at the dawn of the modern age that, as in a vivid dream, you will not want to leave. In 1946, Harry Copeland has returned after fighting in the 82nd Airborne from North Africa all the way to the Elbe. Reluctantly assuming the direction of the family fine leather goods manufacture, h ...more
Hardcover, 705 pages
Published October 2nd 2012 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published January 1st 2012)
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Scott Firestone
Nov 02, 2012 rated it did not like it
Imagine, if you will, a blue whale. But not just any blue whale. This whale lived longer than any blue whale has ever lived. This great beast was swimming the oceans when Teddy Roosevelt was president. It lived through wars and depressions and the explosive growth of technology, and somehow managed to evade whalers and orcas to become the largest animal ever to have been on this great blue ball we call home.

And it died. Not of some tragedy or violence, but of old age; it was time.

And this whal
Oct 30, 2012 rated it did not like it
I see from the other reviews that people either love or hate this book. I bought the stupid thing based on one rave review, and I hated it. Let me explain why by pretending that I'm the author and I want to get across the simple idea, "She hated it."

Deep from within her soul, somewhere where the light never touched, just as the light never touched the dark roiling depths of the ocean near Normandy, where so many men were lost, lost forever in the dirt and sand, sand like the irritation beneath
May 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
It is no secret to my friends that Mark Helprin is among my favorite authors. I realize my admiration for his work makes me suspect, less than objective. Neverthless I must share my initial reflections regarding his new novel. How can I put this? When I finished In Sunlight and in Shadow I was overwhelmed with the sheer power of the novel. I had the story in my head for several days, I actually couldn't get it out of my head. I have not been moved by any novel in such a manner for many, many yea ...more
Julie Christine
I spent five weeks with In Sunlight and In Shadow. Five monogamous weeks, which is quite a committed literary relationship for this fast-in, fast-out reader. Yes, life circumstances wore me out and distracted me, so that some days the amount of pages read would be imperceptible as measured on a standard ruler, but never once did I contemplate setting Helprin aside for a less complicated time or supplementing my evening reading with a less demanding literary companion.

I was enthralled by this lu
Boris Feldman
Jul 31, 2012 rated it did not like it
The editor should be shot.
Oh, wait -- maybe there was no editor.
Helprin has long been one of my favorite authors. I read this book in an Advance Review Copy. All 700 pages.
I hated it. The language, which the cover describes as "lyrical," is pretentious and overblown.
I get the title. Do you have to include the words "sun," "light," or "shadow" on every page? Almost every paragraph?
The kernel of the story is engaging. This would have been a pretty good 250 page book. At 700 pages, with diversions
Sep 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
Retribution: A Love Story

There are many wonderful things about “In Sunlight and in Shadow”. Helprin’s writing reminds me of novelists from an earlier age where things were more leisurely and people had time and patience to read longer books. The Victorian Age? Helprin indulges in digressions which might sound potentially boring but almost every time he makes a stunning observation. This isn’t a book you’ll want to skim. Let yourself ease into its pace and you’ll be rewarded in my opinion. The de
Oct 14, 2012 rated it liked it
Helprin has written some of my favorite books, and nobody can write as beautifully, as lyrically as he can. I form more images in my mind from him than most others. And this is a book about falling in love, it's been a long time since I fell in love and reading this I am transported back.

BUT so far I'm annoyed by all the speechifying in what's supposed to be dialog. We'll see what happens.

11/3 - god I can't believe I'm giving a Helprin 3 stars. But 3 stars means I LIKED IT! I've been pondering
Matthew Roche
May 10, 2013 rated it did not like it
This book made me angry.

There, I said it.

I loved Helprin, especially A Soldier of the Great War. I tolerated two-dimensional female characters and wandering plots just for the opportunity to feed on his magnificent prose. There was no modern peer for his descriptions of the Alps or gilded age New York City.

But then came Freddy and Fredericka, which I barely tolerated, and then this cumbersome lump of dross.

I cannot begin to express what an astonishingly bad book this is. Characters so wooden I w
In conclusion: Unfortunately, I cannot whole-heartedly recommend this book to everyone, even though I loved parts. Some of the writing is beautiful and thought provoking, but there are verbose, sentimental, overly dramatic and sophomoric passages too. Whole chapters could/should have been completely eliminated. This book needs editing. The dialog IS often funny, but neither these clever lines nor the wonderful depiction of NYC save the book.

Every single woman mentioned is idealized. The two pri
Feb 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I'm unsure of how to write a review for In Sunlight and in Shadow since it is, for lack of a better testimony, the book I've been searching for. Without question, it is now my favorite book and I have no doubt it will continue to be no matter how many more novels I read in my lifetime. It is more beautifully written than I could have imagined and I'm in true mourning for the characters of which I can no longer spend my days with. Even though I'm positive the pages will crease and fade over time ...more
The first time I sunk into one of Mark Helprin’s huge, atmospheric novels I wondered how it was this man was not better known. But he is well known as a maker of epics, I just didn’t know it then. That first brush with Helprin was A Soldier of the Great War which so enraptured me I thought I’d never read another that was as good. Later, a professor friend of mine told me he “couldn’t get through it.” Older now, I wonder if it isn’t the fantastical quality of the romance, or the steel thread of A ...more
Jan 09, 2013 rated it liked it
I love Mark Helprin. "Winter's Tale" is probably my favorite book of all time - at least in the top 5 - and I love "Memoirs of an Ant Proof Case." If you haven't read Mark Helprin, please pick up one of those books. Do not pick up this one as your first experience with him, since it may be your last.

It was not a terrible book, but I was very disappointed. It was a love story, but my main problem with it was that he told us about how much these two were in love, rather than show us. There was a l
Jul 31, 2016 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: Bibi Netanyahu
Shelves: fiction, got-rid-of

Lush, lyrical, verbose, bedazzled, vajazzled, sun-dappled, silken-nippled, polyp.encrusted, mucilaginous, ridiculous, smarmy, cornball, gaseous, putrid, death-inducing.

If this book were a panty-liner, it would be the biggest, softest, whitest, most absorbent panty-liner ever. If it were a leather handbag, it would be the softest, or possibly the hardest, depending on what was intended, most luxurious leather handbag ever stitched. If it were a wall, it would be the highest, thickest, grandest, m
BAM The Bibliomaniac
Aug 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Audio #142

I went from never hearing of Helprin to having 4 or 5 of his novels. He was a recommendation from my ladies’ book club. He reminds me of Jeffrey Archer without the bitterness and betrayal. His word choices are quite eloquent. Very smoothing narrative even though what is occurring may be quite sorrowful
May 12, 2013 rated it did not like it
Profoundly disappointing.
Mark Helprin wrote a novel about New York that actually changed my life: Winter's Tale is such a gorgeous fairy tale, and such a compelling portrait of New York City, that I carried its images and its story with me when I moved to New York a few years after first reading it.
I've read all of Helprin's other novels, and I do love his way with description, but none of the others stuck with me the way Winter's Tale did.
So when I picked up In Sunlight and in Shadow, I thoug
Aug 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: must-read
Mark Helprin is a genus with the English language. I also believe Helprin is ambitious with the subject matter he tackles. In his latest novel Helprin really tries (and comes as close as I think you can get) to put on a page what it is like to fall head over heals in love. The emotions, sights, smells, tastes, and over all energy involved with a romantic infatuation danced off the page for me. The journey that followed, of a life filled with courage, honesty, and sacrifice made me want to be a b ...more
Jan 01, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am a sentimental fool.

This book pulled every string, pushed every button, appealed to every emotion I have. The writing I normally enjoy is plain and straightforward and simple in the unadorned sense. What Helprin does here takes writing on a completely different level, perhaps not a higher plane, but separate. His words are musical, rising and falling, swelling with crescendos and whispering pianissimo. He paints murals with broad sweeping stroke and lush colors that make you feel if you just
Jan 03, 2013 rated it did not like it
This is the end for me and Mark Helprin. This book is so utterly boring that I was able to skip a 100 page flashback and not have it impact the telling of the tale in any way. The two main characters, swept up in an unlikely and unrealistic love, are so redolent of their own smugness that by the end you loathe both of them. They are physically perfect, morally perfect, sexually perfect, socially perfect, intellectually perfect, militarily goes on and on. The saccharine love story i ...more
Suzanne Parker
Jan 12, 2013 rated it it was ok
I am close to the end of this tiring book, finally. I could not just put it on the shelf and stop reading it so I am going to finish it. I was expecting a lot more plot in stead of the over-reaching, never ending scene descriptions that just go on and on. And beside that, the love story is too much and not enough reality about how love evolves, has it's ups and downs and turns. Not very believable. I want to finish the story to see what happens to the bad guys.

Continued...Well I did finish this
Nov 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I read this one because it sounded to me a bit like his Winter's Tale, the only other Helprin novel I've read and which I became completely immersed in and loved. Like Winter's Tale, this novel celebrates New York City, this time at a somewhat later period. The time is 1946 and the main character, Harry Copeland, is a well-to-do Jewish ex-soldier who's come home to run his father's leather goods business, his father having died while he was at war. (I couldn't help but note that Swede Levov, Rot ...more
Judith Hannan
Dec 17, 2012 rated it it was ok
In Sunlight and in Shadow is a long and bloated book. Ostensibly a story about love and honor it is also a tale of New York in post-WWII New York. Perhaps it was Helprin's intent to capture the energy of the time when the country felt ripe with possibility and New York City seemed the powerful energy behind it all. But it didn't work for me. In many ways, it reminded me of the work of Ayn Rand. All is idealized--love, women, valor, the city and "Our Hero" of course. Most unbelievable to me is t ...more
Dec 08, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
World War II is over and won and Harry Copeland has returned to civilian life and home in New York City. Although Harry is seeking some time off to decompress, the family business is faltering and demands his attention so he half-heartedly “involves” himself in the repair. But what soon resurrects/captures Harry is the “sighting” of a young woman – Catherine - on the Staten Island Ferry – with whom Harry immediately falls head over heels in love. The two soon meet and their lives together begin. ...more
Jul 02, 2013 rated it liked it
This book has such potential, but was in DESPERATE need of an editor! There are many things to love and admire about the book -- especially the way the author depicts the horrors of war, and how he portrays NYC in all of its complexity -- but there are even more things to be frustrated about: characters who are dropped in and out for no apparent reason, lyrical language run amok, ham-handed plot developments, redundancy, an off-putting objectification of women, an over-reliance on a narrow set o ...more
Oct 28, 2012 rated it it was ok
I loved A Winter's Tale, so I didn't hesitate to dive into In Sunlight and Shadow. Everything I loved about the former is missing from the latter. I remember Winter's Tale as a nimble, imaginative epic. This new novel is ponderous, sentimental, and almost preachy. At times I felt like I was reading male-version harlequin romance. The hero is an idealized male archetype, who, burnished by the masculine trials of physical and academic overachievement and then perfected in the crucible of war, lear ...more
Linda Hart
Jan 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
Helprin’s writing is lyrical, lush, metaphorical, and the imagery throughout is wonderful. The plot is strong, and it delivers the right level of emotional payoff at the end. But it gets bogged down with monologues that are inflated and unrealistic and there’s a whole looong interlude spent on Harry's flashbacks to his wartime experiences which was too much. If the 700 pages were edited to 500 I would give it 5 stars. Still, the story and the characters still remain with me 4 weeks after reading ...more
Zzz. The writing in this book is overly wordy in a very pretentious way, and the characters seemed so flat. I got tired of trying to wade through it just to find any substance at all, and I gave up before I got very far.
Oct 23, 2012 rated it liked it
I had not previously read any Helprin books and I'm guessing from some of the reviews I read it may not have been the best example of his work.
First - the good - the prose was breathtaking. It was like reading a poem. Each sentence was so deliberately constructed and painted such vivid pictures, and the writer in me lapped that up.
The story was also good and, when it was being told, intriguing and suspenseful.
But the reason I went with 3 stars and not 4 or 5 as the prose alone would deserve, is
This is a good book for listening to while you are doing something else with your hands. I like listening to audio books while I'm knitting gifts for Christmas or things for my family. Or while I'm doing something that needs doing and I can "read" at the same time.

There's a lot of description in this book and for some people this is tedious. To me, it all helps to set the time frame of history and the society at the time. Not only do we get to appreciate a closer picture of the time after the wa
Mar 25, 2013 rated it it was ok
i was hoping for more characters and less caricatures. I get the the idealistic tone of the novel. I think I agree with much of Helprin's philosophy. But I found the writing, while often lyrical, overly stylized and forced. Yes the introductory chapter is beautiful. It drew me in. But halfway through the book I got bored by the lengthy and verbose descriptions of New York and the narrator's repetitive and unchanging account of the lovers feelings for each other. I began to feel like Helprin was ...more
Jun 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I haunted the publisher's booth at BEA waiting for these ARCS to appear, and my efforts were well repaid. As ever, Mark Helprin's elegantly philosophical dialogue functions rather like spellbinding arias for opera goers; the plot trajectory freezes in time as the listener or reader is invited to consider sensory flights and character-revealing erudition that offer their own rewards--then the story resumes, still leaving the onlooker a little breathless from thought. The book is a love letter to ...more
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mind numbing, like sinking in quicksand, ponderous, unforgivable 6 49 Aug 26, 2016 03:32AM  
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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
“And then I went out to the ocean. Do you know what it was like? The waves broke, and each time they did, as they slapped against the sand, I could feel it all through my body. And each time they broke, and each time they thudded down, they said, you have only one life, you have only one life.” 8 likes
“Souls, like rays of light, exist in perfect, parallel equality, always. But for when infinitely short a time they pass through the rough and delaying mechanism of life, they separate and disentangle, encountering different obstacles, traveling at different rates, like light refracted by the friction of things in its path. Emerging on the other side, they run together once more, in perfection. For the short and difficult span when confounded by matter and time they are made unequal, they try to bind together as they always were and eventually will be. The impulse to do so is called love. The extend to which they exceed is called justice. And the energy lost in the effort is called sacriface. On the infinite scale of things, this life is to a spark what a spark is to all the time man can imagine, but still, like a sudden rapids or bend in the river, it is that to which the eye of God may be drawn from time to time out of interest in happenstance.” 8 likes
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