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The World of Tomorrow

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  960 ratings  ·  161 reviews
Three brothers caught up in a whirlwind week of love, blackmail, and betrayal culminating in an assassination plot, set in prewar New York.

June 1939. Francis Dempsey and his shell-shocked brother Michael are on an ocean liner from Ireland bound for their brother Martin's home in New York City, having stolen a small fortune from the IRA. During the week that follows, the li
Hardcover, 560 pages
Published September 5th 2017 by Little, Brown and Company
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Average rating 3.73  · 
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 ·  960 ratings  ·  161 reviews

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Harry Jahnke
Sep 09, 2017 rated it it was ok
Did not finish. The writing is fine, the story is interesting, but this book is in severe need of an editor. Every single character in every single action has to pause and give a grand, mental soliloquy on what they're doing, how it makes them feel, what it reminds them of. It's as if you were running a marathon with an elderly gentleman keeping pace next to you and every time you started to build momentum he grabs your arm and says, "Did I ever tell you about my time in the Great War?" It's tir ...more
John Gill
Sep 05, 2017 rated it liked it
Here's my review for Washington Post Book World:

“The World of Tomorrow,” the affable debut novel by Brendan Mathews, begins neither here nor there. All is in transition. It’s 1939, World War II is imminent, and we join the story aboard the MV Britannic en route from the Old World to the New. In the first-class dining room, Sir Angus MacFarquhar, “a Scottish Mr. Darcy,” is busy charming a table of wealthy Americans with his witty repartee. Angus’s real name
I received this from in exchange for a review.

Oh, I really wanted to like this book. It has all the different facets of historical fiction that I adore. But reading it was like slogging through knee deep cement. The story was making no progress and I couldn't grasp onto any interest in the characters.

Abandoned at 22%.

No rating, DNF
Ethel Rohan
Oct 02, 2017 rated it liked it
As a fellow author, it pains me to give The World of Tomorrow only 3 stars. It is clearly a labor of love and I respect and admire the enormous effort and skill that went into its writing--the prose, vivid details and sense of place are all excellent.

However, the novel needed a stringent edit. Sprawling is the word that repeated in my mind as I read. It is much too dense with extraneous details, telling, and, worse, characters. Ultimately, the lack of focus, nuance and depth of characterization
Oct 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
OMG!!! The journey I have just been on. WHAT a GREAT story!!! I am typing this with tears in my eyes!

So many characters and so many stories. I was rooting for all the main ones.

A family of brothers whose father was involved in the IRA, a immigrant Jew from Prague with her visa about to expire just when Hitler’s regime had invaded and taken over the country and an African American couple, both very musically inclined and good at it, were dealing with racism and a country trying hard to invent t
Janette Mcmahon
Sep 28, 2017 rated it it was ok
The storyline was interesting, but not enough to get past that this book needed an editor. Felt I was buried under sentences and needed air.
Sep 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
The World of Tomorrow recreates America in 1939, the year of the World's Fair in New York City. It was a time of progress, dreams, and optimism, hot jazz and The Lindy Hop. 

It was also a time of world political unrest, racism, and anti-Semitism. Father Coughlin had a radio broadcast from The Shrine of the Little Flower in Metro Detroit, spewing anti-Semitism.  Cab Calloway was playing in The Cotton Club to a white audience while black maids lined up on the street to be picked up for day jobs,
Kristen McDermott
This review appears in Historical Novel Review 81 (August 2017):

This ambitious, sprawling adventure imagines New York City and the 1939 World’s Fair in all its jazzy glory. Mathews, a professor of creative writing, uses every fictional trick he can think of to steer the three main characters—the passionate but hapless Dempsey brothers, Martin, Francis, and Michael—in and around the streets, hotels, dance clubs, and back alleys of the metropolis. The beating heart of the narrative is Irish, and s
Oct 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
I love a good family saga. And THE WORLD OF TOMORROW by Brendan Mathews does deliver on that end. It's the story of three Irish brothers who face multiple challenges in the summer of 1939 as New York City prepares for the World's Fair and a visit from the King and Queen of England.

Martin Dempsey, the oldest, is trying to support a wife and two daughters while pursuing his passion for music. Michael, the youngest, is frustrated by a head injury that comes with the sudden appearance of the recentl
Sep 30, 2017 rated it it was ok

This book needed focus. It's one of those stories where it's hard to keep track of what's going on and how all the characters relate to each other, and combined with the length, it could have been cut down for sure. I liked the three brothers, but the combination of many side stories, not a lot of dialogue, and frequent POV changes, made it hard to follow. Less is more, people :)

The jacket is beautiful, though!

*Won this through Goodreads Giveaways.
Sep 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a sprawling, ambitious, and delightfully old fashioned sort of novel— the kind that's perfect to escape into during long autumn afternoons. With a style that toys with Joyce, Beckett, Chabon, Doctorow, Dickens, and more, Brendan Mathews still emerges with a sensibility that is very much his own. The story introduces us to a large cast of characters (the Irish Dempsey brothers, the women who love them, the men who would like to foil them, and several others, including the ghost of William ...more
Tim Weed
Jun 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Really enjoyed this debut historical novel! It’s not a short book—be advised that it will take some time to read—but the journey is well worth it. Mathews takes full advantage of his breadth of canvas. He does a great job of bringing NYC just before WWII alive, and the characters are wonderfully drawn; they live on in my mind like old friends even now, several days after I put down the book—and I suspect I won’t be forgetting them any time soon. If that’s not an indication of a well-constructed ...more
Jun 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A whirlwind of excitement and fun! What a beautiful, character and plot-driven story. I'm done reading but the story is living on in my mind. Read this if you liked DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY. ...more
Nov 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The story starts with Scottish Sir Angus traveling from Great Britain to New York on the Britannic, first class, of course. With him is his grievously injured younger brother, Malcolm. The purpose of their trip is to seek medical care for Malcolm. His fellow travelers are very impressed with him, and plans are made to see him further after arrival in New York. The only problem is that he is Irish, his real name is Francis Dempsey, he is an escaped criminal (for selling French postcards and the l ...more
Kierstin Carnahan
Jun 27, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: dnf
DNF at 47%

I couldn't finish this book. I kept trying to stay with it but at 47% I was lost. From the beginning I knew it would be challenging because of all of the characters. I felt like I needed a character map to keep it all straight. There were too many people introduced too quickly, it made it very hard to follow. Sometimes the story would switch characters story lines between paragraphs which confused me as well. There needed to be more a distinctive change on the page to separate them. I
Oct 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Not quite a literary heavy weight but certainly an engaging and well-written tale of adventure set in New York City circa 1939.
Carys Wiggans
Sep 17, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
So firstly I’ll say that I didn’t finish it! I read 200 pages and admitted defeat.
Although it’s written nicely and there’s a potential for a good storyline, there seems to be this need to over explain everything and go off track with each character to make chapters? Meaning by 200 pages, I didn’t really feel the story had got anywhere that it couldn’t have got in 50 pages.
Tonstant Weader
Aug 31, 2017 rated it it was ok
There is so much promise in Brendan Mathews’ The World of Tomorrow. There is a madcap caper driven by Francis who knows how to jump at a chance, fleeing prison during his father’s funeral and taking advantage of an accidental explosion to pick up some cash and new identities for him and his brother Michael. With Michael, we get a hallucinatory dream story, conversations with the ghost of Yeats. They sail for New York to their brother Martin where there is this family story, a marriage challenged ...more
Jun 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, 2017
Find this review at Forever Lost in Literature!

The World of Tomorrow was an absolute breath of fresh air and I had such a fantastic time reading it. This book centers on three brothers during a brief period of time in 1939 New York. Though the events of the book only cover about a week of time, Brendan Mathews covers an extraordinarily vast and intricate amount of history, personality, and conflict throughout his telling of these events.

There is something so extraordinarily clever and unique abo
Oct 19, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2017
The World of Tomorrow--so close to being really good. It should have been had Mathews had a strong editor to help him edit some of this out as the book is too long...with too many offshoots from the main characters and too often getting bogged down in the details to connect it to a specific period, forgetting the story. That said, I did enjoy the book for the most part and was caught up in the story of a trio of Irish brothers and their lives in NYC during the World's, photography, ...more
Sep 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Ultimately the book grew on me. I was pulled in with the beginning but soon felt the writing was a little clumsy, then I thought it picked up again. The ending was a little pat and rosier than reality might have indicated, but still what the reader, who was rooting for these people, would have wanted. As a record of Depression era life on the edge of criminality, more Dennis Lehane than Doctorow. A good story with likable characters competently (or somewhat better) told.
Maggies Daisy
Sep 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The year is 1939, and the world is on the brink of the second world war while the borough of Queens, New York hosts the World's Fair-themed in a futuristic setting, thus the title of the book, "The World of Tomorrow." From the rough ever green turbulent island of Ireland comes two brothers to New York City in search of their brother Martin who had left years previously to pursue his dream of becoming a famous musician. This book reminds me of the song David Allen Coe sings in which there is Mama ...more
Bob O'G
Jun 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
The World of Tomorrow is a rather excellent novel marred only by the author's tendency to consistently diverge from the plot in order to explain a character's backstory. The book is ultimately about family ties. No matter how far they are stretched, they never break. It is also a story about redemption. Mathews's novel features a wide cast of characters and concepts ranging from IRA hit men, musicians, fleeing the Holocaust, mistaken identities, false identities, troubled marriages, and The Worl ...more
Feb 18, 2018 rated it liked it
I started out really enjoying this: Irish 1930s NY was very much a people and setting that I could get into, but it became a real slog. Lots of details included that didn’t fill out the setting, characters or plot felt like the author just couldn’t let anything go unused. Perhaps if you are a fast reader who could get wrapped up in it and some of the more fantastic plot twists it would work but not for me. Three stars for effort and an Irishman named Martin.
Sean Tubbs
I picked this up from the new fiction shelf at the library and thought I'd give it a go. I have a hard time immersing myself in a novel, but this one had me from the first sentence. Mathews' storytelling delighted me and I enjoyed my time with these characters. I was sad to see them go and I'm glad to have had the chance to experience a good read. ...more
Laura Chalmers
Dec 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
LOVED this book. So captivating, really well written, and featuring a fascinating cast of characters.
Oct 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Received this book from the publisher in return for a review. I got lucky! A FC (“First Class” as in book) novel of the bonds that tie a family together despite misfortunes. Set on the brink of WWII, with NYC and the 1939 World’s Fair as the backdrop., the dream of American life and the energy of NYC comes alive. The future promises greatness but the present is fraught with racism, anti-semitism and ignorance. Characters are terrific and the pace is superb. Very much enjoyed the character of Lil ...more
Aug 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I read some other reviews about this book needing an edit and while I see their point, I am on the 'I loved every single backstory detour for every minor character' side of the debate. Well truthfully there was one, maybe two I glossed over but for the most part I loved this whole book. I simultaneously needed to know how it all played out/didn't want it to end. ...more
Nov 26, 2018 rated it liked it
3.5 stars
Christine D
Sep 14, 2017 rated it did not like it
I was totally intrigued by the premise of this book but it fell short for me.
Way short, like I only got fifty pages in and then gave up.
I think with a book like this, the narrative needs to flow easily and not be so disjointed. Too many players, to much back and forth (chronologically).
I appreciate his historically accurate research for the setting but the writing style was not a success for me.
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Brendan Mathews is the author of This Is Not a Love Song and The World of Tomorrow, both published by Little, Brown and Co. This Is Not a Love Song has been shortlisted for the Massachusetts Book Awards and the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing. The World of Tomorrow was named an Honor Book by the Massachusetts Book Awards and longlisted for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize. ...more

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