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City of God

3.4  ·  Rating details ·  2,305 Ratings  ·  255 Reviews
A literary mystery set amongst the religious communities of New York City - which deepens into addressing the great moral questions of the last century.
Paperback, 320 pages
Published February 1st 2001 by Little Brown UK (first published 2000)
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Aug 19, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I wouldn't wish this upon my most vilest of enemies. It reads like a 600 page collection of sloppily unpretty mixed media; too bad it doesn't make one SINGLE IMPRESSION. Doctorow takes on very heavy stuff (...RELIGION!!!!) & gives us an even heavier account rife with questions... more questions. YUCK! Sad--I can now safely vouch for this--sad and misdirected and confusing was the mindset of 9/11 victims. Here is a testament on how f***ed we truly were as a result of 2001 crashing down upon a ...more
Vit Babenco
Aug 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
City of God is mosaic in structure and polyphonic in narration. City of God is a piece of postmodern theology and theosophy or of heresy and sacrilege if you please.
“Lord, there is something so exhausted about the NY waterfront, as if the smell of the sea were oil, as if boats were buses, as if all heaven were a garage hung with girlie calendars, the months to come already leafed and fingered in black grease.”
The place is New York City.
“Movies are using up the cities, the countrysides, the seas,
Apr 20, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I'm a grumpy looking, successful author who has ideas for 2 or 3 stories but not enough character development, what do I do?

I know, mash 'em up, and don't even try to meld the separate fact, don't use commas or quote marks when characters speak. Throw in some Einsteinian Physics, heck throw Einstein in as well. So what do we have? An Episcopalian Priest about to be defrocked, A "new school" female rabbi, a philandering bachelor, and a Physicist. We also have some historical chara
Stephanie "Jedigal"
The obscure story-telling style of this book actually comes off perfectly for the story matter. In this book the author is looking for God. And it is a great discussion! Partially through some narrative threads, partially through thoughts and observations taken from science, not-so-pop culture. The book is broken up into little vignettes, from a half-page to (a long one) around 8 pages. The narrators change constantly, and are only sometimes clearly identifiable. Frankly, if I knew all this, I w ...more
You know how “Seinfeld” was a show about nothing? City of God is a book about everything. (I am now the first person to have put Seinfeld & E.L. Doctorow together in the first two sentences of anything!) And having started off with my own big bang there, next I shall steal from someone on Amazon who wrote about this book that it will provide you with “retrospective gratification”. I couldn’t possibly think of a way to put it better. City of God is not always fun while you’re reading it, but ...more
I was torn as to how many “stars” to give this one. It is a five-star on literary merit, but only a two-star on the “did I like it?” scale. Since this is my review, I went with the two-stars.

Foremost, this is a thought provoking and interesting book. What I found unsettling about this book is that, in my opinion, the author is proselytizing his own sociopolitical agenda. As E.L. Doctorow has strong leftist political opinions, my reading of this book is obviously going to be affected by my own op
Dhanaraj Rajan
About the novel:

1. It is a bit of everything and whole of nothing.

2. There are themes in the novel and they are either undeveloped or underdeveloped or overdeveloped. No theme is well developed.

3. The premise is good. But the execution is floppy.

4. There are characters. But there is no deep understanding into a character. The characters are wooden.

A Small Explanation:

The novel contains a real appreciable premise: "the search for a believable God in the times of great scientific discoveries on th
Melissa Stebbins
I read City of God by E.L. Doctorow over Easter. It is one of the books on the 1001 list. So, how did I find it? Intriguing, thought-provoking, frustrating, confusing ... but I really enjoyed it. A word of warning - the plot is pretty much secondary to this book. In fact large portions of the book are tied fairly tenuously to the main plot and there are various threads. Part of the difficulty is that there are several different narrators but it is not necessarily straight forward to work out who ...more
Dec 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
i keep reading this quotation over and over:

"...there are billions of galaxies with stars beyond number, so that even if a fraction of stars have orbiting planets with moons in orbit around them...a few planets, at least, may have the water necessary for the intelligent life that could be suffering the same metaphysical crisis that deranges us. So we have that to feel good about."

what draws me to it? it's a concise, perfect, indirect summary of the human psyche. what more do you want?

then this:

Dick Reynolds
I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway. And it’s a difficult one to read.

The threadbare plot of this novel involves the theft of a cross from a rundown Episcopal church in downtown Manhattan only to appear atop the roof of an Upper West Side synagogue. The church’s rector, Reverend Tom Pemberton, meets the synagogue’s rabbi, Joshua Gruen, and they decide to play detectives and find out the ‘who’ and ‘why’ surrounding the mystery of the stolen cross.
Gruen’s wife, Sarah Blumenthal, is also a r
Jun 02, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I cannot believe a) how terrible this book is and b) that I read it. This is godawful garbage from top to bottom. The entire thing is smug, self indulgent stream of consciousness unburdened by things like plot and characterization. The writing is terrible: the type of meaningless word salad generated by the mentally ill or those who have suffered traumatic brain injury.

This book thinks it is really deep. It reads like Doctorow pulled a muscle patting himself on the back for all his supposed dee
I will say this: stay far away from this book if you can't tolerate ambiguity. There are multiple story lines and narrators that weave in and out with no warning at all. There are no chapters. I spent the first 20 pages thinking I forgot how to read! But once you find your groove, it gets pretty easy.
I did not finish this book, but that doesn't mean I didn't like it, because I did for the most part. Doctorow's musings on faith and religion were really interesting and gave me a lot to think about
Aug 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A stand up fun read if you're a spiritual person not religious (and in the context of this book I'd probably lump atheist with religious). I'm not usually a big fan of things being "interestingly written"--wonky margins, aimless perspectives, radioplays, whatnot--but this book kept all its zany-ness in focus and created a kind of lexicon or inner-dialogue with its various speaking parts. And even though I could have guessed the ending, I still really liked where it went and how Doctrow brought i ...more
Saleh MoonWalker
You have to admire the ambition of any writer willing to blend the histories, religions, philosophies, and sciences of the twentieth century in a single, short novel.

Doctorow tackles these "big questions" with his usual assortment of fictional and non-fictional characters, together giving the reader, not just the ponderings of a great American writer, but an insight into the writing process as well.

City of God is a wonderful work of art, experienced through many literary angles.
Jul 30, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: usa, fiction
Finally, a Doctorow I can really like! I knew keeping at him would pay off.

Multiple plot lines and stories, and all the pieces matter. Love this kind of story.
3.5 stars
I loved parts of this book, highlighted quotes and passages throughout, and found it deep and thought-provoking. The first half would have been 4-5 star book but after a while I found the switching narratives and piecemeal approach somewhat tedious. I'm not sure why this happened since I appreciated this at the beginning and I thought that structurally it was brilliant.

This is the sort of book that is a very slow read and requires that you really digest the material in order to understa
Kyle Barton
Rating this book was hard for me. I really need two rating systems. As an overall story, and with my ratings of other books in mind, it lands a solid three (which does not mean it is bad in any way). However, in considering Doctorow's writing itself, his approach to this book, and the pseudo-philosophical and theological nature of the work, it's in the 4/5 range.

This is the first Doctorow book I've read and I really enjoyed it, even though I strongly disagree with the overall message of the boo
This book is a puzzle. A puzzle, where you didn't get the box with the picture on it but just had to figure it out for yourself.
For quite a few pages I sat wondering what was going on, how are these fragments related - and is this book a work of genious or a work by a man, who couldn't write a decent novel?
But then it slowly grew on me. The story of the boy in the jewish ghetto during WWII really drew me in and slowly, more and more stories started to make sense and the missing picture started t
Jun 11, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 21, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1001-list-books
Hmm...a musing on the state of society, our modern cities, through the eyes of a priest who loses one faith to convert to another for the love of a woman. This is another of the books to drop off the list, and I can easily see why. I'm sure if you know things about narrative structure and rhythms and all that kind of stuff then this novel is interesting, it skips rapidly between ideas, philosophical musings and recent history, falling out of standard narrative paragraphs into what I might tentat ...more
Dec 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: lovers of great literature
I put this right up there with Don DeLillo's Falling Man as one of the greatest contemporary American novels. It's epic and Faulknerian, comprised of the voices of an Episcopal priest, two rabbis, the priest's father and uncle, one of the rabbi's Holocaust-survivor father, Albert Einstein, Ludwig Wittgenstein, a narrator who may be the author, a filmmaker, and a covetous, murderous lover. It tackles the big stuff: God, religion, love, suffering, the nature of the universe. And it's written in a ...more
Nov 11, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels-fiction
I was completely blown away by the first 50 or so pages of this book. Doctorow's prose is beautiful and his description of living in New York City was strikingly accurate. As the book unfolded, however, I couldn't quite tell what he was trying to do. There were many different narrators, some of whom were never identified. Although the many different stories Doctorow incorporates into "City of God" are interesting in themselves, the book did not seem like a cohesive whole. That said, the ending t ...more
Jul 13, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1001-books
Not sure I understood this book, it does jump around a lot and I was not always sure who I was reading about or when. I found the making of the earth got a bit scientific as well! I did however enjoy the story of the jewish runner during the war and was disappointed this was cut short and you never really found out what happened after the train journey.
I love reading brave, bizarre books like this: I don't pretend to have understood it all, but I really, really liked it. To see my review please visit
Claudia Putnam
Dec 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary-fiction
For whatever reason, had never read any ELD. Probably because of the boring-sounding titles, honestly. Overall I found this book stimulating and a nice, casual smackdown of, say, Infinite Jest.
The most quotable book I've read in a while. Even now I still don't know who was talking or what its even about but wow, one helluva ride.
Aug 01, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: americana, 2016
Mi è piaciuto, ma ci ho capito poco.
Questa prima lettura è servita solo per capire la struttura del romanzo (a grandi linee).
Credo me ne servirebbero altre due o tre... :)
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
First of all, I have to state that is the kind of book that could only be published by an established author. A book this unfocused and pointless would be laughed at if a new author were to present it to a publisher. Despite the fact that this book has very little in the way of plot or character development, there is a logic behind it. Doctorow uses the paradigm of a novel set in modern day New York to present his ideas about religion and how it influences Jews and Christians in the modern world ...more
Craig Evans
Thoroughly enjoyable. While a bit tedious in some passages, the overall feel and gist was one that struck me a thoughtful and introspective examination in novel form of some high and low points of the 20th century.
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Boxall's 1001 Bo...: April {2009} Discussion -- CITY OF GOD by E.L. Doctorow 49 228 May 26, 2009 03:57PM  
  • Dining on Stones
  • Small Remedies
  • Adjunct: An Undigest
  • Schooling
  • Celestial Harmonies
  • Gabriel's Gift
  • The Heart of Redness
  • Thursbitch
  • Islands
  • Shroud
  • An Obedient Father
  • Spring Flowers, Spring Frost
  • In the Forest
  • That They May Face The Rising Sun
  • The Light of Day
  • The Red Queen
  • How the Dead Live
  • Nineteen Seventy Seven (Red Riding, #2)
E. L. DOCTOROW’S works of fiction include Homer & Langley,The March, Billy Bathgate, Ragtime, the Book of Daniel, City of God, Welcome to Hard Times, Loon Lake, World’s Fair, The Waterworks, and All the Time in the World. Among his honors are the National Book Award, three National Book Critics Circle Awards, two PEN Faulkner Awards, The Edith Wharton Citation for Fiction, and the presidential ...more
More about E.L. Doctorow...
“And so the ordinary unendurable torments we all experienced were indeed exceptional in the way they were absorbed in each heart.” 8 likes
“But I can stop on any corner at the intersection of two busy streets, and before me are thousands of lives headed in all four directions, uptown downtown east and west, on foot, on bikes, on in-line skates, in buses, strollers, cars, trucks, with the subway rumble underneath my feet... and how can I not know I am momentarily part of the most spectacular phenomenon in the unnatural world? ...The city may begin from a marketplace, a trading post, the confluence of waters, but it secretly depends on the human need to walk among strangers.” 5 likes
More quotes…