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3.55  ·  Rating details ·  678 ratings  ·  119 reviews
Elizabeth Gaffney’s magnificent, Dickensian Metropolis captures the splendor and violence of America’s greatest city in the years after the Civil War, as young immigrants climb out of urban chaos and into the American dream.

On a freezing night in the middle of winter, Gaffney’s nameless hero is suddenly awakened by a fire in P. T. Barnum’s stable, where he works and sleeps
Hardcover, 480 pages
Published March 1st 2005 by Random House (first published 2005)
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3.55  · 
Rating details
 ·  678 ratings  ·  119 reviews

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Richard Fucci
Metropolis was difficult to read. It lacked action and was filled with incredibly long descriptions. All in all, I would not recommend it.
Jul 27, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I was SO disappointed in this book. I really liked the beginning, especially what seemed to be the premise of exploring a character whose fate rests upon inaction rather than action (and who seems to be like a blank slate -- upon whom others project their fears, anxieties, needs). I also initially liked what seemed to be suspenseful historical fiction, reminiscent of Fingersmith (Sarah Waters).

But as the book progressed, my criticisms were many. My biggest complaint is that the storytelling and
Aug 15, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As an author who has written about New York’s seminal street gangs, I found the premise of Metropolis irresistible. A German immigrant with a shadowy past is wrongly accused of torching Barnum’s circus, resulting in a nationwide manhunt. The Whyos gang shields him from the law by giving him the new identity of Frank Harris, but for a price: he has to get a job as a sewer man and map the city’s maze of underground tunnels, which would make ideal escape routes. Danger lurks in the form of Luther U ...more
The story opens in 1870′s New York City, where recent immigrant Georg Geiermeier, awakens in a stable where he works for P.T. Barnum’s American Museum. The smell of smoke and the sounds of frightened animals is enough for Georg to realize that his life is in danger. Soon enough, he realizes that he is in more trouble than he thought, because he is not only being framed for the fire that ends his employment – someone has set him up on a murder charge.

What follows is an interesting and suspenseful
Apr 02, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: did-not-finish
The characters are not engaging, the narrator is too full of the author's voice. Statements like: "our man" and "I wouldn't do that to his fate" were annoying and kept disrupting the pace of the story. Gaffney went above and beyond researching the history of New York, and its seedy underbelly. She unfortunately couldn't compose all of the information into a compelling novel. There was too much "telling" and not enough "showing." Pages went on with narration, but none of which added to the plot o ...more
Connor Roth
Feb 09, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Metropolis by Elizabeth Gaffney is a detailed epic of life in New York at the dawn of the modern age. Gaffney dutifully tends to the development of her characters and the city itself, with no stone left unturned. In addition, Gaffney crafts a compelling love story between the tough Beatrice O’Gamhna and the mysterious Frank Harris. Yet, the book often meanders along, seemingly without any guidance, in detailed descriptions and backstories that lose the reader’s interest. On the whole, Metropolis ...more
Jul 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent read, well written, very descriptive! Made me feel like I was in the setting! I love the late 1800's.
Mar 25, 2009 rated it did not like it
Falls Apart Like A Thin Slice of White Bread In A Rainstorm.

This is a coming to America story with gangs and rats and grit.

It could have been fabulous, unfortunately in my opinion it wasn't very good. I have to say that I agree with the many criticism noted by other readers. I found a distracting inconsistency of style in the writing.

I did not dislike the meticulously detailed style when the author was writing about the sewers, building roads and construction of the Brooklyn Bridge. But unfort
Nov 14, 2014 rated it it was ok
I had high expectations for this one that started out feeling like good meaty historical fiction. But honestly, I can't go beyond two stars. It just never really took off for me, like a rocket struggling to launch and eventually imploding because the mission is doomed.

I kept at it because I think the author worked hard and researched much to put it together, so I felt I owed her. But really, I found the narration too lengthy and, despite all those pages, the character and relationship developmen
Jul 15, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This is the other book I quit. Set in the 1900's it is about a young immigrant man who gets caught up in the gangs of New York. While it is supposed to give you a feel for the time, place and some actual gangs that existed, it has a soap opera feel. The hero stumbles around totally oblivious to what happening around him while it gives the gangs the impression he is super sharp and secretive and scheming. So he just falls in with them and things keep going his way to keep the gang on their toes a ...more
Susan Arena
So disappointed. I love this time period in NYC, so I was excited to dive into this book. Unfortunately, it fell short. The slow pace and epic narratives had me turning the page just with the hope that something might actually happen. I hung on until about page 120 then decided it was time to move on. If you enjoy historical fiction with a similar setting, I recommend Caleb Carr, The Alienist. That, is a fantastic book.
Martin Turnbull
Mar 28, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thoroughly enjoyed this story that took the reader through post-Civil War New York. The historical details felt accurate and yet alive as though the author had actually been there. One of the more enjoyable historical reads I’ve had of late.
Amanda Helling
I enjoyed Metropolis & would recommend it to others. It's an enjoyable work of historical fiction - the kind that has you wondering which parts are fact & which parts are fiction as you read.

This was not a book full of loveable characters. I didn't much like most of the main characters with the bulk of the character development, but I still enjoyed reading about them. The story has a very long arc & an extremely quick resolution. It can drag a little at times but generally flows well
Elysia Fionn
Jun 14, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: could-not-finish
I made it to page 173 before realizing that I just didn't care to go on with it. I think it's a case of the author getting too carried away with her own ideas - becoming so much a fan of them that she runs them into the ground in an attempt to make sure the reader gets EVERY. LITTLE. DETAIL. about her great idea.

For example... the "gang" called the Whyos (who find it necessary to name their female counterparts the "Why Nots" ... seriously?) have developed a system of using calls, whistles, and t
Apr 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An excellent read. The characters and setting are vivid and fun to read. You get through about 2/5 of the book and suddenly find so many clever plot twists that you can't help yourself but to continue on with reading.
Christa Free
Jan 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this story, however I felt the writing was very wordy at some parts. It almost felt as though you were chewing through the book, but the description was great, so I would highly recommend it.
Oct 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a great read! I sped through this book because every chapter was full of forward moving action of sympathetic characters. Although fiction, it’s chock full of real historic people and events. Great imagery, tension, relationships.
Sep 04, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting, rollicking depiction of New York City in its infancy.
Mary Robison
Meticulously researched, and the history portions were interesting to read, but the characters seemed not as well-formed as they could be. The book's a little too long for the story.
Mary Foust
Sep 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well detailed. Felt like I was in the 1870s!
Patti Ellis
Jul 31, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction, donated
Ugh. Nothing happens, page 300 and still waiting for what? Enough said
A.M. Clyne
Aug 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beautifully written turn-of-the-century immigrant story.
Paula Smith
Apr 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked this book, although it was at times a little confusing. Interesting time in history.
This was a difficult read for me. The first few chapters brought to mind various works that I have seen or read (Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman in "Far and Away", Leonardo DiCaprio and Cameron Diaz in "Gangs of New York" and Steve Buscemi in "Boardwalk Empire", as well as several different characters from Ken Follett novels, most notably Tom the Builder in "The Pillars of the Earth"). The thing is, I like all of the above movies/shows/books, so the likenesses should have been a positive thing, but ...more
I wanted to like this book. And to be fair, I did. I just also wanted it to be something it wasn't. I was unimpressed by the characterization- and I don't think it's because of how the main character reinvents himself. As he says, he's still him- but despite learning backstory and following him through years of this book, I still don't know who that is. Also, things happen *to* him; his passivity makes the secondary characters twice as interesting as he is. The other main character, Bea, is far ...more
Aug 10, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I'm hoping this gets better. 100 pages in, and the narrator is driving me nuts. Could we PLEASE skip all the "what our young hero did not know..."? I'm giving it another 50-100 pages before I call uncle. It's just too annoying.

UPDATE: Ok, finished it. I guess I'm pretty ambivalent about it. I always love a "cheer for the underdog" kind of story and historical fiction, and this fit the bill for both of them. The narration got better... then took a nose dive. Seriously, the book ends with somethin
Lorin Cary
Apr 27, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Elizabeth Gaffney

Metropolis: a novel

The metropolis of New York City in 1869-1870 figures large in this novel. George, a German immigrant was fled an unhappy life is falsely accused of arson and in the process falls in with a gang which provides him with an Irish name and language training. He falls in love with Beatrice, his tutor, but she is chosen by boss Johnny to be his first girl. Frank toils in the sewers and provides the gang with important information, then eases out of the gang and wor
Mar 04, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Robert's been a couple of weeks since I read this but I'll do my best. I think the writing in this book is really stellar. I'm not necessarily one for period pieces but to envision an altogether different world of 1870s NYC...a bustling city filled with all kind of immigrants trying to make lives for themselves and willing to take any possible job to survive when they realize that it may have actually been easier to do so in their home country anyways (hmmm...I guess not much has changed...exce ...more
Melanie Nowak
Jan 09, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I would give "Metropolis" by Elizabeth Gaffney 1 star for a variety of reasons. First off, the book is very slow and the descriptions are very long. The plot is scrambled and hard to follow making it very difficult to sit down and read. I also think the switching of viewpoints was unnecessary and added to the jumbled plotline. The characters were hard to connect with at times and were not multi-dimensional. Georg changes his name several times and it soon becomes tedious and repetitive. The way ...more
Pamela Mclaren
Mar 31, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A broad, sweeping novel as much about New York as the charcters in the 1870s. The city is growing -- hence the segments where the main protagonist is working on the sewer system and the Brooklyn Bridge -- and its population is filled with immigrants. The story focuses on one immigrant, who flees Germany to start a new life with the first of several new names. Seemingly, he is unlucky. Working at P.T. Barnum's museum when it is set aflame (a true story), he is blamed for the fire. Determined to c ...more
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