Regitze's Reviews > Byen brænder

Byen brænder by Garth Risk Hallberg
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It seems to me entirely redudant to try and write a comprehensive review of this book. And utterly impossible to try and sum it up.

I think, and this is just my opinion, that it is a book that is difficult to explain. It is a tapestry. A tapestry of ideas of the city of New York, layer upon layer and different to each of the characters. To some it is a haunting place, a place that's haunted everywhere and to some it is a perfect example of everything that is wrong with the world.

I have to say, I'm pretty darn impressed with this book.

Back to the tapestry. It is created by opposites. And this book is full of them. There's old people, young people, mere children and grandparents, rich people, poor people, Upper East Siders and squatters. Drug addicts and those that refuse to acknowledge that someone they might know is a drug addict. Police men and reporters, punkers, cheaters, golddiggers and those that have given up on the rebellion of their youth - and those that haven't. There's heterosexual characters and homosexual characters, black people, white people and people of Asian descent. Artists and business men.

There's everyone. This huge cast of characters are given individual stories, individual voices and almost everyone gets a chance to tell a part of their story. And that is all that is needed. All of these people in the city of New York, and their stories, get intertwined and weaves together this large story.

I have to adress the idea of the "interludes". I think, for the most part, it is brilliant. I probably most liked the way that these interludes, be it letters, articles, a fanzine or an email or whatever, they feature in the story itself. They're mentionend and they're important. But I think, just once or twice, they gave away a bit too much of what would happen next.

As for the story itself. The plot that unfolds throughout this massive book, I was really in to it for the first 800 or so pages. Up until the actual blackout. And not because I didn't like that part of the story, but somehow it felt a bit disconnected to the first 800 pages of the book. which confused me a bit. I missed a sort of conclusion on the events that unfolded during the blackout. I wondered what happened to some of the characters that seemed to disappear in the dark (no pun intended) and didn't make another appearance.

Of course there is the last "interlude", the sort of epilogue, which indicated that these and these characters (I won't name them, because that would be too spoilery!) at least know of one another and know how their paths crossed each other.

Just a quick remark; who shot the girl in the park at the beginning? I did NOT see that coming. At all.

In the end, I really cannot give this book anything but 5 stars and my deepest recommendation. There's so many layers to this story, it isn't just the story of one thing; like love or the PHP (explained in the book), it is a story about everything and everyone.

I know it can seem daunting, a 1000+ page book, but really, I think it is a book to be read.

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Reading Progress

February 26, 2016 – Shelved
February 26, 2016 – Shelved as: to-read
March 1, 2016 – Shelved as: historical
March 1, 2016 – Shelved as: american-lit
March 1, 2016 – Shelved as: 21st-century-lit
July 7, 2016 – Started Reading
July 7, 2016 –
page 50
July 8, 2016 –
page 183
17.56% "So I finished the first "book", which I tihnk is pretty much the same amount of pages I read as a preview some time ago. It was still strangely magical powerful. I can't wait to read on."
July 12, 2016 –
page 341
32.73% "I swear every time I open this book, I get lost inbetween it's pages and Hallberg's varied and manifold cast and stories swirl around me. I love the little links and things to connect the many people around the city. But I rather think the greatest character of this book will turn out to be the city of New York itself. But what do I know?"
July 14, 2016 –
page 402
July 21, 2016 –
page 511
July 22, 2016 –
page 593
July 24, 2016 –
page 727
69.77% "I never can put this book down."
July 24, 2016 –
page 875
July 28, 2016 – Shelved as: read-2016
July 28, 2016 – Shelved as: owns-and-read
July 28, 2016 – Shelved as: based-on-real-events
July 28, 2016 – Shelved as: 5-stars
July 28, 2016 – Finished Reading
October 18, 2016 – Shelved as: popsugar-challenge-2016
March 4, 2017 – Shelved as: male-author
March 4, 2017 – Shelved as: realistic-fiction
June 4, 2018 – Shelved as: translations-to-danish

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