Friday, July 29, 2011

by Peter Hamill
I picked this one up because I’d heard it was a great way to learn about the history of New York City. As the back cover summary explains, one man is offered immortality with the condition that he can never leave the island of Manhattan. The problem is, that twist is given away before you open the book and yet 200 pages into the story it still hasn’t even happened. So you find yourself just waiting for it, instead of allowing yourself to be taken in by the rest of the tale.

The first 100 pages or so went really slowly. The book is supposed to be a great New York City tale and at 150 pages, the main character hadn’t even made it to NYC yet, he was still living in Ireland. Then it picks up and the speed completely changes. The story covers multiple centuries but the vast majority of it happens in the first 20 years of his life and in the final part of his life. I felt like the entire middle was simple skimmed over with only a few pit stops. The pacing of the whole thing felt off to me.

The fact that the main character knows he will outlive everyone he meets definitely has an effect on character development. I felt like I barely got to know most of the people he befriended. It was like the main character didn’t want to get too attached and so the author didn’t let the reader become invested either.

I really enjoyed some sections and felt like I did learn a bit more about the city, but I don’t think I would have made it through the whole book if I wasn’t already planning a trip NYC.

One interesting thing, the author finished the book shortly before the 9/11 tragedy. When the two towers were attacked, he talked with his editor and decided to rewrite the ending. He didn’t believe it was right to release a book dealing with so many major events in the city’s history, but not to include such a monumental one.


“New York, he was learning, was a city of present tense, an eternal now.”

“I don’t know what that means. To truly live.”
“To find work that you love, and work harder than other men. To learn the languages of the earth, and love the sounds of the words and the things they describe. To love food and music and drink. Fully love them. To love weather, and storms, and the smell of rain. To love heat. To love cold. To love sleep and dreams. To love the newness of each day.”

*Photo from here.


Sandy Nawrot said...

Wow, I think you were actually very patient with pacing like that. And the fact that you know the "hook" and don't get it until late in the game...I don't know. Not sure I'd invest in this one. (Still, good honest review!)

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Sandy - Skip it, there's too many great books out there.

Alex (The Sleepless Reader) said...

Well, I'm sorry to hear about this! I also got this book in NY to learn a bit more about the history of the city. It is strange the time the story takes to get to the NY.

I'll probably give it a 100 page trial.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Alex - I hope it works better for you. It's not a bad read, just oddly paced, a bit slow and not what I expected.