Release Date: June 2005
Reviewed By WC
Book Description: New York City is subsumed in arctic winds, dark nights, and white lights, its life unfolds, for it is an extraordinary hive of the imagination, the greatest house ever built, and nothing exists that can check its vitality. One night in winter, Peter Lake, orphan and master-mechanic, attempts to rob a fortress-like mansion on the Upper West Side.
Though he thinks the house is empty, the daughter of the house is home. Thus begins the love between Peter Lake, a middle-aged Irish burglar, and Beverly Penn, a young girl, who is dying.
Peter Lake, a simple, uneducated man, because of a love that, at first he does not fully understand, is driven to stop time and bring back the dead. His great struggle, in a city ever alight with its own energy and besieged by unprecedented winters, is one of the most beautiful and extraordinary stories of American literature.
WC's Review: Even though it was difficult at times to coordinate events in this epic volume of life in New York City during the decades of both centuries most recent, this is a book worth the five star rating because of its readability.
Peter Lake, a most extraordinary man abandoned by his rejected foreign parents in the fen glades of New Jersey across the bay from Manhattan, and his serendipitous acquisition of Athansor, the majestic white stallion who overcomes all burdens and the travails of the symbolic cloud walls, share heroics in Mark Helprin's magical tale of life in the poverty-stricken Battery, the wealthy Manhattan Upper West Side, and the rustic and Arctic enveloped Lake Coheeries area of upper New York State.
Lake discovers his uncommon talent for meaningful friendships and for love, marries the beautiful consumptive debutante Beverly, successfully manages the archaic machinery of the town newspaper, and fights the forces of evil conjured up by the gangland mob of Short Tails under the nefarious leadership of Pearly Soames.
The book is laden with characters of both sexes who approach the insightful magnificence of Peter Lake. What happens next holds the reader in suspense.
The Author - Mark Helprin belongs to no literary school, movement, tendency, or trend. As many have observed and as Time Magazine has phrased it, “He lights his own way.” His three collections of short stories (A Dove of the East and Other Stories, Ellis Island and Other Stories, and The Pacific and Other Stories), six novels (Refiner's Fire, Winter's Tale, A Soldier of the Great War, Memoir From Antproof Case, Freddy and Fredericka and, In Sunlight and In Shadow), and three children's books (Swan Lake, A City in Winter, and The Veil of Snows, all illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg), speak eloquently for themselves and are remarkable throughout for the sustained beauty and power of their language.