Elizabeth Gaffneys magnificent, Dickensian Metropolis captures the splendor and violence of Americas 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, Gaffneys nameless hero is suddenly awakened by a fire in P. T. Barnums stable, where he works and sleeps, and soon finds himself at the center of a citywide arson investigation.
Determined to clear his name and realize the dreams that inspired his hazardous voyage across the Atlantic, he will change his identity many times, find himself mixed up with one of the citys toughest and most enterprising gangs, and fall in love with a smart, headstrong, and beautiful young woman. Buffeted by the forces of fate, hate, luck, and passion, our hero struggles to build a lifejust to stay alivein a country that at first held so much promise for him.
Epic in sweep, Metropolis follows our hero from his arrival in New York harbor through his experiences in Barnums circus, the criminal underground, and the building of the Brooklyn Bridge, and on to a life in Brooklyn that is at once unique and poignantly emblematic of the American experience. In a novel that is wonderfully written, rich in suspense, vivid historical detail, breathtakingly paced, Elizabeth Gaffney captures the wonder and magic of a rambunctious city in a time of change. Metropolis marks a superb fiction debut.
In case you wonder, Gaffney tells me that the hero of her story, Frank Harris, is not intended to be a fictionalized version of the Irish author and editor, Frank Harris (1851-1931), author of "My Life & Loves". She chose the name simply because she liked it and it was a common name of the time. (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).
The New York Times - Janet Maslin
The pace and density of Metropolis are rewarding yet stubbornly unpredictable. The book's vivid tableaus and high drama are offset by close study of how urban planning, construction projects and contagious illnesses actually work. All this moves circuitously but firmly toward a finale that validates all the sprawl and unexpectedness of what has come before.
While it never attains the narrative urgency of Doctorow's evocations of 19th-century New York, the novel's well-researched historical background, enlivened by descriptions of the criminal underworld and the off-beat love story, should ensure wide interest.
Library Journal - Eleanor J. Bader
Though one wishes that the author had occasionally injected dates to clarify the passage of time, this remains an engaging and suspenseful work-and required reading for anyone interested in urban affairs or simply in need of a good, stick-to-the-ribs escape from today's sociopolitical realities. Highly recommended.
Gaffney's first outing isn't as wonderful as it might have been some of its action is quite redundant, the seams of her formidable research clearly show, and her Trollopian habit of inserting loquacious authorial commentary at odd moments often unsettles the tone. But the narrative line is strong, and the text is enlivened by ... brilliantly imagined characters... Luther alone is worth the price of admission, but there's much more to like in Gaffney's rip-roaring, agreeably ungainly, outrageously entertaining tale.
Booklist - Donna Seaman
*Starred Review* In spite of the sense that Gaffney is working her way down a historical checklist, her fascination with technical advances, street life, social reform, and odd real-life events infuses this big, busy, imaginative, atmospheric, and compulsively readable historical novel (and remarkably capable debut) with a tantalizing energy. And given its array of irresistibly colorful characters, gritty romance, and labyrinthine plot, Gaffney's tale of old New York is pure bliss.
Michael Chabon, author of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay
Gaffney has engineered a thrilling Brooklyn Bridge of a novel, at once old-fashioned and utterly modern, grand and charming, elegant and massive, imposing and delightful, carrying us in inimitable style across the rich, rank waters of New York City’s history.
Andrea Barrett, author of Ship Fever
Elizabeth Gaffney’s Metropolis is vibrant, richly detailed, and compellingly plotted. The territory of her late-nineteenth-century underworld resembles that of Herbert Asbury’s The Gangs of New York or Frederick Busch’s The Night Inspector–but the sensibility is all her own, and her characters are unforgettable.
Helen Schulman, author of P.S. and The Revisionist
Trust the excellent Elizabeth Gaffney-–in her debut novel, no less–to use the best of both history and her own considerable powers of creation to construct this compelling tale of a young immigrant’s journey through the chaotic underbelly of post—Civil War New York. The star of Gaffney’s dazzling show may be male, but the true heroes are the crafty, clever, and resilient female cast members who, with their own nineteenth-century brand of girl-gang feminism, help to reinvent the world.
Anna Deavere Smith
What an absorbing experience to visit Elizabeth Gaffney’s imagination while it shakes, shimmers, and sizzles with extraordinary storytelling against the backdrop of history.
David Grand, author of The Disappearing Body
A towering work of brilliant imagination, as exquisitely written as it is intricately constructed. Metropolis, with all its brawn and brains and heart, will no doubt find its way into the skyline of the greatest of the great New York City classics.
Elizabeth Gaffney is an advisory editor of The
Paris Review, teaches writing at New York University and has translated a
number of German novels into English. Her short fiction has appeared in
North American Review, Colorado Review, Brooklyn Review, Mississippi Review, The
Reading Room, and Epiphany. Metropolis is her first novel. She is also the
author and narrator of a 'City Reads' guide, The
Brooklyn Bridge: From City To Metropolis (2004).
Rich with unforgettable characters and history, intricately plotted and utterly absorbing, City of Dreams is a stirring saga of early Manhattan and the beginnings of medical science told by a master storyteller.
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