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.
"Hot corn, get your hot corn!"
Her voice cut through the clamor of Broadway but attracted no customers as she made her way south through the teeming crowd, bouncing her basket on her hip. When she reached the gates of the old fort known as Castle Garden, where the immigration center was, she flashed a smile at the guard, entered the premises and quickly sold her corn, several dozen ears, to the usual cast of hollow-cheeked immigrants. The stuff had been dried on the cob in the fall and had to be soaked two full days before boiling, but even so, it had tasted good to her, five years back, after the unrelenting porridge of the passage from Dublin. Here and there, ears that had been stripped clean lay discarded in the dirt, kicked up against the pillars, along with every other sort of garbage.
So shed sold her corn, but it didnt earn her much, just pennies a piece. She didnt mind. Selling hot corn wasnt why shed come...
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).
Full Review (399 words).
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).
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