Excerpt from Metropolis by Elizabeth Gaffney, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Metropolis

A Novel

by Elizabeth Gaffney

Metropolis by Elizabeth Gaffney
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Mar 2005, 480 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 2006, 480 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse Review Team

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


"As if there weren’t enough of these people already," said a woman in a high velvet toque with a nervous thrust of her chin at the crowds of steerage passengers from earlier ships. Her husband winced and nodded. They’d just spent the season in London. Before the war, they had traveled first class and never had to set foot in Castle Garden, but most of her money was Southern—which was to say diminished since the War Between the States—and they’d been forced to make concessions.

Beatrice shed her hat, let down the braids that had been twisted under it and adjusted her posture and face in subtle ways that stripped her of nearly a decade in a handful of seconds: She was suddenly quite a little girl. The second-class couple emerged at the north gate, relieved, with sighs and murmurs of "Ah, New York, so good to be home!" At the curb, while the coachman raised their trunks to his roof rack and the gentleman made to hand his lady up onto the tufted leather carriage bench, Beatrice pressed forward. With her hand outstretched, she said, "Welcome to America, sir, miss! Have you anything extra to help me and my ailing mother?"

The couple looked away—he to the side, his wife to him. That was the trick, of course: to force them to look away.

Beatrice’s fingers were as fast as her eyes seemed innocent. Watches were her specialty, but this time she focused on the lady, who wore a pin on her lapel that reminded Beatrice of her mother’s long-gone gold-rimmed brooch. She wasn’t sure how good it was, how much it would bring, so she also grabbed the silk and suede wallet that protruded from the gentlewoman’s muff, which turned out to be bulging at the seams, though some of the currency was foreign. Then Beatrice was gone, and the couple was grateful. The horse left a loamy turd steaming on the pavement as it strained against its harness. The wheels ground forward. They were halfway home before they realized what they’d lost, at which point Beatrice was just pushing through the swinging doors of Marm Mandelbaum’s pawnshop, wondering what price she’d have to accept on the brooch in exchange for the old shrew’s discretion.


2.
INFERNO

Asleep in the dark, with his limbs tucked up against his belly for warmth, he had made himself small, just a fetal lump in the middle of his narrow pallet. His blankets were topped by his overcoat, and he’d tucked the whole pile tightly around himself to keep it from sliding off into the night. The floor of the tack room had been strewn with hay, the wall by the bed decorated with a couple of nails from which, on warmer nights, he might have hung his clothes. The horseshoe propped upright on a crossbeam above his head was a relic of a previous tenant’s superstitions. There was little in that room to suggest who he was, this stableman, except perhaps the worn cashmere and shredded silk lining of his coat—it had been a fine garment, once. And on the narrow shelf made by another beam, a bowie knife and a few whittled figurines: a bear, a gorilla and a strange hybrid creature, like a griffin, but of his own imagining, composed of assorted parts of the exotic creatures he cared for.

It was no ordinary stable where he worked. The horse stalls were inhabited not by hacks but by dancing white Arabians, and there were no cows at all, but an orangutan, a giraffe, a python, a tiger. He had never expected this land of dreams to be quite so dreamlike, so uncanny. The job he had landed through the Labor Exchange was certainly not what he’d imagined doing in America when he’d left home. What he wanted to do was build cathedrals or, barring such glory, churches, houses, even roads. That was his training and, what with the constant stream of immigration to New York, he’d been sure there would be work for a man with experience in the building trades. It hadn’t been so easy, though. So there he was at P. T. Barnum’s American Museum, shoveling dung and hay and whiling away his few bits of spare time carving figures from odd chunks of wood he found lying about.

Excerpted from Metropolis by Elizabeth Gaffney Copyright © 2005 by Elizabeth Gaffney. Excerpted by permission of Random House, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

One-Month Free Membership

Discover your next great read here

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Rules of Magic
    The Rules of Magic
    by Alice Hoffman
    Alice Hoffman's Rules of Magic is the long-awaited prequel to one of her most cherished novels,...
  • Book Jacket: Good Me Bad Me
    Good Me Bad Me
    by Ali Land
    Is a psychopath born or made? This is the terrifying question that author Ali Land explores in her ...
  • Book Jacket: Five-Carat Soul
    Five-Carat Soul
    by James McBride
    In the short story "Sonny's Blues," from the 1965 collection Going to Meet the Man, African-...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

An eye-opening and riveting look at how how medicine can not only improve life but also the process of its ending.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Seven Days of Us
    by Francesca Hornak

    A warm, wry debut novel about a family forced to spend a week together over the holidays.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win The Wisdom of Sundays

The Wisdom of Sundays
by Oprah Winfrey

Life-changing insights from super soul conversations.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

A Good M I H T F

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.