Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Book review: In Sunlight and in Shadow

Book review: In Sunlight and In Shadow by Mark Helprin



I think the New York Times reviewer got this novel all wrong. Helprin always has had a strong romantic streak as well as a flare for satire. Here he takes the outline of a medieval story -- a knight returning from the Crusades to retake his inheritance and win the princess -- and transposes it to New York after World War II. Harry Copeland finds his father's leather business sinking because of European competiton and a strange new gangster who's extorting exhorbitant protection fees. He meets the beautiful, wealthy actress Catherine Hale on the Staten Island Ferry, then must win her from a suitor who has done terrible things to her. The novel is extremely long, and Helprin appears to go overboard occasionally in his paeans to New York and the environs, especially the sea. But essentially the story is captivating, with real heroes and villains, and his descriptions of Harry's close calls in war are as strong as his depictions of war in A Soldier of the Great War and Memoirs in Antproof Case. He also pokes fun at showpeople, accountants, building contractors, the nascent CIA and wealthy people in general. I recommend the novel despite its excesses. I think the New York Times reviewer got this novel all wrong. Helprin always has had a strong romantic streak as well as a flare for satire. Here he takes the outline of a medieval story -- a knight returning from the Crusades to retake his inheritance and win the princess -- and transposes it to New York after World War II. Harry Copeland finds his father's leather business sinking because of European competiton and a strange new gangster who's extorting exhorbitant protection fees. He meets the beautiful, wealthy actress Catherine Hale on the Staten Island Ferry, then must win her from a suitor who has done terrible things to her. The novel is extremely long, and Helprin appears to go overboard occasionally in his paeans to New York and the environs, especially the sea. But essentially the story is captivating, with real heroes and villains, and his descriptions of Harry's close calls in war are as strong as his depictions of war in A Soldier of the Great War and Memoirs in Antproof Case. He also pokes fun at showpeople, accountants, building contractors, the nascent CIA and wealthy people in general. I recommend the novel despite its excesses.




4 comments:

Irene Jennings said...

I am captivated by the writing. The story could almost taken for granted. It is a joy to read every description. Often I have to stop and take a breath and reread. It has been a long time since I read as good a writer as this. I am recommitting to literature.

Marlene Detierro (Tony Lama Boot)

Micaella Lopez said...

Helprin continues to create some of America's finest literature. A broad panoramic picture of postwar America, peopled with memorable characters who will live on in my heart for years to come. Turning the last page was like saying goodbye to an old friend.

Mica
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Marlene Detierro said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Marlene Detierro said...

Mark Helprin has done it again. He has written yet another evocative, enthralling, lyrical novel about life, love and a life well lived. As with his other novels, I enjoyed this one immensely and the story will stay with me forever.

Marlene
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