49. Forever by Pete Hamill

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49. Forever by Pete Hamill

Post  twunny on Sun Dec 13, 2009 5:17 pm

A very deep, epic, and intense book. It begins in the early 1700's in Ireland and follows one man's journey through famine and disaster to New York, to fulfill a family obligation. And as his New York story unfolds, he is granted immortality. One catch: he cannot leave the island of Manhattan. And so we travel through history with Cormac O'Connor, as he lives his long life. He is around for some of the most important and impressive events and lives that flow through New York, including the Revolutionary War, the fire of 1776, the fire of 1840, more than one cholera epidemic, the influence of William "Boss" Tweed, and 9/11. He learns all about the city, several different languages, several different trades and arts, and he tries time and time again to fall in love.

At first, I had some trouble with this book. I knew what it was about, but I was unprepared for it starting off so far away from the person and place I thought I was supposed to care about. The language was a little dense, and I wasn't really in the mood for the things that were happening. But when it ramped up, it swung for the fences. It got violent, clear, imaginative, and compelling very suddenly and effectively. And everything I'd read before provided an essential foundation.

As Cormac got to New York, I was pulled in even farther by the context of things I knew. I've studied quite a bit about the city, including important people and places from the 18th century. And the author really did a good job of bringing history to life. I began to really see things through Cormac's eyes. However, I never really felt like I was in his head...which I suppose is why this was written in 3rd person. I just felt like I was missing something that really could have enriched the whole thing.

This was a very good book. I'm not sure how much an average Joe might be able to get out of it. There are a lot of passing references to buildings, people, places, events, and things that might cloud the story. I felt pretty clouded, and I got at least half of the references. So I recommend this, but with a caveat.

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