If you've never read any of Mr. Helprin's books, this is the place to start. Magical, lyrical and unafraid to take risks, this is one of the most beautiful books you will ever read. I've lost about 4 copies of it to people I've lent it to. For those who find it elitist, I can answer only that Helprin, in all of his work, attempts to search for the transcendent, rather than the particular in our existence. Urban geography, class, race, gender all fade as particulars, cultural constructs of the time and place we live in. So, if those categories are the creatures of our culture and society, why are they any less real than the New York Helprin constructs? With "The Confidence Man," it is said that Melville gave up trying to strike through the page to the underlying truth of our existence, simply turning the mask outward to illustrate the unreadibility of modern existence. With Winter's Tale, Refiner's Fire, A Soldier of the Great War, and Memoir in Antproof Case, Helprin seeks to defiantly answer "NO!" to those who claim our lives are without meaning or significance. This is a book to read, love, savor and read out loud to anyone you care about. It will stay with you the rest of your life.