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4.4 out of 5 stars
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4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 8 October 2009
I have read and loved all of Edward Rutherfurd's books (starting with Sarum, 20 years ago). "New York" is just as good as any of them. Rutherfurd takes us on a 350 year ride through New York's history, from the 1600s to the present day. The fictional characters are well-developed and interesting and we follow them through multiple generations alongside all of the major events in New York's history. New Amsterdam, the Dutch, the War of Independence, Tammany Hall, the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, through to the inevitable and tragic conclusion at the World Trade Center.

With Rutherfurd's books it feels more like you're living through the history than reading a history book. There are many enjoyable storylines involving the fictional families, with the historical events as a backdrop, and several of them incorporate real characters from history. George Washington, Ben Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, Churchill's family, Boss Tweed, and many others, are all here.

At school I thought history was a boring subject. But I found it hard to put this book down, and now that I am finished I will really miss my daily excursions into New York.
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on 9 November 2010
I make no secret writing this review that I am a fan of Edward Rutherfurd having read nearly all his books to date, starting with London. To those not familiar with Edward Rutherfurd's books he has a very clear and repeated method in writing huge fictional histories of countries or areas. He does this by following the family trees of several families with a backdrop of the history of a particular place, and putting them on the periphery of those historic events. Whilst it may sound a little contrived, for me the method works really well and you end up with a knowledge of the history of a place without reading a text book. Generally this ends up as a series of stories (about 50 pages each) describing something that happened in one generation, and then the next chapter is a story affecting the next generation and any loose ends are tied up.

New York follows this same method starting with the Dutch settlers in New York, going through the War for Independence, the Civil War, the Depression, racism and most recently terrorism. From this perspective if you are new to Edward Rutherfurd's books I would definitely recommend this as a good book to start with.

For those who have read Rutherfurd's books, however, there are some subtle differences in the way this has been written. Firstly rather than following lots of families in parallel Rutherfurd has chosen to focus on just one (the Masters and their predecessors the van Dycks) and there's no doubt the characters in this book are less strong than in the others. Certainly families come and go and there is not the continuity from other books. For me (and I note a lot of the reviews disagree with this) I don't think this detracts from the book at all - New York is much more about the history of the city than the history of the families, and if anything I would compare it to London far more than the other books Rutherfurd has written. Given how much migration has happened both to and from New York over the pass 200 years I think anything else would not have felt realistic.

Secondly the chapters are much shorter... whereas previously each chapter would take in the whole event this time there may be lots of short stories making up a big one (certainly this was true re the chapters about the War of Independence). I think part of this is because the history of New York is so much shorter in time than the other books by Rutherfurd (with the exception of the second Dublin book I guess)

Having previously felt that none of the Edward Rutherfurd books have been as good as London, I think this one most certainly is.

One curious footnote... I read somewhere that this book was started a long time ago (about the time of London) but got shelved until now... it would be interesting to know if the similarity in the books' styles are due to them being written at a similar time or whether it's more a reflection on writing about a big city.

I look forward to what Rutherfurd writes about next.
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on 14 November 2009
I could not wait to get my hands on this book. The cover alone pulled me in. I started it exactly two weeks ago and just finished it in the early hours of this morning, literally with baited breath to see if the characters would escape the atrocities of 9/11. I have been savoring this book every night, and I was very sad to end it. It was as if I were saying goodbye to some well loved friends.

This book tells the story of New York through the eyes of a family, down the centuries. I love how the author makes descendants of well loved characters pop up again and again through the years. Even the wampum belt... This book was fantastic.
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on 14 September 2009
Edward Rutherfurd has done it again! I took this book on holiday and couldn't put it down. he engages the reader from the first page, bringing alive the history of New York from the early dutch settlers and indians to the present day. His technique of following families down the centuries gives a real sense of the progression of life and one's own place in history.
His style is approachable, readable and informative. Highly recommended.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 16 May 2013
As with all of Edward Rutherfurd's epic historical sagas, it's impossible not to admire the ambition and breadth of "New York", covering the city from its early Dutch settlement up to post 9/11. Fans of Rutherfurd will recognize the plot device of following a number of families through the generations, taking different social perspectives. Unlike his later "Paris" Rutherfurd takes a strictly chronological approach to "New York". As ever, the research behind the book is impressive and yet, while still a very enjoyable book, it is not, in my view, his strongest novel.

Partly this is because it takes an age to get going not helped by an early switch to the first person narrative of a slave. This was a strange choice of variation in the style and one that is largely unsuccessful. Another issue is that the weighting of the historical periods is a bit lumpy. Thus we spend an age on the War of Independence despite not much happening either nationally or indeed to the chosen families during this period. However, my biggest gripe is that he gives too much page time to the rich Master family. You can understand why in that they represent "old money" New Yorkers, but their view is somewhat rarified and while he does sprinkle stories from the lower levels of society into the narrative, he keeps returning to the Master dynasty and as a result I was left with a very partial feel for the city rather than getting behind what the place means for the majority of its inhabitants.

In many ways, I would have preferred the ending to come on the eve of 9/11 and left more to the readers' imagination but of course that would have dampened Rutherfurd's one true message that New York will survive come what may. However, not only does this lead to a slightly trite ending, it highlights the fact that in other Rutherfurd books, he often gets to very heart of what makes a place the way it is and in "New York", the message is surprisingly simplistic. However, what he evokes well is the way the city feels that it has a life of its own beyond the rest of the USA and he goes a long way to explaining the history of this feeling.

It is then not his best work, but even a slightly off form Rutherfurd is well worth reading and it is far from being a bad book. Despite the usual Rutherfurd epic page count, the stories rattle along. There's even a lovely bit of self awareness when he notes of one of his characters "Novelists liked to imagine the interconnectedness of things - as though all the people in the city were part of some great organism, their lives intertwined". Now whatever gave him that idea?
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 2 November 2015
As someone who has to go to New York a lot on business, I was recommended this book by my grandmother actually who thought I might like it - and she was right.

Now, I don't profess to being a literary critic but I do know what I like and I couldn't put this book down. The story line is fictional, but the events and places are very factual and that's what made it really interesting to me. All those places I've visited so many times, to learn a bit more about their history in a fun and interesting way whilst following the story of these fictional characters was really nice.

Without spoiling it, basically the book follows the story of a number of generations of several families through different periods of NYC history, going all the way from its beginning and settlement by the dutch to the events of 9/11.

It's a great book that is well written and keeps you hooked wondering if you can fit one more chapter in before you have to put it down.
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on 21 November 2009
I first saw this book in the airport bookshop, and decided it was too big to fly with me at that moment. I was given it as a present some weeks later and for the past five days, I have been enthralled with the story.
I have enjoyed this book enormously, as I have all the other Rutherfurd novels. I have to say, however, I did find the account of the American War of independence just a wee bit tedious, I think perhaps Mr. Rutherfurd go carried away with that bit, but nevertheless,A cracking good read!!!!
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I read Rutherford's London a few years ago and found every page of the massive tome interesting with several family histories threaded through it. I quite wrongly assumed that New York would be on a par. It is not. I found myself wishing that George Washington would get on with winning or surrendering just to move along from the never ending passage on the War of Independence.
I do not understand why the history of this vibrant city could be made so dull.
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on 10 April 2010
Perhaps my expectations were too high. It's probably because I enjoyed "London" so much and the fact that I am very familiar with each city, I read "New York" with anticipation verging on excitement. This was rapidly replaced with ever descending levels of disappointment as I struggled through this novel.

Like "London" it followed the same formula of taking seminal events through history and using them as pegs on which to weave the story. With regret, unlike the rich and colourful tapestry of "London", "New York" produced a storyline without depth and colour and left many loose threads untied. I struggled through this novel willing it to improve. It didn't.

Another criticism is that as (I believe) "New York" is jointly aimed at a US market, the views and perspective of the narrative is sometimes biased. For example, little was made of the decisive tactical outmanoeuvring of the Continental troops by the Redcoats in North Manhattan and the British command's reluctance to turn this defeat into a complete rout that would have turned the course of history. And what about all of the Redcoat deserters that fled to New York? Some fine material to bring into the story I would have thought? If historical events are being included, then tell them more factually and in more detail.

If this were the first Rutherford that I had read, then perhaps I wouldn't be so critical and merely dismiss it as a "Readers Digest" quality yarn. However, compared to his previous novels I can't understand why this one is so poor.

Still, now that's out of the way I can now concentrate on Dan Cruickshank's book on Georgian London......
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on 27 April 2013
Having read and enjoyed 'London' I looked for my next Edward Rutherfurd. Many of the reviews said that 'New York' wasn't quite as good but was still worth reading; they were wrong! Unlike 'London', which switches between several families, with somewhat confusingly similar names, the story of 'New York' is told through the lives of just three families and their connections. Like 'London', it isn't exactly fast paced and nor does it offer up many twists and turns but it does hold the interest like a steel vice.

So how can such a huge book in which so little actually happens be so gripping? It's because you, the reader, really care about the characters; you feel that you have an investment in their lives. This is like the literary version of a superior soap opera. Now, for me, that alone wouldn't have been enough to cause me to make the major time commitment needed to read one of Mr Rutherfurd's works. What makes the difference is the historical context. All of those facts that you have learned over the years are suddenly given a rich texture by these books and, often, there are surprising snippets too to make you question what you thought that you knew.

Finishing this book was like coming to the end of a year's back packing around the world; satisfying, yet a regret that it is over. So I'll read something a bit more 'trashy', just to clean the palate, and then on to my next Rutherfurd.
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