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  • Published: New York : Random House, [1975]
  • Year Published: 1975
  • Edition: 1st ed.
  • Description: 270 p. ; 24 cm.
  • Language: English
  • Format: Book

Reading Level

  • Lexile: 930

ISBN/Standard Number

  • 9780812978186 (softcover)
  • 0452279070 :
  • 0679602976 (Modern Library) :
  • 0452275709


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by Doctorow, E. L., 1931-

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Where To Find It

Call number: Fiction

Available Copies: Downtown 2nd Floor

Additional Details

"Three remarkable families lives' become entwined with Henry Ford, Harry Houdini, J.P. Morgan, Theodore Dreiser, Sigmund Freud, and Emiliano Zapata at the turn of the century." "The lives of an upper-middle-class family in New Rochelle; a black ragtime musician who loses his beloved, his child, and his life because of bigotry; and a poor immigrant Jewish family are interwoven in this early-twentieth-century story. There are cameo appearances by well-known figures of that period: Houdini, anarchist Emma Goldman, actress Evelyn Nesbit, Henry Ford, and J.P. Morgan, whose magnificent library plays an important part in the story. The book mingles fact and fiction in portraying the era of ragtime."

Community Reviews

Interesting but with stylistic issues...

An interesting, fast-paced story that weaves many famous people and places from the early 20th century into it. Names like Houdini, Ford and Morgan feature prominently in the tale, intertwined with several unnamed families who's paths ultimately cross in a story of love and revenge. Imagine Forrest Gump in literary form, taking place in the early 20th century immediately before WWI.

While this book was enjoyable I did have issues with the literary style, in particular the author's sentence structure. It seemed that the average sentence length was 5-7 words and read like "The adjective noun was verbing. The other adjective noun was verbing". As someone who tends to think, and write, in run-on thoughts this made the book very choppy to read. There wasn't significant character development until the latter parts of the book, instead relying on the novelty of it's famous supporting cast to carry the earlier parts of the story. The latter chapters hint at the author's potential for depth of character and mastery of language; I would be interested in reading some of his other works. I didn't know much about the author while reading this and assumed it was one of his first novels, I was surprised to find out the opposite when I read a little about him.

I read this book as part of my quest to read some of the Modern Library's 100 Best Novels, and am slightly disappointed in it's inclusion. It was enjoyable, but I wouldn't place it on my list of 100 Best Novels.

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