In many ways, Edward Rutherfurd is similar to James A Michener. Both of them are interested in a place, and they weave a story spanning generations against the backdrop of that place. Although it was ages ago I had read the novel by Michener, I feel Edward Rutherfurd has a more interesting way of more engaging way of telling a story. I had picked Edward Rutherfurd's Paris a few months back. I loved the book that also set preconceptions in my mind. I was surprised while reading this book. It is similar in many ways with Paris but different in many other ways.
From humble origins as a city named New Amsterdam primarily due to the early Dutch settlers, New York has come a long way. The Indians who occupied this piece of land have long away, and it is right now a melting pot of different cultures. Whereas France, the subject of Rutherfurd's Paris, has preserved its heritage with own version of integration, New York has assimilated the characteristics of different cultures that sought refuge in the city. There have been different communities fleeing from persecution or suffering from different parts of the world to start a new life in America. With this mind, you will find the story is about one major family with author introducing with new characters belong to other families midway. This style is different from what the author used in the earlier novel. In Paris, the story moves forward with three families who remain interconnected from the start to the end. Like Paris, the families once introduced keeps crossing each other in different centuries. This interaction makes us a co-conspirator with the author, giving us a strange sense of satisfaction.
Spanning from the days of New Amsterdam to a few years after the World Trade Center tragedy, the novel portrays the spirit of New York. The city gets up in it's feet with amazing speed and energy even after getting hit hard. The book covers the struggles, catastrophes and prejudices in the mind of New Yorkers at various phases in the history. It also gives us glimpses of American history, along with the author's take on events. The book dedicates whole pages on the struggle for independence while it goes light on civil war. Interestingly, the chapter of the freedom struggle is titled Love and the backdrop is the failed love story of a Britisher with the daughter of a Loyalist.
It is a bulky book written in an entertaining and engaging way. If you like to read a good story, then this is for you.