Mark Helprin’s enchanting and sweeping novel asks a simple question: can love and honor conquer all?
New York in 1947 glows with postwar energy. Harry Copeland, an elite paratrooper who fought behind enemy lines in Europe, returns home to run the family business. In a single, magical encounter on the Staten Island ferry, the young singer and heiress Catherine Thomas Hale falls for him instantly but too late to prevent her engagement to a much older man. Harry and Catherine pursue one another in a romance played out in postwar America’s Broadway theaters, Long Island mansions, the offices of financiers, and the haunts of gangsters. Catherine’s choice of Harry over her longtime fiancé endangers Harry’s livelihood - and eventually threatens his life.
Entrancing in its lyricism, In Sunlight and in Shadow so powerfully draws you into New York at the dawn of the modern age that, as in a vivid dream, you will not want to leave.
About the author: Mark Helprin was educated at Harvard, Princeton, Columbia, and Oxford. He served in the Israeli military and the British Merchant Navy. He is the acclaimed author of Winter’s Tale and numerous other works.
©2012 Mark Helprin (P)2012 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
“In this prodigious, enfolding saga of exalted romance in corrupt, postwar New York, resplendent storyteller Helprin creates a supremely gifted and principled hero…Helprin’s suspenseful, many-stranded plot is unfailingly enthralling. The sumptuous settings are intoxicating. The novel’s seething indictment of mobster rule in the 1940s is bracing, and the lovers’ high-stakes predicaments are heartbreaking. Helprin’s personal articles of faith shape every scene as he expresses deep respect for soldiers, sensitivity to anti-Semitism and racism, and stalwart belief in valor and individual exceptionalism. So declarative is this philosophical tale that it can be read as Helprin’s spiritual and lyrical answer to the big, bossy, and enduring novels of Ayn Rand.” (Booklist, starred review)
“Elegant, elegiac…A fine adult love story - not in the prurient sense, but in the sense of lovers elevated from smittenness to all the grownup problems that a relationship can bring.” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review)
“Glorious and golden, truly like reentering another world where another sensibility prevails and even the sunlight and shadow have a different weight.” (Library Journal)
This is sort-of a compliment. I suffer from bouts of insomnia, and have found that putting on an audiobook to occupy my brain is a great way to get back to sleep at 4 in the morning. It's also a great way to listen to a book without any of the distractions of the outside world, and really listen to the writing.
This only becomes problematic when a story becomes engaging (for instance, I initially started listening to Little Dorrit to put myself back to sleep, but at some point became so interested in the story that I would wake up and rewind back to hear what I'd slept through.)
So far, I have found In Sunlight and in Shadow is a perfect book to fall back to sleep to. The writing is dreamlike, lyrical and descriptive, the plot pacing so slow and the narration so generally monotone (there's nothing worse then when a male narrator badly imitates a woman's voice -- the pitch change can shock you back awake) that this is perfect insomnia listening. I fell asleep to it one night, and dreamt I was in New York.
My only issue with it is that by day, my waking brain cannot stay with it. I listened to a description of Catherine taking a breath in a music hall about 3 times and spaced out every time before I figured out what she was actually doing there. I honestly thought she was an oboe player. I had to read a review to learn that she was a singer.
To do this book justice, I think I'll go back to listening to it only at 4 am, and find something a little more engaging to listen to by day.
PS - A great thing about the Audible app on the iphone, is that you can program it to go off - and it sort of fades out very subtly. This is especially recommended when you are nearing the end of a book. The last thing you need at 4:45 am is to be jolted back awake with: "Audible hopes you have enjoyed this program!"
Lyrical, gorgeous and romantic.
The Piano, Frank Conroy: New York City; the 1940s; Glorious romantic style. Overcoming great obstacles against hard reality; growing into adulthood through travail and an unwillingness to give up.
Enunciation, an ability to manage voices well and convincingly. Easy to listen to for nearly 30 hours.
It made me patiently watch and engage, unusual for me.
Give this book a chance, but be prepared to sip. This is poetry as well as fiction, and it requires time and attention. I found it well worth it.
I am still struggling through this recording, but have decided to switch to the written book. I've come to the conclusion that the narrator must have substantially missed the tone the author was going for.
Helprin is the author of one of my favorite books of all time - Freddy and Fredericka - which I have listened to at least three times. The narrator of that one, Robert Ian Mackenzie, gets it exactly right. No doubt In Sunlight and In Shadow is a different kind of book, but I can't help but feel there are moments of irony that are completely miscast in Runnette's sing-song melancholy tone.
I'm going to have a try at the printed work because I think Helprin is trying to do something that needs doing. I
think he is trying to cast a line from World War II to the present and show the seeds that have brought us where we are today - the difference between paper wealth and real productivity, and between image and identity. He's up to the challenge. I'm reserving judgment on whether he's accomplished it or not.
This is one of the few occasions that I've felt a narrator truly compromised my experience of a book. Too bad. Runnette has a nice voice, but he takes elegiac to a new high (or low) here.
Not for me. It is not a book I would recommend to any of my friends.
This author just goes on and on with his descriptions. I found my mind wandering off because of all of the unnecessary imagery.
Years ago I read Helprin’s A Soldier in the Great War and found it to be an impressive description of the stupidity of war. In Sunlight and in Shadow he jumps back to WWII from a somber post WWII present. The portions of the book that cover the war are first rate. Unfortunately his descriptions of Harry’s romance with a young singer in NYC is too sophomoric and so overwhelmingly romanticized they are difficult to listen to. The words cloy. Perhaps this is due to the bated breath or the reader; as if this love affair between a thirty something vet and Katherine (no virgin) were something on the pedestal of adolescence. There is a bit of F. Scott Fitzgerald to the scenes in the Hamptons among the well-heeled set. This is juxtaposed to the gritty business of protection rackets in NYC. The book is also interminably long due to rambling descriptions and a fondness for employing an excess of adjectives. If you can get past the saccharine romance and the ponderous verbiage there is a good story with a bit of depressing and maybe inevitable ending.
Read the written word
Narration combined with incredibly detailed description of every breath and every button. Too much. I had to stop.
Character development, story line, evocations of NYC at a particular time.
Never! I finally went to the library and borrowed the hard copy to read as I could not stand the sing-song quality of his voice, What a disservice to the terrific work of a very talented writer.
i now am interested in war stories
he drove me crazy with to much long detailed descriptions. i would often forget what it was he was talking about. my mind wandering off and wishing to just hear story
will avoid this author
I LOVED this book, though the ending broke my heart. I couldn't, couldn't believe that Helprin would persevere, would end it as he did. And yet, all the way through this stunning, brilliant book, he never compromised, always told the truth. The language is simply ravishing, direct and yet so illuminating, so unanticipated. Often very funny, even. I loved his description of society dames:
"Evelyn, were she in the slightest bit malevolent, could concentrate upon him the female death ray that only a mother-in-law or potential mother-in-law can deploy, that comes from frustration of a hundred types, that is as old as the monkeys, and for which there is no antidote.
"Park Avenue and its environs". . . "were full of caked and powdered reptilian women and florid panting men who lived to shop and eat, with muscles evolved mainly for approaching a maitre d', lifting a poodle, or carrying glistening packages. At home these people did not breathe. There was no air, no room to move, no space to stretch out an arm without shattering Lalique, no sunshine, no water, no waves, only a coffin-like bella figura of life as still as a wax dummy."
A tour de force, a simply wonderful wonderful book. I can't praise it enough.
And Sean Runnette's gentle voice was perfect for this book. Peaceful and lovely to listen to--a very fine matching of voice and book.
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