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3.0 out of 5 starsUseful but narrow.
Reviewed in the United States on November 23, 2019
Very deeply researched, but very limited in scope. A lot about infrastructure and geography, nothing at all about the rich artistic and cultural history.
3.0 out of 5 starsBarrage of facts, yet felt unfinished
Reviewed in the United States on February 11, 2020
Overall I liked to book. I admire the author for what must have been mountains of documents he went though and ages he must had spent in the archives to pull so many facts and condense them into one book. Especially it hit the note with me reading about my very own Marine Park neighborhood; too many times I caught myself thinking "Oh, that's why those things are that way and not another". This was a really great read. Although, I going further deep into the book I could not shake off the feeling that the history of Brooklyn is really a history of screw ups. So many plans and visions did not see the light of day, yet very few that actually were implemented went sideways in the end. But I guess that's life. I cannot say the reading was easy though, the author is prone to prolixity, while talking about some particular event the author mentions too many people and short facts of their biographies, albeit related to the event in question, but hardly critical. This waterfall of facts and names makes the book a rather challenging read. The end was disappointing too, it ended in the 60es. Maybe because Brooklyn descended into slumber after that, but nonetheless I was expecting it to cover most recent history as well. The end felt much too abrupt.
For those of us who have Brooklyn in our DNA, some things began to go downhill when our city became part of New York in 1898. When you are growing up, and perhaps at all stages of one's life you may keep an eye on current events. But studying and digesting history requires insights and reflection. Brooklyn is larger than, or rather large as life. It has a literary and cultural mosaic that merits both scholarly and quotidian examination.
Professor Campanella explores myriad strands of the fabric of Brooklyn's economy, ethnicity, politics, architecture, and heavyweight personalities over a broad sweep of over 400 years. From tectonic battles over the shaping of the urban landscape to the destructive malaise of job losses and racial and cultural conflict, there are insightful observations on what happened and what might have turned out differently.
Despite the resurgence of some neighborhoods through the mixed blessings of gentrification, the author and this reader, cherish what is genuine, unpretentious and rooted in the hardworking world of our parents and grandparents. It's a heady mix of nostalgia and what has endured: like Prospect Park, an exceptional Library and Museum and celebrating periods of being center stage in the country's evolution.
There is plenty to savor here, whether you read footnotes and indexes or just ramble along. The author heads down some minor rabbit trails here and there that won't appeal to all of the audience, and you might or might not be helped by having a map on your lap. Overall, it is a fine and thoughtful treatise that doesn't take itself too seriously.
I married a Brooklynite and find it's history fascinating. Overall I enjoyed the book, especially the older parts but things dragged out toward more recent times. Could have used some cutting toward the end. Or just read Pete Hamill for 1940 on.