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Publisher's Summary

On his last long walk, septuagenarian war hero, deserter, and professor Alessandro Giuliani shares his past with an illiterate young factory worker, spinning a remarkable tale of heart-stopping escapes, of loves unrequited and won, of madmen, dwarfs, and mafiosi. But overshadowing all is his most miraculous and terrible adventure, the Great War: a surreal parade of horrors that devastated and defined Alessandro, yet enabled him to experience fully the magic and beauty of the absurd human comedy called life.
©1991 Mark Helprin (P)2007 BBC Audiobooks America

Critic Reviews

"Extraordinary....a vast, ambitious, spiritually lusty, all-guzzling, all-encompassing novel." ( The New York Times Book Review) "A rousing tale....riotous energy and sustained brilliance....Helprin lights his own way, in his ownsingular direction." ( Time) "A gripping, poignant and universally relevant moral fable." ( Publishers Weekly)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings


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  • Overall

I love this guy

Fans of Helprin will not be disappointed. It's a great sweeping epic tale of a man whose life is taken out of his control yet maintains a clear eye and his humanity. Hours of enjoyment, maybe even more than once...

16 of 16 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Mary
  • Austin, TX, USA
  • 04-14-10

Long but memorable

At 31 hours, this is a long book. It's mostly a coming-of-age novel, set in the first world war... but that doesn't begin to do it justice. Ultimately, it is a book about beauty, love, and finding meaning.

The narration is wonderful. Parts of the book do drag at times, in part because it is long and in part because the author repeats themes, but I am very glad to have listened to it. It will provide food for thought for some time to come.

13 of 13 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Stuart
  • Honolulu, HI, USA
  • 12-12-07

Painting with words

This was one of the most incredible books I have ever had the pleasure to experience. The word imagery is superlative and the story so carefully crafted that it is an amazing work of art. Few writers ever approach the author's powerful use of language in their works.

23 of 24 people found this review helpful

  • Overall


Great Book. I was not sure when it began but I hated when it ended. Good historical viewpoint also.

9 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Mark Helprin's Best

I first read this book in college years ago. I was very glad to see that it had made it to an audio version and quickly picked it up. First let me speak about the story itself. The development of the main character of this story is so complex, rich, and complete that I beleive a hundred years from now this book will be regarded as one of the great books of our time. The old man is so likable and written so well that you actually begin to believe that this is a true story. His story is compelling, funny, and poignant. He is the kind of man that most men aspire to become.
The writing of the story is what one expects from someone who wrote something called A Winter's Tale. The prose is magnificent. I will admit that I found my BA in English usefull with this book, Mr. Helprin shares my love of the english language and displays his vocabulary in his writing. Keeping a dictionary handy may not be a bad idea for some. Personally I like the unusual words.
Finally the narration. The narrator does not really evoke any thoughts in me, I hardly noticed him...which is quite possibly the greatest compliment I can give a narrator. We but audio books becaseu we want to enjoy the book. The experience is about the book only. We should not be talking about the narratory when we critique a novel....thus the best compliment we can give is to say we did not notice the narrator.

24 of 26 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Terry
  • Birmingham, AL, United States
  • 02-17-11

Poetic, funny and memorable

I finished this audiobook more than a month ago and I find that the characters are still on my mind. The prose is beautiful and the author's insights are funny and compelling. I commute close to 500 miles a week, so I love a good long listen to occupy my mind. A Soldier of the Great War did not disappoint!

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Best listen yet

This story jumped to the top of a long list of enjoyable listens. Gorgeous language, wonderful narration, and a captivating character in Alessandro. It is long, but enjoyable all the way through. It was a great companion at the gym and on walks, where there were no distractions, but the language and descriptions are just too lovely to split your attention with anything. Buy it and listen...

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

well worth the time to listen!

The beginning may seem a trifle slow-- stick with it. The hero, Alexander Guiliani, is one of the most memorable characters in fiction. He lives his life by a personal code we all would do well to try to emulate. Helprin shows us the utter senselessness and horror that was the First World War-- with lessons implicit for today.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Clever but slow

Helprin's story is detailed and intricate. He is also the rare author who uses language and imagery in a delightful way - the sort that makes you stop and wonder how he creates such art in his words. The story has many high points but its pacing seems off in many places. There were a number of times that I wished I could skip ahead to help move the story along. If your delighted with a clever writer who knows his wordcraft you'll enjoy the work but if you want a story that moves along this isn't the one for you

18 of 21 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Helprin has crazy writing skills.

This is a profoundly ironic epic adventure wherein Helprin's staggering descriptive powers, dark humor, sharp wit, and wild imagination conjure a life so rich in experience it overwhelms.

An old man tells the story of his extraordinary life, first rich with love of beauty, color, music, and the joy of living, then sharply contrasted by the loss and horror of WWI that swallows him and all he loves. Action and brutality delivered with gorgeous prose and spirituality. And it works brilliantly.

The first 50 pages or so are slow, but don't give up, the next 750 pages are the payoff.

13 of 15 people found this review helpful