Brooklyn native Emily Barton has received many accolades for her fiction, including a grant from the NEA. Here she tells the story of Prudence Winship, a woman living in late 18th-century New York who has a vision of a great bridge spanning the East River. After inheriting a gin distillery from her father, Prue uses her resources to undertake one of America’s greatest public works projects. But many hardships threaten to curtail her efforts, and realizing her dream will not be an easy task.
'Brookland', for me, was full of promise. The young protagonist, Pru, has a vision of Manhattan as an 'Isle of the Dead', seen from the 1780's Brookland shore at her parents gin distillery, and the community of mainly Dutch characters of rough drunken charm and sometimes a stiff religious zeal, bring the first half of the novel to great heights. Pru sets those heights with a burning desire to build a bridge between Manhattan and Brookline. Historically this never happened, but the family and business dramas allow this fantasy to become plausible. However, the fantasy almost destroys the wonderful richness of character development with the energy needed to narrow itself to the purpose of bridge building. As the elder members of the community die and Pru and her sisters emerge to shape the new republic, now just before the turn of the next century, the promise of a great book struggles, returns, fights again, reaches up, falls flat, crawls pitiably away, leaving the characters without a home.
I loved so much about this story, and am glad I spent time with it. I wouldn't be able to read it again, but like a dream remembered, weak and faint, it gave me pleasure, but left me disappointed with what I appear to miss.
The narrator was not the best. Males sound flat, and the women, elderly.
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