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The street sweeper by Elliot Perlman

The street sweeper (original 2012; edition 2012)

by Elliot Perlman

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2914638,609 (4.18)39
Title:The street sweeper
Authors:Elliot Perlman (Author)
Info:Vintage Books (Kindle ed)
Collections:Your library
Tags:e-Books, Australian literature

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The Street Sweeper by Elliot Perlman (2012)



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I got swept into this story without really realizing that was what was happening. At first, the various threads seemed much too disparate, but gradually I realized what the author was doing, and how the stories he was telling were going to intersect, although it seemed quite unlikely. As the connections were revealed I felt a little thrilled, despite the intense harshness of some of the narrative, particularly the Holocaust sections. The graphic descriptions of what happened in Auschwitz were particularly moving and disturbing, and were for a time the most compelling part of the novel to me. The author's style, almost an oral-storytelling model, with a lot of repetition of phrases that became almost melodic, seemed necessary by the end, since so much of the story was about a story that must never be forgotten. How else to remember than to be told, over and over, and over again. Not in an imposing way, but simply for emphasis and effect. And it was certainly effective. ( )
  karenchase | Aug 20, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Elliot Perlman's "The Street Sweeper" is a novel of big themes and big ideas. The Civil Rights Movement in the United States and the Holocaust are powerfully woven together in Perlman's grand novel through stories found and lost. Synchronicity guides the action and we too suffer, learn, and seek redemption like characters in a mythic play. A must read. ( )
  greggchadwick | Apr 18, 2015 |
We have tackled some big books this year and Perlman’s The Street Sweeper is the last of them. A sweeping (sorry about the pun) novel of over 500 pages, its story content is dense and at times harrowing, but was given huge praise from the majority of our group.
Some of us did find its volume too daunting and at best ‘just another holocaust story’, but of those that read to the end, it was thought unanimously a well-written, emotional story that horrified yet moved us.

We found Lamont an endearing character and quickly jumped on his bandwagon for the duration of the ride. Adam was intriguing and contained many characteristics of Perlman’s other protagonists, particularly from Three Dollars and Seven Types of Ambiguity.
And then there was the ‘memory’ theme that wove strong throughout the book …

Memory is a willful dog. It won’t be summoned or dismissed but it cannot survive without you. It can sustain you or feed on you. It visits when it is hungry, not when you are. It has a schedule all its own that you can never know, It can capture you, corner you or liberate you. It can leave you howling and it can make you smile.

This paragraph was sighted by a few of us as being very poignant to the storyline, as there were many aspects and views that needed to come together. And in the end history is written by memories … what they contain and what they miss.

Overall The Street Sweeper scored high with our group. An indication that this novel promises a high quality read for those looking for such. ( )
  DaptoLibrary | Dec 1, 2014 |
This book was a goodreads.com first read contest win.

WOW. this was a great book. I so enjoyed reading about how someone like Lamont was trying to turn there life around. To me the author has captured everything interesting and worthy in the characters and put that into words.

I will be recommending this book to several friends and my reading group. ( )
  kybunnies | Oct 19, 2014 |
THE STREET SWEEPER is multi-character, multi-threaded saga that combines academia, civil rights, the US justice system, and the Holocaust into one coherent story by the end.
It starts with Lamont Williams, a black probationary janitor at Sloan-Kettering Cancer Hospital. Recently released from prison, he is trying to get his life back in order and find his now eight-year-old daughter. There he meets and befriends Henryk Mandelbrot, a cancer patient who was a survivor of Auschwitz. Mandelbrot is determined to tell Williams his story, insisting that Williams remember every detail.
A second thread is about Adam Zignelik, son of a well-known civil rights activist and untenured faculty member in the History Department of Columbia University. Since he has not published anything worthwhile, he is about to lose his job. William McCray, the father of a friend of his as well as head of the History Department, is a World War II veteran. He is trying to prove that black US soldiers liberated Dachau concentration camp.
As Adam becomes interested in the subject, he discovers a treasure trove of personal interviews conducted with some of the survivors in Displaced Persons Camps right after the war. They were conducted by a psychologist, Henry Border and were possibly the first oral histories ever conducted. They were recorded on a newly invented magnetic coil process.
The book alternates between the present and the years before and during the Holocaust depending on what is being said or revealed. It works fairly well, though there is much too much repetition, including minor details. We learn a lot about the main characters and how they react to changing situations. Much of the dialogue is in the form of lectures rather than conversations.
THE STREET SWEEPER provides more detail about life in the camp, especially with how people were sent to the gas chambers and what happened to the bodies afterwards, than most other books. It also talks about an attempt by prisoners to damage the structures.
In addition, there is some important dialogue about the way the US Supreme Court has overturned Brown vs The Board of Education, a case that involved some of the characters or their family members.
The book is worth reading and does offer much insight. Many of the characters are based on real people and real events. They are listed at the end. I just wish there wasn’t so much repetition.
  Judiex | Jun 26, 2014 |
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Book description
Lamont Williams is a paroled felon looking to turn his life around, working as a street sweeper at a large city hospital and searching for his estranged daughter. Adam Zignelik is a struggling, nontenured professor, paralyzed by looming failure, his life falling apart around him. He discovers a cache of recordings of previously unheard voices reaching out from a horrific past, voices that can both save his career and bring him back to the woman he loves. At the same time, Lamont forges an unlikely friendship with a dying man, who, having lived through those horrors, has a crucially important story to tell and to preserve. The worlds surrounding these two men, their families, their pasts, their potential futures, swirl in and out of history as the forces of the Holocaust, the American civil rights movement, Chicago unions, and New York City racial politics combine in a thrilling cross- generational literary symphony.
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"From the author of Seven Types of Ambiguity, an epic that reaches across generations and spans continents, revealing the interconnectedness and interdependence of humanity and the profound impact of memory on our lives"--

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