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Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin

Winter's Tale (original 1983; edition 2005)

by Mark Helprin

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Title:Winter's Tale
Authors:Mark Helprin
Info:Mariner Books (2005), Edition: First edition., Paperback, 768 pages
Collections:Your library

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Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin (1983)

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Showing 1-5 of 75 (next | show all)
I tried reading this book back in the early 80s when it originally was published. The synopsis of the story drew me to it. It seemed to me that it would be a story I could really get into, however, at that time I got about 50 pages into it and put it down only to try picking it up several times throughout the 80s to try it again. For whatever reason, I was not able to get rid of it and it has followed me everywhere I have moved because the storyline never let go of me. Needless to say the book ended up in my garage for many years until recently a movie was made out of the book. This isn’t a review of the movie, but the movie was done so well that I went and picked up this book again and was able to get thru it this time.
It was still a bit difficult to read but because of the movie I was able to follow it a little more, at least for the parts where it focused on Peter Lake. If you do see the movie please do not expect it to be exactly like the book. In fact if you haven’t read the book yet I would suggest seeing the movie first then reading the book. The movie consolidates and focuses on Peter Lake and the book begins and ends with Peter Lake but there is so much more in the book.
With that said, it was a good book still hard to get thru and sometimes I had problems understanding what was going on but it did keep me going to the end. If I was going to compare it to artwork, I’d have to say it was surrealistic. The characters I had no trouble understanding for the most part it was more some of the fuzziness surrounding other things that were being described such as time periods. There were times I was not sure if time itself was over lapping, but then, I think that was also part of the story. I think this book works your mind and the story does stay with you. It is going on my bookshelf in the house now and it will be one of those books that I will read again. ( )
  marysneedle | Mar 21, 2014 |
This is neither urban fantasy nor magical realism, occupying it own niche between the two. It is dreamy realism, an alternate version of reality overlapping our own where most things are recognizable but with fantastic elements scattered among them. A wall of clouds plays with time, pornography burns through the floor, police applaud in their sleep, an indefatigable horse can fly... Some people in the story are shocked and don't know what to make of it, while others hardly blink, and therein lies the clue and the difference. Perhaps the author's greatest invention lies outside of the city: the Lake of the Coheeries, an upstate backwoods Shangri-la. Another layer of unreality is added since its 1983 publication, in presenting a millennium without the Internet, cellphones etc. and events that never happened.

New York provides the perfect setting for the majority of this novel. It is one of a handful of cities that pervade the western cultural conscience even of those who will never lay eyes on it. Many of its citizens no doubt love and appreciate their city, but for distant admirers never exposed to day-in, day-out experience that can take the shine off of anything it projects an aura of myth and legend, like a distant land of Oz.

While it is not a difficult novel to read, it is also not straightforward. Characters we're introduced to in part one are set aside for the entirety of part two as we move significantly forward in time. It didn't bother me, personally. I can see how the passage of time is mirrored in the interval we must wait before Peter Lake returns (multiple clues are dropped to assure us that he eventually will.) We're introduced to several other engaging characters who can be made three-dimensional, rather than rushing their introduction all at once. And we can share Peter's disorientation upon his rejoining the story, now an outsider among the characters we've been following in his absence.

The novel's ending becomes clearer upon noting the underlying unreality to our reality, and that this novel is populated by characters with the ability to see it. Pearly Soames is fascinated by colour, the Baymen predict the future, Beverly's father opines that she has seen what he cannot, etc. - and then there is Peter Lake, in a class of his own. It is due to these characters that lines between worlds have been blurred in the telling, thus the 'magical realism' elements. In that underlying reality, justice is ultimately served and all things must be balanced. Someone who understands that balance as well as Peter Lake (he is a master mechanic in every sense) knows how he must proceed if he is to maintain it. He knows the sacrifice he must make in order to obtain his desired victories.

The descriptive passages in this novel must be mentioned. Mark Helprin is a writer's writer, not necessarily for the words he uses but for the sound they make. I expect he read every page aloud to himself and then fine-tuned it like a piano. Of course all that would be lost when the story is translated to film. It's a shame the 2014 movie is apparently so terrible that it couldn't renew much interest in this intriguing, mystical novel. I'd like to view it now, to understand what went wrong. ( )
  Cecrow | Mar 4, 2014 |
audiobook - Once upon a time, early in the 20th century, in a magical city called New York, a thief fell in love with a socialite. The thief was Peter Lake, who was smuggled into Ellis Island by his Irish parents, raised by marsh men, and best friends with a gigantic flying white horse. She was Beverley Penn, who vacationed on a magical lake in the upstate, and was dying of tuberculosis. After he lost Beverley, Peter disappeared into the wall of clouds that surrounds magical New York City. No one ever returns from inside the cloud wall.
Fast-forward almost 90 years, and a group of friends discover that something sinister is happening in the city. They'll try to find out what it is and stop it, but they might need the help of that strange homeless man that keeps staring at Harry Penn and his granddaughter Jessica.

I am very certain that I did not understand most of the nuances and themes and metaphors in this sprawling, epic tale. But that's okay, because I loved it anyway. It's magical realism, so the value is much more in feeling the story than understanding every word literally. Maybe one day, almost 90 years from now, I'll read it again and everything will come together. ( )
  norabelle414 | Mar 1, 2014 |
Got to page 225 (about 1/3 way through) and gave up. The 3rd person POV and excess description just did not let me feel anything for the characters. There was also a mix of fantasy and reality that was jarring, even thought I tend to like magical realism. ( )
  Bodagirl | Feb 26, 2014 |
Mark Helprin is an incredibly descriptive writer who brings to life the subtleties of the mundane world. He manages to make the sometimes dull grey city of New York into a brilliant painting and his description of the human condition is spot on. You can’t help but be sympathetic to svn the antagonists of the story when they speak so beautifully - “I know color when I see it in the flash of heaven or in the Devil’s opposing tricks…” . Gripping from the first sentence when Helprin starts the book off with the story of the feisty, self aware horse that Peter Lake escapes some nasty fate from, Winter’s Tale proves itself to be a work of art. Every description of scenery brings to life an almost dreamy city, and while these descriptions can sometimes seem endless and do make the book drag, they're beautiful nonetheless. If you're looking for a fast read, this is not the book for you. I suggest readers take their time with Winter's Tale and just absorb everything Helprin offers up. ( )
  morgtini | Feb 25, 2014 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Mark Helprinprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Wyman, OliverNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"I have been to another world, and come back. Listen to me."
No One Knows the City Better
First words
A great city is nothing more than a portrait of itself, and yet when all is said and done, its arsenals of scenes and images are part of a deeply moving plan.
Winter, it was said, was the season in which time was superconductive - the season when a brittle world might shatter in the face of astonishing events, later to reform in a new body as solid and smooth as young transparent ice.
A tranquil city of good laws, fine architecture, and clean streets is like a classroom of obedient dullards, or a field of gelded bulls - whereas a city of anarchy is a city of promise.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0156031191, Paperback)

New York City is subsumed in arctic winds, dark nights, and white lights, its life unfolds, for it is an extraordinary hive of the imagination, the greatest house ever built, and nothing exists that can check its vitality. One night in winter, Peter Lake--orphan and master-mechanic, attempts to rob a fortress-like mansion on the Upper West Side.

Though he thinks the house is empty, the daughter of the house is home. Thus begins the love between Peter Lake, a middle-aged Irish burglar, and Beverly Penn, a young girl, who is dying.

Peter Lake, a simple, uneducated man, because of a love that, at first he does not fully understand, is driven to stop time and bring back the dead. His great struggle, in a city ever alight with its own energy and beseiged by unprecedented winters, is one of the most beautiful and extraordinary stories of American literature.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:53:25 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

When master mechanic Peter Lake attempts to rob a mansion on the Upper West Side, he is caught by young Beverly Penn, the terminally ill daughter of the house, and their subsequent love sends Peter on a desperate personal journey.

(summary from another edition)

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