Book Review

I’m reading Metropolis by Elizabeth Gaffney.  Normally, historical fiction isn’t my thing, but I decided to give it a try.  Of course, my mom finished it in less than a week (it’s her thing) and I started on it.

It moves like an elephant on opium.  In the mud.  Sheesh, is she ever long-winded.  I’m skipping whole bits of dialogue, and I understand what’s going on.  To add to the fun, there are pages missing.  Good thing we paid less than seven bucks to buy it.

Mr. Griffiths of amazon puts it well:

While slogging through some 450 pages of “Metropolis”, the reader may wonder exactly what Elizabeth Gaffney is trying to convey in this plodding saga of post-Civil War New York City. At its core, it is the tale of a young German immigrant on the lam after being framed in the arson of P.T. Barnum’s American Museum. He soon finds himself in the throws of the “Whyos”, a secret Irish gang of New York’s infamous Five Points, through which he finds work first on a road crew, later as a sewer man of New York’s famed subterranean maze, and finally as a member of the construction crew building the Brooklyn Bridge. Such ambitious fare certainly holds much promise for the historical novel fan, but Gaffney clutters the plot and the history with a ham handed dose of feminism and related social topics. To make matters worse, the utopian Whyos who, we are to believe, have maintained their stealth and secrecy by communicating through a complex language of song. While Gaffney portrays the Whyos as tough and ruthless, these ludicrous singing bandits seem closer to “The West Side Story” than to “The Gangs of New York.” Our young German hero – let’s call him Frank Harris – the last of his several aliases – falls in love with the redoubtable Beatrice: pickpocket, whore, sometime murderer, and mol of the Whyos boss. But in Gaffney’s New York, girls like Beatrice are the salt of society, the true brains and fabric of both legal and illegal New York, held back only by men and the puritanical Victorian social mores of the day.

The book could have survived all of this, were it not for Gaffney’s total lack of atmosphere, suspense, or pace in the story. Fires, explosions, murders, are conveyed with the drama of a Brooklyn Bridge machinery technical manual, and while despite endless pages describing the thoughts and feeling of Frank and Beatrice, they stir as much inspiration as a trip with Gaffney through New York’s sewers.

From the breathless praise lavished by Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and others, “Metropolis” was a novel I was really looking forward to devouring. It is unfortunate that this book was so well received critically, but I suspect the reviewers were more enthralled with Gaffney’s oh-so politically correct social commentary than in any true literary or entertainment talent. Boring, disjointed, and unfocused, in the final analysis “Metropolis” is a good book to leave on the trolley.

It seems like a book I’d be required to read for a history class.  Normally, I don’t put book reviews up here, but in this case I have to make an exception.  This is very long-winded, slow and incredibly hard to read.  Don’t even bother, unless you’re a major fan of history.  Even then, just pick up a copy of “Gangs of New York” either the book or the movie.

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4 thoughts on “Book Review”

  1. This was actually on my reading list. Number 37 down, I do believe. :sigh: Oh, do I have many books to read.

  2. Sorry to disappoint. I’m only a quarter of the way through this one and I flipped to the last page to find out what happens. From what I read, not much.

    I wanted to read this because I liked “Gangs of New York” (the movie; flippin’ sweet; saw it three times!). I thought it would be good… I guess I picked out a dud. :(


  3. Eh. Duds happen some times.

    Now. I have random things that really don’t fit at all with your post, but I’m writting them anyway.

    Tried the Blue Moon brand you recommended with a six-pack this weekend. Nice. I think my favorites will always be the richer brews (I cut my teeth on Guiness, and it warped me for life), but I enjoyed it very much. Plus, I still have half the pack left, so I’ll be enjoying it all of next weekend, too. Yum. Beer.

    And I found a picture on LJ that made me think of you… er… cause it was taken in Michigan and you live there. And I thought it was cool. That’s really the only reason(s).

  4. Heh.

    That pic is nice. The UP is a beautiful place to visit, as is the Northern Lower.

    Glad you liked the Blue Moon beer. I think it’s awesome, and I point people to it as much as possible. It’s got a great flavor and is smooth. Guinness is awesome too, but on the hot days I want something lighter. :)

    In the eternal words of Homer Simpson: Mmmmmmmm… Beeeeeeeeer… *drool*


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