Finished the Helprin book

Finished the Helprin book

And I have to take back my previous coment about it – I can’t really recommend it. 

The writing is beautiful throughout, and (some of) the characters are wonderfully drawn.  But taken as a whole, the novel is a huge disappointment.  I stand by my initial reaction that the plot isn’t weighty enough to support the prose.  But in addition, the second half of the book has a couple of huge problems.

One is the pacing; the story is stopped dead in its tracks by four straight chapters of flashbacks, and even those flashbacks are interrupted by flashbacks-within-flashbacks.  And then, when the plot does get moving again, the ending is very rushed and terribly unsatisfying.  I’ll say more after the jump, so if you plan to read the book and avoid spoilers, skip the rest of this post..

For one thing, the hero dies at the end.  That wouldn’t necessarily be a terrible thing, but it’s a stupid, unnecessary death.  He’s caught randomly, by a ricocheting bullet, after an otherwise 100% successful attack on the mobster who’s been threatening his business.  And this after surviving all of World War 2 as a Pathfinder (a paratrooper dropped behind enemy lines, usually alone, to cause as much chaos as possible and to prepare the ground for Allied advances to follow).  I get that death can come randomly to anyone, that you can do everything right and still get caught by a stray bullet, and that someone has to be the last one to die in a war, but I didn’t need to read 700 pages to be reminded.

We’re never told what happens to his beloved family business, the one that he went to war against the mafia for, and ultimately died for.  We don[‘t get a single word about his business partner, or his mother and father-in-law (the only other characters who are fully realized besides the hero and heroine). 

We learn that (at the hero’s request, expressed in the letter he left behind to her) his widowed (and pregnant) wife married again, but we don’t find out anything else about her life, or even the name of their son.  I was absolutely shocked by that.


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