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Synopses & Reviews
Elizabeth Gaffney's magnificent, Dickensian Metropolis captures the splendor and violence of America's greatest city in the years after the Civil War, as young immigrants climb out of urban chaos and into the American dream.
On a freezing night in the middle of winter, Gaffney's nameless hero is suddenly awakened by a fire in P. T. Barnum's stable, where he works and sleeps, and soon finds himself at the center of a citywide arson investigation.
Determined to clear his name and realize the dreams that inspired his hazardous voyage across the Atlantic, he will change his identity many times, find himself mixed up with one of the city?s toughest and most enterprising gangs, and fall in love with a smart, headstrong, and beautiful young woman. Buffeted by the forces of fate, hate, luck, and passion, our hero struggles to build a life — just to stay alive — in a country that at first held so much promise for him.
Epic in sweep, Metropolis follows our hero from his arrival in New York harbor through his experiences in Barnum's circus, the criminal underground, and the building of the Brooklyn Bridge, and on to a life in Brooklyn that is at once unique and poignantly emblematic of the American experience. In a novel that is wonderfully written, rich in suspense, vivid historical detail, breathtakingly paced, Elizabeth Gaffney captures the wonder and magic of a rambunctious city in a time of change. Metropolis marks a superb fiction debut.
"Paris Review advisory editor Gaffney crafts a richly atmospheric debut in which a bewildered immigrant loses his heart to a tough Irish lass in 1860s New York. Introduced first as 'the stableman,' the young hero finally identified as Frank Harris fled his native Germany to start a new life. But he's quickly framed by a master criminal and arsonist, then kidnapped by Beatrice O'Gamhna and told he must join the notorious Whyo gang — or else. Frank's luck veers from terrible to wonderful and back again in this suspenseful novel, and the jobs he acquires — laying cobblestones, working in sewers, building the Brooklyn Bridge — allow Gaffney to describe the burgeoning activity of a city absorbing its immigrants into projects that increase the power of the metropolis. Her portrait of the real but poorly documented Whyo gang gives them a handsome, despicable leader, his seemingly benign but powerful mother and a secret means of communicating described in Asbury's The Gangs of New York. Two graduates of the Women's Medical College who offer abortions to poor women, a black Civil War veteran who befriends Frank, and a benevolent business man with Dickensian resonances add more period color. While it never attains the narrative urgency of Doctorow's evocations of 19th-century New York, the novel's well-researched historical background, enlivened by descriptions of the criminal underworld and the off-beat love story, should ensure wide interest. Agent, Leigh Feldman. (Mar. 8)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[A]n engaging and suspenseful work — and required reading for anyone interested in urban affairs or simply in need of a good, stick-to-the-ribs escape from today's sociopolitical realities. Highly recommended." Library Journal
"[A] rip-roaring, agreeably ungainly, outrageously entertaining tale." Kirkus Reviews
"[A] thick, scrappy book with no fear of anachronism — or of anything else, for that matter. And Ms. Gaffney gives it the unstoppable vigor of a weed in concrete, one that shoots up where it shouldn't and branches out in any way it pleases." Janet Maslin, The New York Times
A brilliant novel of epic proportions, Metropolis tells the story of a young man's struggle to find love and create a life in late 19th-century New York.
About the Author
ELIZABETH GAFFNEY is an advisory editor of The Paris Review. In addition to teaching writing at New York University, she has translated from German The Arbogast Case (Thomas Hettche), The Pollen Room (Zoë Jenny), and Invisible Woman: Growing Up Black in Germany (Ika Hugel-Marshall). Her short fiction has appeared in North American Review, Colorado Review, Brooklyn Review, Mississippi Review, The Reading Room, and Epiphany. Metropolis is her first novel. To learn more about Elizabeth Gaffney, please visit her website at www.elizabethgaffney.net
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