Several years ago I had the privilege of an e-mail communication with Mike Wallace the co-author of Gotham just after I read the book. I shared my enthusiasm for this incredible volume and when I told him I actually read the 1236 pages sequentially he allowed that I might be the only person in captivity who did that! This Pulitzer winner, written with Edwin G. Burrows, is the quintessential history of New York through the end of the 19th Century.
This preamble places in perspective my enthusiasm for New York the novel by Edward Rutherford. Rutherford tells the New York story from the time of the city’s origins through the beginning of the twenty-first century through the lives of the fictional Van Dyck and Masters families. The story masterfully unfolds generation by generation.
Rutherford is every bit as captivating as is the standard-bearer of historical novels James Michener. Every cell of Rutherford’s characters are believable as they wind, twist, love, fight, succeed and negotiate their lives through all of New York’s epic development. The Dutch settlement, Native Americans, independence, immigration, the classes, Civil War, financial booms and busts, politics, loyalists, revolutionaries, unions, heroes and villains, the swells and near-do-wells, all play a role. You can taste the oysters at Frances Tavern! Rutherford’s New York is comparable to the writing and character development in Michener’s Centennial, Chesapeake and Texas with the exception of Michener’s penchant for geological evolution! New York has earned a place on my Deserving of a Pulitzer shelf! New York will not give you the detail of Gotham but in living with the generations of the Van Dyck and Masters Families, you will personally experience the story of the great city.
Complete your New York historical journey by gaining a full understanding of the Dutch societal impact on the founding and ethos of the city by reading The Island in the Center of the World by Russell Shorto. This is a necessary read for all lovers of New York told through the voices of those that built the city and opened the New World long before the Pilgrims. You will come away with a deeper understanding of Peter Stuyvesant an all of the other prevailing Dutch names and places rich in New York’s history. You will learn why New York has always been open to new people, ideas, commerce and opportunity. Best of all you will enjoy more great storytelling.