Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin

At the heart of Mark Helprin's Winter's Tale is the love story between Peter Lake and Beverly Penn. Peter Lake is a simple, uneducated thief, who also happens to be a master mechanic. Beverly Penn is the daughter of one of New York's leading newspaper owners and is dying of consumption. Peter and Beverly's paths cross when Peter decides to rob Beverly's Upper West Side mansion. It is love at first sight for them, and their love with not only change their lives, but time itself.

This is a hard book to sum up. It is a beast of a book and it took me a month to get through its close to 800 pages. The language is dense and descriptive, overly descriptive at time, but also beautiful. The language will probably be a hang up for some with this book. While I don't mind verbose writers (to a certain extent), even I felt like I needed a machete to hack through the wilderness that was the language of this novel. While I never found the descriptions to be redundant, they were a bit overkill at times. It is not always necessary to take two pages to describe something, when it can be accomplished in a paragraph or two.

"The plans for the city were drawn on the same table as the plans for war. It promises nothing, and yet it can be inimitable generous."

On the other hand, there were some descriptions that I appreciated, especially when it came to the portrayal of New York City. Growing up in New York State, I spent a lot of time in the city. It is one of my favorite places in the world and it has always had a magical quality to it. While NYC is the setting of this novel, it comes across as a living, breathing character and it is an integral part of the story. Because the language is dense, this is not a quick read and I found myself having to reread passages at times to understand. Yet, there were many passages that were rather profound and had me stopping to consider them.

"No one ever said that you would live to see the repercussions of everything you do, or that you have guarantees, or that you are not obliged to wander in the dark, or that everything will be proved to you and neatly verified like something in science. Nothing is: at least nothing that is worthwhile."

This book also has a lot of moving parts which made the story hard to follow at times. It reminded me of the show Once Upon a Time. There are lots of characters, each with their own stories, that still somehow fit all together. Because there were so many characters and the story switched back and forth between time periods, it was confusing at times and I was somewhat concerned about whether or not it would all come together in the end. There is a magical, fairly tale-like quality to this novel. There are amazing adventures, great feats, wondrous happenings, and a sense of destiny. At times I was able to lose myself in the story, but not as easily as other novels. This one definitely requires some thinking.

"The beauty of the truth is that it need not be proclaimed or believed. It skips from soul to soul, changing form each time it touches, but it is what it is, I have seen it, and someday you will, too."

My biggest issue with the novel is it's non-ending. It is one of those books where the author leaves it up to the reader to decide what happens in the end. I am not a big fan of books that end this way, especially after plugging my way through almost 800 pages. While some may like this, I don't. It actually really annoys me. I want to be told what happens in the end and it better all end happily, in my opinion. Books that end like this always feel unfinished. 

In the end, I would say that I liked this novel, but didn't love it. I picked this novel up because I wanted to see the movie, but having read the book, I'm glad that I didn't pay to go see the movie in the theaters. I am not sure how they managed to adapt this novel for the big screen, but I have a feeling many changes were made. This book requires a commitment. I had hoped that maybe it would become a favorite of mine, but that did not happen. I think this is a one time read for me and don't see myself returning to this one.

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