Wednesday, August 3, 2011

New York City Fiction, Love, War, Magic and Guts

Hamill's entertaining novel, Forever,  delves into the history of New York City starting in 1740 and concluding with the fateful day of 9-11-2011.

To show us the history of the city, Hamill most cleverly created an immortal Irish character, Cormac O'Connor.  The story starts in Ireland where Cormac is a child living under English Protestant rule, but secretly schooled in the Gaelic religion.  This part of the book was absolutely fascinating, taking me into a world I have never read of before this time.  Cormac comes to New York City, and at that time is granted eternal life provided he does not leave Manhattan.  This contrived situation acts as a great setting for the author to share the history of New York City with his readers.

This book was imaginatively constructed, entertaining and educational.  Hamill wove his tale with care.  It was quite fun to be introduced in a fictional setting to indentured slavery, the black slave trade, the American Revolution, the cholera epidemic, Boss Tweed and his group of faithful political crooks and even more.  The book seemed a bit choppy as it went from one sub plot to the next, with the setting moving forward in time often in great leaps and bounds, but if viewed as a collection of time glimpses into NYC, it was quite nice.

Other acclaimed books he has written that aren't quite such a reading commitment (this was a 640 pager) are A Drinking Life and Snow in August, though he has twenty books under his hat! Snow in August would be my choice for a good reading group discussion book due to its length and clearer material focus (as opposed to Forever which was focused on the history of NYC, and took forever to read!). Set in post WWII Brooklyn, this coming of age novel is rich with moral, racial and ethic issues as the relationship between an Irish Catholic boy and a Rabbi are developed into a tale. 

Hamill has a nice web site,, where you can catch some video and get to know a little more about this prolific author and his latest works. He knows NYC, and writes about what he knows!