May 21, 2008


by Pete Hamill

In 1740, an Irish boy arrives in America, fleeing famine in his home country and pursuing revenge of his father's death. He makes friends with a black slave, who saves his life with some voodoo magic that grants him the gift of eternal life, as long as he never steps off of Manhattan Island. Forever tells the story of New York, covering some three hundred years of change, growth, revolution, etc. through the eyes of this one character. It is quite in-depth and detailed, yet gets tedious at times. The amount of attention given to different periods of New York felt rather unbalanced: two-thirds of the book covers the 17-1800's, leaving the 1900's and more current events (like 9-11) feeling rather tacked on at the end. And those were the parts I might have related to more, and been more interested in! Actually, my favorite part of the book was the beginning, when it was set in Ireland with the mythical stories and Celtic lore.

I found this book to be better than Winter's Tale (a similar story), but still did not care much for it. My chief complaint is probably its length. The story began to drag, I lost interest in the main character, he seemed to loose his purpose, it all became rather boring. I'm actually rather surprised that I finished it. I don't think I'm going to try and read any more books about the history of a city. I've discovered it's just not my thing.

Rating: 2/5                613 pages, 2003


Cath said...

I read this on the recommendation of a close friend and, like you, struggled to finish it. I agree that the best part was the beginning. And I also got a real feel for New York from it, but really I thought the whole thing was too self-indulgent and probably wouldn't bother to read anything else by Hamill.

Trish said...

Ew, 600+ pages is too much especially when you aren't really interested. Sounds like it could have been a captivating read...too bad.

Danielle said...

I've got this one on my shelves, but I never seem to get around to it. I definitely think I need to be in the right mood. He does seem to want to tackle a lot of history in one book.