[LIBRARY EDITION Audiobook CD format in sturdy Vinyl Case with cloth sleeves that keep compact discs protected.]
[Read by Oliver Wyman]
This is a book about the beauty and complexity of the human soul, about God, love, and justice, and yet you can lose yourself in it as if it were a dream. You will be transported to New York of the Belle Epoque, to a city clarified by a siege of unprecedented winters. One night, Peter Lake--orphan, master-mechanic, and master second-story man--attempts to rob a fortress-like mansion on the Upper West Side. Though he thinks the house is empty, the daughter of the house is home. Thus begins the affair between the middle-aged Irish burglar and Beverly Penn, a young girl who is dying. Because of a love that at first he cannot fully understand, Peter, a simple and uneducated man, will be driven ''to stop time and bring back the dead.'' His great struggle, in a city ever alight with its own energy and beset by winter, is a truly beautiful and extraordinary story.
As soothing as hot cocoa on a windy February night
A Customer on Mar 03, 1999
I admit it--"Winter's Tale" first caught my eye because of its cover, a muted and evocative photograph of Grand Central Station sometime in the 1930s or 1940s. I bought it after reading Benjamin DeMott's how-could-you-not-read-it review in the New York Times (it's archived on-line at the NYT site, and I highly recommend looking it up). And then I read it. It took me many months to get through, because this is not a book that I plowed through, but one I savored. There are many unforgettable scenes in Helprin's book, but if I had to choose one as my favorite, it is Helprin's description of Beverly climbing out to her rooftop apartment and gazing at the constellations, which is so breathtaking that it could make you swoon. I didn't think about this book in political terms, as some reviewers here suggest, but as a old-fashioned bedtime story suitable for any generation, a rarity these days. And I loved the names of the Heleprin's characters that populated this imaginary Gotham--Asbury Gunwillow, Hardesty Marratta, Romeo Tan, Reverend Mootfowl, Cecil Mature (aka Cecil Wooley), Christiana Freibourg, Praeger de Pinto, Daythril Moobcot. I was also delighted and amazed by how Helprin was able to transform New York into a glittering, fantastical place yet at the same time remain faithful to its spirit and teeming essence. I must say here that I hated One Hundred Years of Solitude, which struck me as a sprawling bore. Winter's Tale has a pulse and a heart--a big heart--that anchors the entire story. Unlike Marquez, Helprin manages to harness all the energy on the page into something close to a moral testament. I couldn't agree more with DeMott, who wrote: "Not for some time have I read a work as funny, thoughtful, passionate or large-souled." It reads like a dream, and, unlike most dreams, you will remember it for many winters to come.
Still astonishing after all these years
By Omnivorousreader on Aug 07, 2001
Winter's Tale was the first contemporary novel I ever bought in hardcover; it came out when I was 13 years old, and I was so taken by the worshipful front page review in the NY Times Book Review that I bought it. At the time, most of my literary reading had consisted of Charles Dickens novels, and David Copperfield had already put the writing bug in me. But it was Winter's Tale that fixed me on my course--Helprin's writing was so astonishing, his asides so insightful, his descriptions of places and people so tangible (I can still taste the hot rum toddies from the Oyster Bar!), and best of all, he was ALIVE. In fact, I was so enraptured with the book as a 13-year-old that for many years I was afraid to pick it up again, for fear I'd find it a lesser piece of work than I'd remembered. A Soldier Of the Great War had not had the same effect on me (though I still thought it was a superb book), and Memoir From Antproof Case had struck me as entertaining but erratic. Finally, a couple of years ago, I fetched my old hardcover Winter's Tale from my parents' house and got up the nerve to page through it again. Right away, I was swept right back into Helprin's fairy tale New York. It is what a great city ought to be: larger, wilder, more beautiful, a place where dramas play themselves out on a cosmic scale. And the thief Peter Lake remains one of my favorite characters in all of literature. The book does have its flaws, but what novel doesn't? The sections with Peter Lake are far and away the best; Part Two feels like Helprin is marking time (it was the slowest part of the book even when I was 13), and there are some who might find his italicized introductory sections tendentious (though I still get shivery when I read them). The women are all just a little too beautiful, and the men (other than Peter Lake and his nemesis, Percy Soames) just a little too square-jawed and handsome. Those who think of Helprin as a conservative first and a novelist second won't be surprised by his romanticization of turn-of-the-century New York or the messianic overtones of Peter Lake's story; the fantasy is always at heart a reactionary art form. But all that said, everything I loved about the book the first time through still holds true today. Prose artists like Helprin come along only once or twice in a generation, and Winter's Tale remains his highest stylistic achievement. His descriptions--the fog that hangs over Staten Island, Beverly's tubercular rosy glow, sleighing on a cold clear night, the thunder of hooves on cobblestones, a bridge made of light--still have the effect of altering how I see and think about the world around me. And I'll say it again: Peter Lake is one of the all-time great characters, on a par with Hamlet, Pip, Dorothea, Isabel Archer, Jay Gatsby and Mrs. Ramsey. Like Helprin's New York, the book's flaws may keep it earthbound, but in its glimpses of transcendence it remains as breathtaking as ever.
Sheer Insanity and Gorgeous Magic
A Customer on Aug 17, 2000
Winter's Tale, a gorgeous masterpiece by master writer Mark Helprin is a book about the beauty and complexity inherent in the human soul, about God, love and justice and the power of dreams, those that take place while we sleep and those that we conceive while awake. The story begins and ends with Peter Lake: orphan, master mechanic, and master second-storey man. One night Peter attempts to rob a fortresslike mansion in New York's Upper West Side. Although he believes the house to be empty, it is not. Beverly Penn, daughter of the owner is home. Home and dying, and thus begins a love affair between a middle-aged Irish burgler and a fatally-ill heiress. A simple and uneducated man, Lake cannot understand the love in which he becomes so thoroughly entangled that he is driven "to stop time and bring back the dead." Inbetween the story of Peter Lake and his quest to overcome death through the power of enduring love, Helprin shows us a magical view of a New York City that is, at times, so extraoridnarily real you think you are there, and at other times so magical you only wish you could be. All of Helprin's protagonists, however, are not native New Yorkers and have come from elsewhere to seek their destiny, a fact that goes a long way towards helping those of us not familiar with the city feel that we have come to both know and love it. Winter's Tale spans the entire twentieth century and we get a glimpse of everything from horse drawn carriages on cobbled streets to lunatics who rub elbows with sable-wrapped heiresses on Fifth Avenue. Ignoring reality, Helprin's book is a glorious and ethereal melange of magic and insanity in which people are picked up by a wall of clouds that engulfs the city and then deposited in other times and other places. Although it can seem disjointed to someone not accustomed to this style, it is always a delight. Helprin never fails to reward readers with one surprise after another: a village hidden on an island in a solid lake of ice where time stands still and the inhabitants do nothing but skate, ice-sail and star gaze, equipped with sparkling lanterns and mugs of hot-buttered rum; dead loved ones who are not really dead at all but simply living joyously in another time and place awaiting our own arrival; and a majestic white horse that can actually jump five city blocks at one time and help its rider to escape anything that happens to be in pursuit. In Winter's Tale, anything that can happen, does happen, and while some of it is impossible, though still always glorious, much of it really is possible, though not quite probable. There is Beverly, who sleeps on the roof of her father's mansion, in the cold, winter air, in a specially-made bed of furs and canopies, watching the stars and defying the advent of death; there is Lake, himself, who makes his home in the rafters of Grand Central Station; there are midnight horse-drawn sleigh rides from the heart of New York City to the almost mythical Lake of the Coheeries which can only be found by the light of the moon across almost endless expanses of ice and snow; there are the clouds that drop a living man into the icy waters beside the Staten Island Ferry; and there are boats that simply vanish into an opaque, lightening-flickered fog bank, never to be seen again. Winter's Tale, however, is fantasy and intense romanticism, not magic realism. But fantasy and intense romanticism are exactly what are called for in this fantastic and intensely romantic tale. The protagonists of Winter's Tale all meet, lose contact with one another and then meet again as destinies cross, lose their way, and then double back to cross again. Helprin drops many hints along the way that New York is heading for its Armageddon, a point where all good and evil will finally meet in one climactic moment and a golden light of peace, love and justice will usher in a new life for this glorious city. It could happen, and then again, maybe not, but Winter's Tale is certainly worth the trip to see. Told in gorgeous prose throughout, Winter's Tale weaves an insanely magical tapestry of beauty and love that is both death-defying and life-affirming. After you read it, you will feel that it is something you could not have lived without.
A standout on any top 10 books of all time list
By M. H. Bayliss on May 19, 2000
You will never be the same after reading A Winter's Tale. It's sheer lyric beauty and dazzling prose will stay with you long after you close the last page. You can feel the cold, you can imagine the lost world of New York, you can be totally absorbed by Helprin's magic realism of sorts as he transports you to an earlier time. No one who likes New York should miss this book. After rereading it recently, I realized that few books I have ever read hold together as well as this one, surely Helprin's masterpiece. Jack Finney's Time and Again is the only book that comes close to that turn of the century New York, but it's not nearly the work of genius that this is. Savor it and reread it every few years.
Beverly Penn by The Waterboys
By Bornintime on Apr 21, 2007
This will probably be of limited interest to most of you but I just discovered an odd link between 2 artists whose work I admire: Mark Helprin, the author of this great novel Winter's Tale and The Waterboys, the talented rock group led by the great singer / songwriter Mike Scott. On the expanded 2 cd reissue of their acclaimed mid 80's album This Is The Sea there is a song called Beverly Penn, about a main character in Winter's Tale. It turns out that this is a truly wonderful song, a great tribute from one artist to another. Here are the lyrics to Beverly Penn: Girl sleeping on a mansion roof under a wintery sky wrapped she is in furs and sable starlight in her eye and what is the name of this creature? where did she live and when? who was it and why was it that Peter Lake loved Beverly Penn Four O'Clock on a marble morning water pouring on her skin in fever her life bursts open and a hurricane blows in when high from the dreams of this creature a thief on a horse descends it was dawn and it was December and Peter Lake loved Beverly Penn It was all of a windy day and the sky was full of crows when her lovely soul ascended she just close her heart and rose and whither the soul of this creature? tell me the story again of scarves and songs and the skin of space and how Peter Lake loved Beverly Penn I would dive in a freezing river set fire to a hundred men if I could for just one time love somebody the way that he loved Beverly Penn Here are my thoughts on the book itself. It would probably make my all time top 10 list and I believe I have read almost 2000 books in my life. I've read Winter's Tale 4 or 5 times and have enjoyed it more each time than the last. I could see how it is not for everyone. If you are not moved by Helprin's prose poetry than this will be a long slog. If you sample some of the writing here and enjoy it I believe there is a way to read this book for maximum enjoyment. First off - Let the book take you. Don't have a preconceived notion of what you want from it. It is not a linear story about a particular set of characters. Characters and storylines disappear abruptly and sometimes permanently. Don't expect immensely satisfying conclusions. It is more about the journey than the destination. Lastly I would suggest that you read this book slowly. I almost always finish even long books in under 2 weeks but this one should be savored and read in small doses. 2 or 3 months is not a long time for this novel. It has an other-worldly beauty that is very rare.
Winter's Tale: a charmer in any season
By Hired Pen on Feb 24, 2000
Every writer should be so lucky with his first novel. Mark Helprin's debut novel is a gem of the magical realism genre, in which the impossible is not only possible but taken as matter-of-fact. This genre is the vehicle for Helprin's rich, complex tale of love, greed, loyalty, and betrayal, spanning the century between 1900 and 2000. His characters are so well written that they almost come off the page and straight into your home. Although this story is not a comedy, there is much humor--I laughed aloud when I read Winter's Tale the first time, and still laugh when I re-read it. This intricate story is really a collection of interwoven vignettes. The pivotal figure is Peter Lake, who floats into New York via the Hudson River, in a wicker basket, a la Moses. He is adopted by the Baymen, a primitive tribe that live in the swamps of New Jersey. His escapades take him to New York, where he loves, loses, and lives a hundred years without aging. He himself is the bookends of a century. Winter's Tale is a long book (673 pages), and it needed a bolder edit than it got. The beginning is slow, and the ending is cryptic and (some say) unsatisfying. In addition, the symbolism is sometimes heavy-handed. But there is so much fresh, luscious material in this book that it is worth reading every word. One more thing: this book holds up quite well under repeated readings. You'll enjoy it over and over.
By Marcus Sakey on Jan 17, 2007
I bought this after spotting it on one of those "Best 25 Books of the Last 50 Years" lists, then promptly forgot about it because, well, it looked daunting. 700 pages and the kind of glowing reviews a Gaddis novel gets, which doesn't necessarily translate to fun reading. I'm glad I got over that. The book is rollicking, luminous, filled with an equal measure of comic flights and philosophical musings. It's lit from within by a benevolence unlike anything I've ever read, touched with a child's unassuming grace. And the novel's faith in the absolute rightness of the world, in a beauty and balance we cannot always see, is potent and infectious and comforting. It's a challenging novel, and certainly not a perfect one, but that's a little like pointing out the flaws in a diamond.
Great book; terrible Kindle version
By Mark Siegel on Sep 01, 2012
The book itself is a beautifully written novel, but Amazon needs to demand better quality control from publishers. The Kindle version is replete with typos the detract from the reading experience. Is there some way to notify Amazon of this problem? Such errors wouldn't be acceptable in a hardbound edition and the same principle should apply here.