Monday, July 28, 2008


Emily Barton's 2006 novel is set in Brooklyn in the late 18th century. It is one of those books that mixes historical fact with pure fantasy. The fantasy here is the construction of a bridge across the East River to Manhattan, something that did happen for another three generations.

The bridge is a metaphor - a big, 4,000-foot-long metaphor - that is very much belabored. And this is a tale heavy with dread; for about the last 400 pages, the reader is convinced that everything will end in death and disaster. Reading it is like watching a car crash in slow motion.

Nevertheless, this is enjoyable reading. Barton develops rich characters while still writing with economy and precision. We're left longing to follow the lives of the people she has created, and their children, and hope we may do so in a sequel.

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