Winter's Tale, Mark Helprin, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Inc, 1983, 688 pp
At last we come to the book that broke my reading slump. After being forced by circumstances to put it down at only 25% through, I could finally pick it up again and live in its spellbinding universe.
What can I say about a book that has 3622 reviews on Goodreads and 1069 on Amazon? I guess I can only say what I loved.
1.) It is long, so long, but I never wanted it to end. If heaven or eternal life were this entertaining, this full of diverse characters and big ideas and wonder, I would sign up. I can't say I was ever bored. Even the endless descriptions of weather and locations kept me engaged.
2.) The Big Idea: Actually it is a big question or a big quest. (How similar are those two words and both are derived from the Latin word "quaerere" meaning to seek, ask, inquire.) In this novel the question is "Is the Universe just?"
Ever since I can remember being able to think, I have asked myself and others that question. When I have protested against what I've perceived as unfair, I have mostly been told that life is not fair. When I have rankled against injustice, I have been instructed that justice is an ideal but nearly impossible to achieve.
The big idea here is that yes, the Universe is just but one must look at the big picture, take the long view. In a seemingly anarchic fashion, the universe, both animate and inanimate, tends toward balance and justice. At this point in my life I don't really worry anymore if such a concept is true or not. It is what I believe and the one freedom that cannot be taken away is the freedom of one's own beliefs. To have this belief narrated in such a great tale was wondrous for me.
3.) The interactions of characters, generations, historical periods and the intricacies that the author creates. While I love many kinds of stories, it is the long, intricate ones that please me most.
Hopefully the next time I hit a reading slump, and that is bound to happen, I will remember the cure: Go to the Books I Really Want To Read shelf and pick one up and read it.
(Winter's Tale is available in various formats by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)