In Sunlight and in Shadow
In Sunlight and in Shadow
By Mark Helprin
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), Hardcover, 9780547819235, 720pp.
Publication Date: October 2, 2012
Mark Helprin's enchanting and sweeping novel springs from this deceptively simple question, and from the sight of a beautiful young woman, dressed in white, on the Staten Island Ferry, at the beginning of summer, 1946.
Postwar New York glows with energy. Harry Copeland, an elite paratrooper who fought behind enemy lines in Europe, has returned home to run the family business. Yet his life is upended by a single encounter with the young singer and heiress Catherine Thomas Hale, as they each fall for the other in an instant.
Harry and Catherine pursue one another in a romance played out in Broadway theaters, Long Island mansions, the offices of financiers, and the haunts of gangsters. Catherine's choice of Harry over her longtime fiance endangers Harry's livelihood and eventually threatens his life. In the end, it is Harry's extraordinary wartime experience that gives him the character and means to fight for Catherine, and risk everything.
Not since "Winter's Tale" has Mark Helprin written such a magically inspiring saga. Entrancing in its lyricism, "In Sunlight and in Shadow" so powerfully draws you into New York at the dawn of the modern age that, as in a vivid dream, you will not want to leave.
"In its storytelling heft, its moral rectitude, the solemn magnificence of its writing and the splendor of its hymns to New York City, the new novel is a spiritual pendant to "Winter's Tale," and every bit as extraordinary...Even the most stubbornly resistant readers will soon be disarmed by the nobility of the novel's sentiments and seduced by the pure music of its prose...The harmonization of the dual climaxes results in passages so gorgeous and stirring that I was moved to read them out loud. That is fitting, because the writing throughout "In Sunlight and in Shadow" sounds as though it were scored to some great choral symphony. Harry himself says it best: "My view is that literature should move beyond opinion, where music already is, and old age, if we're lucky, may lead." -- Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal"Helprin has written another expansive novel, as if no one has yet alerted him that the novel is dead. Here it is, a poetic and likely enduring rendering of New York just after the Second World War, a love story that pines for love but even more fervently for an industrious and ascendant America that is no more and maybe never was.…In Sunlight and In Shadow matters. It is a novel, with all of the presumption and ambition and sense of transport that that word once carried when it was the boss…If his latest novel is a book out of time, perhaps it holds clues as to where the novel ought to go from here." --Mark Warren, Esquire "New York, New York, it's a wonderful town! And Mark Helprin's new near-epic novel makes it all the more marvelous. It's got great polarized motifs — war and peace, heroism and cowardice, crime and civility, pleasure and business, love and hate, bias and acceptance — which the gifted novelist weaves into a grand, old-fashioned romance, a New York love story...Helprin does several things extraordinarily well: He fights for and wins our close sympathy for his characters, even as he delivers a full-throated rendering of life at war and life at peace (with a little of each in the other). He also pays wonderful attention to the natural world, such as that New York spring that opens the story, the changing of seasons, dawn in France and winter in Germany during the war, such domestic matters as 30 minutes of kisses, and the rue and wonder of a great love affair. I was desperately disappointed, though, by the end of this grandly charming and deeply affecting novel — but only because it ended." -- Alan Cheuse, NPR "Helprin’s delightful new novel is a 705-page mash note to Manhattan in the years immediately following World War II. Like Winter’s Tale, the 1983 bestseller that made his name, it’s a paean to women and their beauty – and above all to romantic love and its abiding power…Helprin paints a dazzling portrait of the city during a particular moment in history and evokes the universal, dizzy delight of falling head over heels in love…Wise, saturated with sensory detail and beautifully written, Sunlight celebrates the unquenchable bliss of existence." -- Robin Micheli, People Magazine "Passionate, earnest, nostalgic, and romantic…Throughout the novel he splashes down paeans to virtue and beauty you’d have to be heartless not to enjoy…" -- Liesl Schillinger, The New York Times Book Review "What I’ve read so far is glorious and golden, truly like reentering another world where another sensibility prevails and even the sunlight and shadow have a different weight; the 100,000-copy first printing seems right." -- Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal Pre-pub Alert "IN SUNLIGHT AND IN SHADOW is every bit as terrific as you may have heard." -- Michael Cader in Publishers Lunch "A fine adult love story—not in the prurient sense, but in the sense of lovers elevated from smittenness to all the grownup problems that a relationship can bring." -- Kirkus, starred "In this prodigious, enfolding saga of exalted romance in corrupt, postwar New York, resplendent storyteller Helprin creates a supremely gifted and principled hero. Helprin’s suspenseful, many-stranded plot is unfailingly enthralling. The sumptuous settings are intoxicating." -- Booklist, starred Prose seems too mundane a term for Helprin’s extravagant way with words and emotions . . . . Post-World War II Manhattan isn’t merely the backdrop . . . it’s a magical urban landscape of "whitening sunrises . . .ferries that glide across the harbor trailing smoke. . . bridges diamond-lit and distant." . . . His penchant for providing an epiphany on nearly every page could become wearying. But just when you think "In Sunlight and in Shadow" might float away into the ether, lofted by the sheer beauty of his sentences, he brings it down to earth with a shrewd comment on the speech patterns of Catherine’s ultra-privileged social class, or a vividly specific account of the production process at the West 26th Street loft that houses Harry’s high-end leather goods business. . . . In Helprin’s rhapsodic rendering . . ."In Sunlight and in Shadow" is at heart a romance, not just the romance of two attractive young people but the romance of life itself. --Los Angeles Times Literary characters don’t get much more perfect than Harry and Catherine . . . poster-sized World War II archetypes of a vanished America. . . . "In Sunlight and in Shadow" is a sensational and perfectly gripping novel: a love story, a tribute to the fighting spirit of World War II, a hymn to the majesty of New York. --The Washington Post This flamboyantly anti-realistic novel is more symphonic prose poem than narrative. It is a paean to love, idealized, and also a love letter to New York City in all its rhythms, human and natural, its moods, weathers, changing colors of sky and water. The writing is so highly lyrical and lovely that sometimes my aesthetic receptors clogged with a surfeit of beautiful language. . . .I succumbed to its idiosyncratic spell. . . .There is a tragic climax, perhaps inevitably, since it is difficult to imagine a perfect love enduring unchanged by time. But the novel’s main theme is the loving embrace of small visions and actions that become extraordinary if we have the spirit and energy to notice their textures. --Minneapolis Star-Tribune Helprin is gifted at writing about war – not just combat, but the vastly complex and contradictory world that surrounds combat – and the passages describing Harry’s wartime experiences are . . . lyrical, thrilling and at times astonishing. . . . "In Sunlight and in Shadow," like all of Helprin’s novels, exists to remind us that. . . it is sometimes wiser and more fulfilling to cherish our deepest ideals than to mock them. --Chicago Tribune In the long sweep of his textured, absorbing look at life in New York City in the middle of the 20th century, Mark Helprin talks about many big issues, yet always gives them a human face. . . .Precise yet transcendent turns of phrase put readers right beside the couple as they deal with the circumstances . . . [of] a literary love story that rivals those celebrated in earlier classics. And Helprin has demonstrated once again the ability to make readers experience what Harry tells Catherine everyone must have: "the friction, the sparring with the world, that you need to feel alive." --St. Louis Post-Dispatch