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 fiancé 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.
About Mark Helprin
Mark Helprin is the acclaimed author of Winter’s Tale, A Soldier of the Great War, Freddy and Fredericka, The Pacific, Ellis Island, Memoir from Antproof Case, and numerous other works. His novels are read around the world, translated into over 20 languages.
Harry Copeland is a sturdy-looking man, so much so that a wise aunt likens him to a young Clark Gable, to which he replies, “For Chrissakes, Elaine, when he was young, without the mustache, Clark Gable looked like a mouse.” There’s nothing mousy about Harry, though he does share Gable’s burden of tragedy. But that is far from his mind when he lays eyes on Catherine Thomas Hale on a New York ferry and is stopped in his tracks. He pursues her, and in time he wins her over, only to find that Catherine harbors many secrets—and that her family harbors more than a few hidden prejudices and is not at all happy when Harry comes a-courting in the place of Catherine’s longtime beau. The lovers’ story is appropriately tangled and star-crossed, for if Catherine has a wagonload of baggage, Harry, a former paratrooper, hasn’t quite forgotten the horrors of the war in Europe. The story crosses continents and is suffused with the California dream, but Helprin is really most at home in New York, which he describes with the affection and beauty that Woody Allen invested in his film Manhattan. There are other celebrations—of love, of books and learning—and other regrets, as when Harry finds himself “plundered by alcohol” and on the verge of doing things he will rue. Helprin charges the story with beautiful passages: “More like gentle lamps than stars, their blinking was not cold and quick like the disinterested stars of winter, but slow and seductive, as if they were speaking in a code that all mankind understood perfectly well even if it did not know that such a language existed.” – Kirkus Reviews
A Midcentury Romance, With ‘Sunlight’ And ‘Shadow’
NPR Book Review – September 26, 2012 (Excerpt)
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 that begins with a Hollywoodish meet-cute on the Staten Island Ferry.
“To be in New York on a beautiful day is to feel razor-close to being in love,” Helprin writes. “Trees flower into brilliant clouds that drape across the parks, plumes of smoke and steam rise into the blue or curl away on the wind, and disparate actions each the object of intense concentration run together in a fume of color, motion, and sound, with the charm of a first dance or a first kiss.”
Yes, so it’s spring 1946. The postwar world seems renewed, as the music of Helprin’s prose would announce. Harry Copeland, a 32-year-old former commando turned Manhattan businessman, is recently returned from the European theater. He boards the ferry for a trip to another borough, and discovers he’s begun a trip to another world. [Read the full article...]
Boy Meets Girl, and All Goes Downhill - Mark Helprin’s ‘In Sunlight and in Shadow’
The New York Times Book Review – October 4, 2012 (Excerpt)
If “In Sunlight and in Shadow” did not have Mark Helprin’s name plastered on the cover, a reader might surmise that the author was someone desperately trying to imitate Danielle Steel or Nora Roberts.
Written from the hero’s rather than the heroine’s point of view, this 700-plus-page tome is a bad romance novel, driven by a preposterous, melodramatic plot and filled with some truly cringe-making prose. It’s astonishing to think that the author of the delightful 2005 novel “Freddy and Fredericka” and the critically acclaimed “Ellis Island, and Other Stories,” could have written such a laughably awful book.
It’s 1946, and Mr. Helprin’s hero, Harry Copeland, a former soldier, has recently returned home to New York after several near-death experiences fighting the Nazis. He was sustained “in times of the greatest misery or danger” by his dream of finding “the woman for whom he had been made.” [Read the full article...]
A Love Song To Family, New York In ‘Sunlight’
NPR Book Review – October 6, 2012 (Excerpt)
When we get an early glimpse of Harry Copeland, he’s falling in love in an instant, with a girl he sees on the Staten Island Ferry. Her hair “trapped the sun and seemed to radiate light,” he writes, “and with New York in 1947, when it brimmed with color, light, drama and a babble of voices that reminded him of the world he fought to save as a paratrooper in World War II.”
Harry Copeland and Catherine Thomas Hale find each other on the ride back from Staten Island. She’s an heiress and an actress, and Harry has inherited his father’s leather factory. They love each other truly. But the world Harry Copeland helped save can still be cruel, and he’s forced to fall back on the friendships and proficiencies he learned in war to try to survive in peace.
Harry and Catherine occupy the postwar world of In Sunlight and In Shadow, Mark Helprin’s sweeping and lyrical new novel. Helprin talks with NPR’s Scott Simon about using his own memories and experiences to bring Harry and Catherine to life. [Read the full article...]
QUEEN OF MISFORTUNE A Lady Jane Grey Novel by Peter Carroll
A Love Story of Shakespearean Dimension!
Queen Of Misfortune is the fictional story of Lady Jane Grey as told by her beloved tutor, John Aylmer. At the time of her execution a stranger is recorded to have assisted her when, blind folded, she lost her way upon the scaffold. Was it the same strange who was also recorded to have visited her when she was imprisoned in the Tower? Little is known of this unfortunate girl who was beheaded for treason in the 16th Century. She was only 16. She is omitted from the list of monarchs but was actually queen for nine days. Author Peter Carroll, in his novel, follows John Aylmer’s close relationship with Jane as her tutor and later, as she grows up, her lover. [More...]
We are the only country that makes guns, including military-style assault weapons, available to anyone who wants to buy them. This is not freedom. It is a tyranny of death and destruction — a tyranny of which the National Rifle Association is proud. The Washington Post
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