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Addison Public Library 1 FICTION Adult Fiction Book
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Angelica Free Library 1 FICTION Adult Fiction Book
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Summary

Summary

"An elegant page-turner of nineteenth-century detective fiction." --The Washington Post Book World One rainy morning in 1871 in lower Manhattan, Martin Pemberton a freelance writer, sees in a passing stagecoach several elderly men, one of whom he recognizes as his supposedly dead and buried father. While trying to unravel the mystery, Pemberton disappears, sending McIlvaine, his employer, the editor of an evening paper, in pursuit of the truth behind his freelancer's fate. Layer by layer, McIlvaine reveals a modern metropolis surging with primordial urges and sins, where the Tweed Ring operates the city for its own profit and a conspicuously self-satisfied nouveau-riche ignores the poverty and squalor that surrounds them. In E. L. Doctorow's skilled hands, The Waterworks becomes, in the words ofThe New York Times, "a dark moral tale . . . an eloquently troubling evocation of our past." "Startling and spellbinding . . . The waters that lave the narrative all run to the great confluence, where the deepest issues of life and death are borne along on the swift, sure vessel of [Doctorow's] poetic imagination." --The New York Times Book Review "Hypnotic . . . a dazzling romp, an extraordinary read, given strength and grace by the telling, by the poetic voice and controlled cynical lyricism of its streetwise and world-weary narrator." --The Philadelphia Inquirer "A gem of a novel, intimate as chamber music . . . a thriller guaranteed to leave readers with residual chills and shudders." --Boston Sunday Herald "Enthralling . . . a story of debauchery and redemption that is spellbinding from first page to last." --Chicago Sun-Times "An immense, extraordinary achievement." --San Francisco Chronicle From the Trade Paperback edition.


Author Notes

E. L. (Edgar Lawrence) Doctorow was born on January 6, 1931, in the Bronx, New York. He received an A.B. in philosophy in 1952 from Kenyon College and did graduate work at Columbia University. He served in the U.S. Army Signal Corps from 1953-1955.

He began his career as a script reader for CBS Television and Columbia Pictures and as a senior editor for the New American Library. He was editor-in-chief for Dial Press from 1964 to 1969, where he also served as vice president and publisher in his last year on staff. It was at this time that he decided to write full time.

He wrote novels, short stories, essays, and a play. His debut novel, Welcome to Hard Times, was published in 1960 and was adapted into a film in 1967. His other works include, Loon Lake, The Waterworks, The March, Homer and Langley, and Andrew's Brain. He won the National Book Award for Fiction in 1986 for World's Fair and the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction in 1976 for Ragtime, which was adapted into a film in 1981 and a Broadway musical in 1998. Billy Bathgate received the PEN/Faulkner Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the William Dean Howells Medal in 1990. The Book of Daniel and Billy Bathgate were also adapted into films. He received the 2013 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters for his outstanding achievement in fiction writing. He died of complications from lung cancer on July 21, 2015 at the age of 84.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 4

Booklist Review

Doctorow's ninth novel is another variation on his favorite theme, New York City's delirious history, but it's an entirely different creature than its predecessors. Set in New York during the frenzied and cynical aftermath of the Civil War, this suspenseful narrative is told by an old, wry newspaper editor named McIlvaine. It all began with the disturbing, if not downright inconvenient, disappearance of McIlvaine's favorite freelance writer. Moody, young, and uncompromising, Martin could have been rich since his profiteering father amassed vast sums slave trading and selling shoddy goods to the Union army, but Martin objected to his father's venality and immorality and got himself disowned. His handsome young stepmother did no such thing, yet, when old Pemberton dies, she is left destitute: the family fortune is nowhere to be found. Just before Martin vanishes, he tells friends that he has seen his allegedly dead father riding around in a white coach. McIlvaine turns to the one police officer he trusts, an uncommon man of uncommon height and shrewdness. As they begin their investigation, we are reminded of the Holmes-Watson team, but as this astonishing and ghoulish story unfolds, we also detect echoes of tales about mad scientists, vampires, and the pursuit of eternal life. Curiously, New York City itself becomes the central character. An "unprecedented life form," it seethes with the hectic hustling of street urchins, thugs, and corrupt officials. Doctorow revels in dramatic descriptions of the rapidly mutating cityscape while he dramatizes life's brutal pragmatism and our capacity for sinister acts. Gothic and penetrating, rooted in Poe and Melville, and crisply written, this is a rare treat. ~--Donna Seaman


Publisher's Weekly Review

Each novel by Doctorow is an entirely different experience, a journey of the imagination into hitherto uncharted territory. The Waterworks , set in the corrupt but hideously exciting New York of the decade following the Civil War, is the strangest such journey yet. The narrator, an elderly newspaperman named McIlvaine, recalls the bizarre events surrounding the disappearance of one of his paper's best freelance writers in 1871. Martin Pemberton was the son of Augustus Pemberton, a brutal, cunning man who had made a fortune as a war profiteer, then died, leaving his family mysteriously penniless. Martin was convinced he had seen his father alive, in a coach in the company of other old men; then Martin vanished. McIlvaine interests the municipal police, in the person of odd, incorruptible Captain Edmund Donne, and together they ferret out a weird scheme in which aging millionaires have paid the brilliant, cold-blooded Dr. Sartorius to preserve their lives in a state of suspended animation. The tale has the brightly lit intensity and surreality of a dream, heightened by McIlvaine's halting, amazed narration; and such is the power of Doctorow's imagination that the very city itself, its burgeoning modernity, its huge machines, its febrile citizenry, seems to become a major actor in the drama. World's Fair and Billy Bathgate were both given a human dimension by their child's-eye point of view. Here Doctorow is taking a larger risk by placing the reader at a much greater distance from the events and subduing his contemporary sensibility in favor of a wonderfully convincing 19th-century angle of vision. It is as if Edgar Allan Poe and Henry James had somehow combined their incompatible geniuses to bring this profoundly haunting fable to life. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal Review

Something's amiss with Martin Pemberton, renegade son of rich, unscrupulous Augustus Pemberton and favorite freelancer of the persevering editor of the New York Telegram, who narrates this tale. First, Martin claims to have seen his dead father on a horse-drawn omnibus, and then the son disappears. The worried editor contacts Inspector Edmund Donne-the only honest cop in 1870s New York, where the Tweed Ring holds sway-and eventually they discover that the ailing Augustus is part of an experiment by the brilliant Dr. Sartorius to prolong the lives of several old men rich enough to foot the bill. Cast as a mad scientist, Sartorius uses methods that prompt the narrator to mourn, ``I was haunted...not by ghosts, but by Science....I imagined that it all might be initiatory, a kind of spiritual test in a world ruled by God after all.'' The twist, of course, is that Sartorius's methods are commonplace medical procedures today. Doctorow wants us to think about issues of mortality and morality, and indeed this piece works better as a philosophical treatise than a novel. The points are neatly made, the characters well etched, and the plot hums along nicely, but it doesn't quite come alive. It's not the best Doctorow, but most libraries will still want this. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, 11/1/93.]-Barbara Hoffert, ``Library Journal'' (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


School Library Journal Review

YA‘Newspaper editor McIlvaine investigates the disappearance of freelance journalist Martin Pemberton and uncovers a macabre scientific experiment that involves Pemberton's supposedly dead father and several other wealthy old men. The narrative's digressions contain the heart of the novel: Doctorow's presentation of New York in 1871 as impacted by the Industrial Revolution and the corruption of Boss Tweed's government. Although the book is not overly long, its complexity of diction will deter all but the most erudite YAs. Those who persevere will gain insights into journalism, post-Civil War society, and political corruption while considering the implications of medical experimentation, then and now.‘Arlene Bathgate, Chantilly High School, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


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