Reviews

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. . . . “In Sunlight and in Shadow” is a sublime anachronism, not only in its classical structure but in its belief that literature should serve higher truths. . . . 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 book especially soars in its latter half. A masterly 100-page interlude revisiting Harry’s wartime experiences during the Normandy Landings and the Battle of the Bulge expands the novels scope and sets it more clearly inside history. . . . Mr. Helprin builds superbly to a two-part finale . . . and the harmonization of the dual climaxes results in passages so gorgeous and stirring that I was moved to read them out loud. (The Wall Street Journal)

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)

The last epic novelist: Mark Helprin’s latest novel is sprawling, beautiful, and consequential. . . . In Sunlight and in Shadow has the feeling and sweep of Thomas Wolfe . . . . [and 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. A novel in which people fall in love in an instant, a novel that inserts phrases like “paralytic beauty” into the dialogue of young men. Helprin spins a world whole and entire and you can smell the air and see the quality of light and look at women with powerful eyes so intimately it’s uncomfortable. If Wolfe had lived to see the war and the country that emerged from it, he might have written something like this. . . . It is a novel, with all of the presumption and ambition and sense of transport that the word once carried when it was boss. . . .Helprin’s influences tend to other centuries, to Shakespeare and Melville . . . . [He] takes the long view, and in that maybe there is a lesson for those who have given up on ambition. If his latest novel is a book out of time, perhaps it holds clues as to where the novel ought to go from here.(Esquire)

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)

“In Sunlight and in Shadow” takes a huge bite out of one very complex Apple, blending aspects of its art and commerce into a story that pulses not just with romance, but also with an energy befitting America’s most vibrant city. Helprin is a master of his material. (Seattle Times)

Helprin paints a dazzling portrait of the city . . .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. (People)

Helprin’s suspenseful, many-stranded plot is unfailingly enthralling. The sumptuous settings are intoxicating. . . . Helprin’s personal articles of faith shape every scene as he expresses deep respect for soldiers, sensitivity to anti-semitism and racism, and stalwart belief in valor and individual exceptionalism. So declarative is this philosophical tale that it can be read as Helprin’s spiritual and lyrical answer to the big, bossy, and enduring novels of Ayn Rand. (Booklist)

[A] grand pageant from the author of A Soldier of the Great War . . . . glorious and golden, truly like reentering another world where another sensibility prevails and even the sunlight and shadow have a different weight. (Library Journal)

Helprin is the closest thing modern culture has to such esteemed figures as John Keats and Walter Pater – he evinces a type of Romantic Aestheticism that is a dying breed in this barbarous age. . . .Though Modernists and Post-Modernists have undoubtedly dominated the twentieth century, and the beginning of the twenty-first century, I do foresee the pendulum swing back . . . [with] Mark Helprin as a leading figure of the 21st century Renaissance. (Huffington Post)

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. . . .It’s spring, 1946. The postwar world seems renewed. as the music of Helprin’s prose would announce. . . .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. (NPR)