Thursday, December 13, 2012

In Sunlight and Shadow by Mark Helprin

On the train to Philadelphia yesterday, I finished Mark Helpin's latest novel, In Sunlight and Shadow.  I came pretty close to crying.  Helprin is a soldier who writes love stories.  In this most recent book, the central love story was vivid, between two people iridescent with love.  The love story is set in New York, from the eastern end of Long Island to the reservoirs north of the city.  And it is a love story about New York City, set in the years just after World War 2.

For those who have read other of Helprin's books, this one is more down to earth.  The exaggerations in A Winter's Tale, in A Soldier of the Great War and A Dove of the East rival Mark Twain in being colossal and very American.  In Sunlight and Shadow, the hero lives for love and honor and finally is caught between the demands of both.  The same choice comes to the hero of many of Helprin's tales, but in the latest novel, the choice is more vivid and final.

If you think modern literary novels have squishy irresolute heroes (if they can be called heroes) and you would like to read a love story with strong admirable characters, this novel is for you.  As is almost everything Mark Helprin writes.