Cultural · Culture · Historical Fiction · History

New York – Edward Rutherford

★★★

New York will be one of those cities that will always fascinate me. Which is why I picked this book up at a charity shop. However, I feel that this book would have been better as a series. That way Edward Rutherford could have concentrated more on character development as this is something I struggled with. Just as I was getting into a character’s story, it would change to another character.

The thing that links the families together is a Wampum belt. The first character we meet is a Dutchman called Dirk Van Dyke. He had an illegitimate daughter with a Native American. His daughter is called Pale Feather due to her lighter skin. She gives Van Dyke the belt as a gift. The beads form a pattern which reads ‘Father of Pale Feather’. The belt gets passed down from generation to generation, sometimes through different families. However, the meaning of the belt is soon lost. So no one knows that the pattern means. This is slightly ironic as one of the characters later on in the book makes a remark about how the kids of New York don’t know their own history.

I feel that this is something that Rutherford should have kept in mind. I can’t fault the historical research of the book because it is meticulous. However, I feel that this book lacked variety. New York is one of the most multi-cultured cities in the whole world so I was expected more diversity. The last quarter of the book is mostly focused on characters with a White English background.

There is an African-American family in the book but don’t ask me what happens to them as they seem to disappear halfway through the book. Did African-American’s stop playing an important part in the history of New York after a certain time? I don’t think so.

Huge chunks of history are mostly ignored (i.e. The Great Depression and the World Wars). As a history buff I found this disappointing.

Overall it wasn’t a bad read. I did learn a few things but I feel that Rutherford bit off more than he could chew with this book.

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