Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Gods of Gotham by Lyndsay Faye

The Gods of Gotham takes a look at mid-19th century New York city and the forming of the NYPD. Timothy Wilde, a bartender, is left disfigured and homeless after a fire. His brother Valentine, gets him a job with the newly formed NYPD. While on the job, he runs into a young girl, who's covered in blood. Rather than turning her in to the House of Refuge, he takes her home. Once there, she tells him this unbelievable story about buried bodies. He makes it his mission to uncover the facts of the story and if necessary track down the killer.

I really enjoyed this story, but it didn't start out that way. It took me two tries and about 40 pages to get into the book. While it was beautifully written, the language and terminology Faye used tripped me up more than once. Even after I started getting into the book, the terminology slowed down my already slow reading pace. The "flash terminology" (glossary) section at the beginning of the book helped define some of the terms used, but having to refer to it again and again bothered me a little. I think I would have enjoyed it even more had I been able to get past all of this.

Despite that, there was lots I really liked about the book. Faye really set the scene and described what life was like in New York at that time. I haven't been there, but her descriptions were believable. Seeing how the NYPD was formed was fascinating, too. It's hard to imagine what a city that large would have been like without someone to officially keep the peace. I also found the storyline fascinating. I think that above all, made me stick with the book.

The sections about the anti-Irish sentiment were enlightening. I knew that some existed, but I didn't know the reason or the extent of it.

The maps of New York city on the endpapers were wonderful. However, they were hard to read. Because I'm not at all familiar with the layout of the city (now or then) I really couldn't make much out on them. I found some of the spots that were talked about in the book, but not all of them. I tried to follow along when one of the characters was on the move, but wasn't able to find all of the street names. As you can imagine, this also slowed me down. I still love the maps, though. Very cool.

As I said above, the book is beautifully written, right down to the acknowledgements at the back of the book. The Historical Afterward, also at the back, talked more about New York and some of the real people in the book. It's definitely worth the read.

This book contained a few new-to-me words. I didn't bother list the ones that were already in the glossary. Here's my list:
piebald (page 15): spotted
palaver (page 88): fuss
sounder (page 107): herd of wild swine
strammel (page 107): straw
aguey (page 323): feverish

Highly recommended.

For more information about this book, please visit Penguin's website.

For more information about the author and her other books, please visit Lyndsay Faye's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at Penguin for this review copy.

The Gods of Gotham by Lyndsay Faye, Amy Einhorn Books ((G. P. Putnam's Sons) Penguin)) ©2012. ISBN 9780399158377(Hardcover), 414p.

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