Novel captures New York's 400 years in 900 pages

Wed Nov 18, 2009 11:36am EST
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By Nick Zieminski

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - A large, protected harbor and a river route to the north made the tip of Manhattan an attractive spot for a Dutch settlement some 400 years ago.

The settlement -- soon British and eventually American -- grew into a global center of commerce and the arts, boasting some of the world's tallest buildings and richest people, and coming to symbolize the New World for the millions who came later.

That history provides the strands for a lavishly detailed fiction, "New York: The Novel," which covers four centuries in 900 pages and took three years to research and write with help from numerous experts on New York history.

Author Edward Rutherfurd follows several families from colonial times to the present, but anchors the tale on one clan, the Masters. Common themes, relationships and objects unite a long story into a coherent whole.

Rutherfurd, a specialist in multi-generational family sagas -- a genre he says was invented by James Michener -- had previously covered two millennia of history in "London," "Dublin," and "Russka."

He spoke with Reuters about New York, his favorite city haunts and writing very big books:

Q: A theme that unites the four centuries is money and trade. Is that something that you think defines New York City?

A: "All my books have an undertow. The thing is meant to be entertaining and full of information, but there has to be, to keep me going, some guts in there. What this book is about is freedom. That's what New York is about. Everybody's come to America, from the Pilgrims onwards, in search of freedom (whether) religious, economic, political or personal."   Continued...

<p>Author Edward Rutherfurd is seen in this undated handout photo. REUTERS/Jeanne Masoero/Handout</p>