‘City on Fire’6/29/2016
Garth Risk Hallberg’s first novel, “City on Fire,” is a behemoth, weighing in at more than 900 pages. Readers who might be intimidated by the size of this novel should know that it’s worth it. After reading this book, I was left wanting more.
It takes place in New York City in the 1970s, leading up to the blackout of 1977. It follows William and Regan Hamilton-Sweeny (brother and sister), Mercer and Keith (their significant others), Charlie, Sam, a magazine reporter and his neighbor, and the detective trying to figure out any of them have to do with a Central Park shooting.
The easy thing to do is to follow three or four major characters with minor forays into some other characters. Hallberg doesn’t do what is easy. There are four or five major characters, but large parts of this book are dedicated to what some might consider “minor” characters. By doing this, Hallberg gives the reader a more encompassing view of each character individually. By having a better understanding of every character involved in the story, when the final piece of this intricately woven story is placed, the reader is left feeling as if he or she had lived in 1970s New York.
If a book is more than 500 pages, it’s fine, but it better be worth it. In the case of “City on Fire,” it’s more than worth it. If you are worried that it might drag in the middle, don’t. Hallberg writes sentences so beautifully you are sure to be entertained throughout. This was one of the best books I read in 2015, and I cannot recommend it enough. CV
By Garth Risk Hallberg