Customer Reviews for

Ragtime

Average Rating 4
( 47 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(26)

4 Star

(10)

3 Star

(7)

2 Star

(1)

1 Star

(3)

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

No. 1 on my all-time reading list

When asked a few years ago to name my 10 favorite books, there was no hesitation in listing Ragtime first. Doctorow is without peer as a storyteller and a master wordsmith.

posted by MrBogey on December 28, 2011

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Most Helpful Critical Review

1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

In a word: Painful

This book was absolutely awful. It was slow, didn't make sense, choppy, bizarre, and plainly, in a word, painful.

Who was narrating the story? I was confused about this. This didn't make sense to me. Was it another member of "Younger Brother" and "Mother's" family? ...
This book was absolutely awful. It was slow, didn't make sense, choppy, bizarre, and plainly, in a word, painful.

Who was narrating the story? I was confused about this. This didn't make sense to me. Was it another member of "Younger Brother" and "Mother's" family? Was it some random person? What was this about? I still don't understand who was telling the story and why. It was very odd.

Secondly, what was the point of this book? The plot was terribly choppy and at times confusing, jumping from one place and one set of events to another randomly, switching from character to character to character. It was difficult reading about so many new characters in only the first part of the story. And the terrible plot is only accentuated by the painfully blunt and rather underdeveloped writing style Doctorow uses: short and simple to-the-point sentences that make his novel sound like a high school English student wrote it, and threw in random vocabulary all over the place for good measure.

Finally, the profanity of this book was really terrible. I am not one to agree on banning books; I'm all for reading 'banned' books like The Catcher in the Rye and other novels that people have frowned upon due to language and other "inappropriate" content. But this novel's sexual content was so awful it made me gag. Doctorow disgustingly writes of sexual encounters throughout the entire novel, frequently describes acts of sex (and possibly lesbianism) and masturbation. It's enough to make you put down the book for good. It's like a sexual overload. I don't know what statement Doctorow was trying to make in having almost all of his characters focus on sex so often. It's incredibly pointless. It doesn't convey that in the early 20th century American were becoming more sexual. It's just gross!

Overall, this book was completely terrible. I would not recommend it even to a high schooler because of all the awful sexual content. But the plot, which I guess Doctorow was inspired to write after reading some history book or something, is what really kills.

posted by FrenchBeats on September 3, 2010

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  • Posted December 28, 2011

    No. 1 on my all-time reading list

    When asked a few years ago to name my 10 favorite books, there was no hesitation in listing Ragtime first. Doctorow is without peer as a storyteller and a master wordsmith.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 5, 2010

    Interesting and Infatuating

    Ragtime, the story of America's pastime, consists of numerous characters, each with tales as different as could be.

    E.L. Doctorow uses an interesting, slightly unusual, writing style that divides one book into separate stories that, with the smallest of threads tie themselves together. Because of this, however, he has left us a very convoluted novel with an array of over ten main characters.

    In my opinion, the style of using some many different stories and characters is an extremely captivating way to form a book. I fell in love with them all, because Doctorow gives just enough of his own vision, and leaves the rest up to the reader's imagination. Soon after flipping back the front cover, you begin seeing the little boy on the back porch contemplating in awe at the world around him.

    Another fascinating aspect of Doctorow's writing, is how he incorporates so many of the ara's famous celebrities and scandals that took place between. There are names like Emma Goldman and Harry Houdini, and though there names are fact, the stories are twisted into the fiction lives of those the writer has created. And to be frank, at times those twists make little to no real sense.

    My overall opinions of this book were good, with moments of frustration, and the question: "What on Earth just happened?" often times forced me to reread a chapter once or twice. But it never ceased to hold my attention. Ragtime, for me was a nine out of ten.

    I would indeed recommend this book; in fact, I already have. However, I implore digression to children under the age of thirteen.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 18, 2012

    One of the absolute finest narratives of the 20th century--a gre

    One of the absolute finest narratives of the 20th century--a great omniscient voice that weaves in and around events, pulling threads from real historical figures and events that at first seem to have been observed for their own sake, but then, like colors in a tapestry, return and connect, and expand. Extraordinary storytelling.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 3, 2010

    In a word: Painful

    This book was absolutely awful. It was slow, didn't make sense, choppy, bizarre, and plainly, in a word, painful.

    Who was narrating the story? I was confused about this. This didn't make sense to me. Was it another member of "Younger Brother" and "Mother's" family? Was it some random person? What was this about? I still don't understand who was telling the story and why. It was very odd.

    Secondly, what was the point of this book? The plot was terribly choppy and at times confusing, jumping from one place and one set of events to another randomly, switching from character to character to character. It was difficult reading about so many new characters in only the first part of the story. And the terrible plot is only accentuated by the painfully blunt and rather underdeveloped writing style Doctorow uses: short and simple to-the-point sentences that make his novel sound like a high school English student wrote it, and threw in random vocabulary all over the place for good measure.

    Finally, the profanity of this book was really terrible. I am not one to agree on banning books; I'm all for reading 'banned' books like The Catcher in the Rye and other novels that people have frowned upon due to language and other "inappropriate" content. But this novel's sexual content was so awful it made me gag. Doctorow disgustingly writes of sexual encounters throughout the entire novel, frequently describes acts of sex (and possibly lesbianism) and masturbation. It's enough to make you put down the book for good. It's like a sexual overload. I don't know what statement Doctorow was trying to make in having almost all of his characters focus on sex so often. It's incredibly pointless. It doesn't convey that in the early 20th century American were becoming more sexual. It's just gross!

    Overall, this book was completely terrible. I would not recommend it even to a high schooler because of all the awful sexual content. But the plot, which I guess Doctorow was inspired to write after reading some history book or something, is what really kills.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 30, 2013

    Wonderful story

    This is actually the second time I've read this work. It's Wonderfully written. You'll enjoy this book. To parphrase Dickens, "It was the best of time; it was the worst of time. It was Ragtime

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2013

    Brilliant

    One of the finest pieces of modern American literature. An amazing panorama that reads like All the King's Men in its scope and perspective.

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  • Posted January 18, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Alright.

    I read this book because I had knew the musical of the same name. I decided to read it because of this. Filled with juicy sensual scenes and lots of historic facts, it really was a good story. However , by the end of the story. I didn't really feel a neeeed to ever pick up the book Again.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 14, 2013

    Wonderful read

    Complex characters with simple names represent three very different groups of people in the magical and tumultuous time that was turn-of-the-twentieth-century America.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 25, 2012

    Wow

    One of the most amazing novels ever written.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 2, 2008

    Capturing an era

    Doctorow's Ragtime recreates a particular, vital period of the early 20th century with unusual focus on a very short time. The book is encyclopedic in its remembrance of that many- faceted era.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 13, 2006

    Exploring the American Dream

    The American mythos of being a land where dreams come true is paradoxically shattered and bolstered in Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow. In fact, reading the book is like entering the magic of dreams -- a mystical and surreal land where life is beautiful and cruel and heaped with absurd correspondences that carry eerie significance. In Doctorow's early 1900s, the lives of everyday fictional people such as a wealthy white family, a poor Jewish immigrant family, and a black family broken before it can form, flow freely into the experiences of historical figures such as the radical anarchist Emma Goldman, Gibson Girl Evelyn Nesbit, magician Harry Houdini, financier J.P Morgan, automobile manufacturer Henry Ford, architect Stanford White, psychoanalysts Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung and General Tom Thumb, to name just a few. These imagined interactions have lasting effects on everyone involved. Goldman brings the numb and much-abused body of the Gibson Girl Nesbit to life with matronly care by rubbing the girl's confined muscles with liniment. The young white child, referred to only as ¿little boy,¿ has a chance meeting with the famed Harry Houdini and finds himself compelled to call out to him ¿Warn the duke,¿ which many years only later holds meaning for Houdini, and also for all of us, since it refers to the shooting of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Jung, while traveling with Freud in New York City, meets the eyes of the immigrant ¿little girl,¿ and experiences a ¿shock of recognition.¿ All lives brush against each other, sometimes in tragedy or horror, sometimes in kindness or beauty, and often with humor.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 31, 2006

    Unique

    Ragtime is very interestingly written and that is what I liked about it. There was a clearly defined plot, but the plot was not impressive in itself. What was impressive was the writing. The way the author let the reader witness several different events happening at once by pulling the readre out of the story itself and making the reader an observer. Most authors try to pull the reader into the story. They want to make the reader feel the emotions of the characters in the story. Here, however, Doctorow let the reader simply witness the emotions of the characters in the story. He did this intentionally and very skillfully. It was a joy to read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 30, 2004

    Loved it so much I'm teaching it

    This awesome book helps to illustrate life in pre-WWI USA very well. It truly helps to illustrate the conditions that people were forced to endure to survive. I loved the musical so much that I decided to teach the book to my sophomore students! It is worth the time it takes to read it with my students.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 22, 2002

    An ingeniously interwoven masterpiece

    Doctorow's Ragtime stands out to me, alongside The Great Gatsby, as one of the great American novels of all time. Its universal account of the momentous transition in American society from a generation of restraint to one of infinite possibilities and ironies is one which resonates not only in all American literature but in our history as a nation as well. It is constructed, similar to Fitzgerald's 'Gatsby', in a perfectly, symphony-like, internconnected manner that, by the novel's conclusion, leaves no threads untied and, in a novel largely concerning a dissatisfaction in the turn of the century America, leaves the reader immensely satisfied. Ragtime is not one of the 'best ten books of the decade' but rather one of the ten best American books ever written!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 28, 2002

    The Classic Novel--Now A Magnificent Musical

    RagTime is the best!I love it!I even have some of the songs from the play,RagTime the Musical.I want the Original Cast Recording--Broadway.RagTime is about three families--a rich white famly,a black family,and an immegrant family,who run into each other at various times,mixing in with Harry Houdini,Evelyn Nesbit,Henry Ford,J.P.Morgan, Harry K.Thaw,Stanford White,Emma Goldman, Admiral Peary,and many more real characters involved in the actual time and places mentioned in the book.Doctorow has brought the magic and wonder of the story too life,by making it a wonderful,funfilled play for all ages.The characters come to life by the actors.The caracters mentioned in the white family are-Father,Mother,Grandfather,Younger Brother,and The Little Boy.The black family are-Coalhouse,Sarah,and The Black Child.The immigrant family are-Tateh,and The Little Girl.Doctrow has made this a magnificent piece of work,and a wonderful musical for the heart and soul.Really,read this book!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 23, 2001

    41 reader of list of 200 20th Century

    This is not just a slice of Turn of the Century America....it's the whole pie. The most enjoyable reading experiece of all of the list of 20th Century best that I've read to date. All of the various vignettes are interesting in their own right - but when woven together the tapestry is both colorful and beautiful. Highly recommended for a pleasurable (and easy) reading experience.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 7, 2001

    Loved every moment of it

    Before I read the book, I saw the play and it is my favorite Broadway musical. After reading the book, I was disappointed that the play and the movie did not go further into the stories of Evelyn Nesbit and Harry Houdini. The way Doctorow weaves his ficticious characters into the lives of people such as Nesbit, Houdini, J.P. Morgan and Henry Ford is fascinating. I couldn't stop reading this book.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 20, 2000

    The music is played in perfect sequence with the settting.

    In a time of unpredictable events, a new era of life and music is born. The ragtime era is a time of new politics, murder, aristocracy, immigration, revolution, and also a time of a country losing its innocence. E.L. Doctorow's 'Ragtime,' illustrates the many different events that occur during this time through numerous characters, both fictional and non-fictional. Each of the non-fictional characters help make the story more believable and help cement the setting. Doctorow accomplishes this by giving the reader a fact to support the fiction. Harry Houdini holds a minor role in which he wows the world with his magical talents. J.P. Morgan finances the world into a new dimension and Henry Ford produces Model T's and continually changes the way Americans work. Along with these characters the fictional characters exist, and they help to keep the story unfolding. One family is exposed to many of the unpredictable events that occur during this era. They witness racism, murder, magic, and revolution. The family connects with a Jewish man, Tateh, who brings immigration into the story, and a black musician, Coalhouse Walker, who brings with him revolt. All of the characters and events begin and end this ragtime era. Each character helps add to the changes in American society and the innocence lost during this time period. Scott Joplin's music is only a soft sound in the background, but his rags play throughout the entire book and keep it in rhythm. <p> Setting is the key in revealing the theme. 'Ragtime' is set at the turn of the century, before the first Great War. The family and their setting represent the innocence of the American society. They are protected in the beginning, but are soon exposed to the dangers and harshness of the world. Tateh, the Jewish man, represents the hope and ambition of the immigrants. His story begins in the Lower East Side, he has no money and is in constant fear of losing his daughter. At the end of the book he is prosperous and his American dream has come true. Henry Ford and J.P. Morgan also are representatives of ambition, but they play only a small role in the book. The changing world during this era, where anything is liable to happen, created a theme of a country losing its innocence. People no longer are able to predict what the future will be and demons lurch around every street corner. E.L. Doctorow's 'Ragtime' is written like a song, his themes intertwine and produce beautiful music.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 23, 2000

    New York , New York

    I, Believe that Ragtime is probably one of the best books that I have read in my lifetime. It was mandatory for my English I/II course and I believe that Ragtime was awesome is because it was interesting and informative.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 5, 2000

    COULDN'T STOP READING

    From the first sentence, I couldn't put it down. This tale fleshed out or gave life to historical personages I had previously considered little more than names of characters no different than those of ancient mythology. If you crave education laced with entertainment read this book.

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