Hosack's Folly: A Novel of Old New York

Hosack's Folly: A Novel of Old New York

4.0 1
by Gillen D'Arcy Wood
     
 

Set in 1820s Manhattan, Hosack's Folly weaves a vibrant tapestry of a time, a place, and a people on the verge of surrendering their innocence and idealism for the greed and glory of the Gilded Age. In a cast of fictional characters as rich and colorful as any in Dickens stands one fascinating historical figure: David Hosack, the doctor who attended Alexander… See more details below

Overview

Set in 1820s Manhattan, Hosack's Folly weaves a vibrant tapestry of a time, a place, and a people on the verge of surrendering their innocence and idealism for the greed and glory of the Gilded Age. In a cast of fictional characters as rich and colorful as any in Dickens stands one fascinating historical figure: David Hosack, the doctor who attended Alexander Hamilton during the fatal duel with Aaron Burr and who went on to found Bellevue Hospital, Columbia University Medical School, and the first Botanical Garden in New York. The novel opens twenty years after the ill-fated duel and Hosack is once again at the center of controversy. Struggling to contain an outbreak of yellow fever on the New York docks, Hosack must also contend with the malice of powerful merchants and corrupt politicians who aim to cover up the fever threat at all costs. Brought down by scandal, Hosack turns to his brave young assistant, Albert Dash, to expose the truth. Meanwhile, an influential newspaper editor and a visionary architect team up on a scheme of their own to save the city: the Croton Aqueduct, the most ambitious public works project since Roman times.

Climaxing in a mass exodus as a deadly fever epidemic sweeps through old New York, Hosack's Folly is historical fiction at its most thrilling. Generously seasoned with comedy and romance, it is a thoroughly satisfying reading experience.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Yellow fever, bad water and political corruption make for high drama in a lively, well-researched novel set in 1820s New York City. David Hosack was the doctor famous for attending Hamilton after his duel with Aaron Burr and for founding Bellevue as a hospital for yellow fever victims. As the novel opens, the fever epidemic of 1814 is still a grim memory, and the doctor and his young assistant, Albert Dash, are calling for a quarantine of New York Harbor, as they believe the sickness spreads from incoming ships. Eamonn Casey, publisher of the New York Herald, and John Laidlaw, a Wall Street tycoon, dispute this theory; Casey, planning to run for governor, agrees to protect Laidlaw's interests in the port in exchange for his financial backing. Dash and Hosack's struggle to thwart the politicians and the disease takes readers through reeking hospitals, closed-door meetings, society soirees and the raging, teeming life of the Bowery, climaxing with scenes of a terrifying riot in the Park Theatre and a panicky mass flight from the city. A love triangle subplot feels a bit hackneyed and sometimes threatens to take over the story, yet the novel contains such vivid scenes and reaches such a satisfying conclusion that it's easy to forgive some occasionally shallow writing. Wood admirably reminds readers of the strange and haphazard evolution of the science, government and culture we take for granted. (Apr.) Forecast: Local sales should be strongest for this New York novel by a transplanted Australian-it would sit well next to the massive Burrows/Wallace history Gotham. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The planning of New York's Croton Aqueduct and a yellow fever outbreak make up the historical backdrop for Australian-born Wood's debut. In the roiling, politically corrupt Manhattan of 1824, newspaper editor Eamonn Casey's visionary plan to construct an aqueduct that will bring millions of gallons of desperately needed fresh water to the city is possible only if he cuts a deal with Wall Street businessman John Laidlaw. And that deal means Casey must use the New York Herald to smear physician David Hosack, who warns that all shipping should be quarantined to prevent yellow fever from being imported from the West Indies. Dr. Hosack and his idealistic assistant, Albert Dash, who lost his entire family in the 1814 yellow-fever epidemic, battle the authorities' obstinate refusal to close the port, but they can't overcome the combination of Laidlaw's old-money clout and Irishman-made-good Casey's savvy manipulation of the popular press and of bare-knuckled Bowery-boy enforcers. Meanwhile, Casey's daughter Virginia pines over Albert, who enjoys her intellectual companionship but is engaged to her best friend, Vera Laidlaw, a flighty actress. The improbability of a patrician New Yorker like Laidlaw allowing his daughter to appear on the stage is one of several weak strands in the story, which is far stronger on period detail and atmosphere, from marvelous descriptions of shopping on Broadway to grim ones of agonized fever victims in Hosack's Bellevue Hospital. Fortunately, Wood is inspired enough by the historical material to make vivid Laidlaw's financial skullduggery, Casey's ethical quandary, and Hosack's stiff-necked rectitude. The old men's maneuvers are far more interesting than the youngfolks' romantic difficulties and drive the narrative smartly toward the inevitable arrival of yellow fever, which clarifies both sides of the plot to almost everyone's satisfaction. Only adequate as fiction, Wood's first brings to life a bygone age with such vigor-and points out the relevance of its conflicts with such intelligence-that readers with an interest in Old New York will readily forgive its failings. Author tour

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781590512296
Publisher:
Other Press, LLC
Publication date:
04/11/2006
Pages:
408
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.10(d)

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