The Waterworks

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Overview

In a city where every form of crime and vice flourishes, corruption is king, fabulous wealth stands on the shoulders of unspeakable want, and there are no limits to larceny. It is New York in 1871, where the disinherited son of a monstrous millionaire sees his dead father alive - and sets off a train of mystery and revelation that takes the reader into the darkest heart of evil and avarice in a thriller that only E.L. Doctorow could have written.

The author of Billy...

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The Waterworks: A Novel

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Overview

In a city where every form of crime and vice flourishes, corruption is king, fabulous wealth stands on the shoulders of unspeakable want, and there are no limits to larceny. It is New York in 1871, where the disinherited son of a monstrous millionaire sees his dead father alive - and sets off a train of mystery and revelation that takes the reader into the darkest heart of evil and avarice in a thriller that only E.L. Doctorow could have written.

The author of Billy Bathgate employs his famous storytelling gifts in a highly original and mysterious tale set in post-Civil War New York. It's 1871, and maimed veterans beg in the streets, newsboys fight for their corners, and a class of new wealth and weak intellect is all aglitter in a setting of mass misery.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Each novel by Doctorow is an entirely different experience, a journey of the imagination into hitherto uncharted territory. The Waterworks , set in the corrupt but hideously exciting New York of the decade following the Civil War, is the strangest such journey yet. The narrator, an elderly newspaperman named McIlvaine, recalls the bizarre events surrounding the disappearance of one of his paper's best freelance writers in 1871. Martin Pemberton was the son of Augustus Pemberton, a brutal, cunning man who had made a fortune as a war profiteer, then died, leaving his family mysteriously penniless. Martin was convinced he had seen his father alive, in a coach in the company of other old men; then Martin vanished. McIlvaine interests the municipal police, in the person of odd, incorruptible Captain Edmund Donne, and together they ferret out a weird scheme in which aging millionaires have paid the brilliant, cold-blooded Dr. Sartorius to preserve their lives in a state of suspended animation. The tale has the brightly lit intensity and surreality of a dream, heightened by McIlvaine's halting, amazed narration; and such is the power of Doctorow's imagination that the very city itself, its burgeoning modernity, its huge machines, its febrile citizenry, seems to become a major actor in the drama. World's Fair and Billy Bathgate were both given a human dimension by their child's-eye point of view. Here Doctorow is taking a larger risk by placing the reader at a much greater distance from the events and subduing his contemporary sensibility in favor of a wonderfully convincing 19th-century angle of vision. It is as if Edgar Allan Poe and Henry James had somehow combined their incompatible geniuses to bring this profoundly haunting fable to life. (June)
Library Journal
In the kind of historical fantasia we have come to expect from Doctorow, a young man in 1870s New York spots his supposedly deceased father on a horse-drawn omnibus and follows him into the depths of the city.
School Library Journal
YA-Newspaper editor McIlvaine investigates the disappearance of freelance journalist Martin Pemberton and uncovers a macabre scientific experiment that involves Pemberton's supposedly dead father and several other wealthy old men. The narrative's digressions contain the heart of the novel: Doctorow's presentation of New York in 1871 as impacted by the Industrial Revolution and the corruption of Boss Tweed's government. Although the book is not overly long, its complexity of diction will deter all but the most erudite YAs. Those who persevere will gain insights into journalism, post-Civil War society, and political corruption while considering the implications of medical experimentation, then and now.-Arlene Bathgate, Chantilly High School, VA
Christopher Lehmann-Haupt
"Haunting...mysteriously sinister. A gothic tale with the same concern about amoral science that Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley to write 'Frankenstein'." -- New York Times
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780452275492
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 5/1/1997
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 7.96 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

E. L. Doctorow
E. L. Doctorow
Few writers have succeeded as E. L. Doctorow has at creating stories (largely based in 1930s New York) that evoke both warm, personal memory and a grander national portrait. Doctorow doesn't always promise historical veracity, but he captures our imagination of the past flawlessly.

Biography

E. L. Doctorow, one of America's preeminent authors, has received the National Book Critics Circle Award (twice), the National Book Award, the PEN/Faulkner Award, the Edith Wharton Citation For Fiction, and the William Dean Howells medal of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He has also published a volume of selected essays Jack London, Hemingway, and the Constitution, and a play, Drinks Before Dinner, which was produced by the New York Shakespeare Festival. He resides in New Rochelle, New York.

Author biography courtesy of Penguin Group (USA).

Good To Know

Doctorow began his career as a reader for Columbia Pictures. He went on to work as an editor for New American Library in the early 1960s, and then served as chief editor at Dial Press from 1964 to 1969.

Critics assailed Doctorow for delivering a commencement address critical of President George W. Bush at Hofstra University in May 2004.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Edgar Lawrence Doctorow (full name; named for Edgar Allan Poe)
      Edgar Laurence Doctorow
    2. Hometown:
      Sag Harbor, New York, and New York, New York
    1. Date of Birth:
      January 6, 1931
    2. Place of Birth:
      New York, New York
    1. Education:
      A.B., Kenyon College, 1952; postgraduate study, Columbia University, 1952-53
    2. Website:

Customer Reviews

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