Metropolis: A Novel

Metropolis: A Novel

by Elizabeth Gaffney
4.1 11

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Metropolis: A Novel by Elizabeth Gaffney

Elizabeth Gaffney’s magnificent, Dickensian Metropolis captures the splendor and violence of America’s greatest city in the years after the Civil War, as young immigrants climb out of urban chaos and into the American dream.

On a freezing night in the middle of winter, Gaffney’s nameless hero is suddenly awakened by a fire in P. T. Barnum’s stable, where he works and sleeps, and soon finds himself at the center of a citywide arson investigation.

Determined to clear his name and realize the dreams that inspired his hazardous voyage across the Atlantic, he will change his identity many times, find himself mixed up with one of the city’s toughest and most enterprising gangs, and fall in love with a smart, headstrong, and beautiful young woman. Buffeted by the forces of fate, hate, luck, and passion, our hero struggles to build a life–just to stay alive–in a country that at first held so much promise for him.

Epic in sweep, Metropolis follows our hero from his arrival in New York harbor through his experiences in Barnum’s circus, the criminal underground, and the building of the Brooklyn Bridge, and on to a life in Brooklyn that is at once unique and poignantly emblematic of the American experience. In a novel that is wonderfully written, rich in suspense, vivid historical detail, breathtakingly paced, Elizabeth Gaffney captures the wonder and magic of a rambunctious city in a time of change. Metropolis marks a superb fiction debut.

From the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781588364579
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 03/01/2005
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 480
Sales rank: 339,489
File size: 666 KB

About the Author

ELIZABETH GAFFNEY is an advisory editor of The Paris Review. In addition to teaching writing at New York University, she has translated from German The Arbogast Case (Thomas Hettche), The Pollen Room (Zoë Jenny), and Invisible Woman: Growing Up Black in Germany (Ika Hugel-Marshall). Her short fiction has appeared in North American Review, Colorado Review, Brooklyn Review, Mississippi Review, The Reading Room, and Epiphany. Metropolis is her first novel. To learn more about Elizabeth Gaffney, please visit her website at

From the Hardcover edition.

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Metropolis: A Novel 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Before reading Amy Ephron's book A Cup Of Tea I would not have even picked this one up. Period books always intimidate me. But I read that very short novel by Amy Ephron and I was encouraged to pick up Metropolis by the similar periods the books take place. Metropolis was however completely different and captivated me from the first two pages which I read in store. And I just knew I had to keep reading. The story gets quite complicated and read a little slow but excitingly so. You CANNOT wait to know what is going to happen at any given moment during the story. It is suspenseful in a very edge of you seat way quite like watching a movie. I was completely heartbroken to have to finish reading this book. I loved reading it soo much and wanted so much to get to the end to know what would be the end. But once I got there I hated to put the book away wanting more of Gaffney's characters and her writing. Fabulous reading. And instantly took a spot on my top ten list displacing another. A must read for anyone interested in the history of immigrants or the inner workings of getting thru life however you possibly must. A vibrant and sometimes sad story that will keep you interested till the. Very. Last. Word.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Elizabeth Gaffney's Metropolis is a captivating story, once it manages to suck you in. The novel starts off slowly -- I found myself wondering at first if I would enjoy the book or if I would regret spending my time reading it once I had finished. It didn't take long -- the characters definitely grew on me as I got to know them through reading. In retrospect, the slow pace of the novel fits well with the relative pace of life during the story's time period, compared to that of today. Horse-drawn carriages contrasted with modern cars... letters taking months to travel overseas compared to the instant communication of e-mail. I was probably drawn to this novel by my frequent wondering about what it would have been like to have lived as a contemporary of my grandparents or great-grandparents, when technology was far less advanced. There are fascinating bits of science, physics, engineering and medicine thrown in with the usual human elements of interaction and emotion. Indeed, history is a great character in this novel as well. On the human side, the novel contains some very interesting studies of nature vs nurture, giving voice to a concept and allowing the reader to draw his or her own conclusions to some extent. Gaffney's highly descriptive style of writing easily transports you back through time to a period when certain technologies were in their infancy, while demonstrating that many things -- people, crime, racism, love, and luck -- may not have not been changed by time that much after all. Gaffney weaves an unusual story that slowly, carefully manages to wrap you around its little finger by the end.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Elizabeth Gaffney wrote well. She just didn't seem to relate the story well. This book did not live up to my expectations. I expected a period piece on New York after the Civil War. Unfortunately many of the details about life in that period were not provided. My expectation was for something similar to Pillars of the Earth or Forever, where you actually felt you were visiting the time. Not so here. The characters would visit a bath house, ride a ferry, travel the streets, live in a flophouse, etc., etc. but the lack of description could have placed them in virtually any period. And the story, while interesting, contained the largest set of coincidences I have read in years. This didn't take place in a town of 50 but in a City of hundreds of thousands, yet the same set of characters kept inadvertently meeting although they operated for much of the novel many miles apart. So, while the book kept my interest until the predictable end (probably a credit to Ms. Gaffney's writing style), it left me with a feeling of relief that it was over.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Albeit fiction, Elizabeth's Gaffney novel is a fascinating glimpse into history. I also applaud the authoress for her proper use of the English language - unfortunately a declining art in contemporary literature.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I felt transported to the time. Ms Gaffney did her research well and translated it into an exciting story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book could have, and .should have, been written in 200 less words. Less convolution and brutality, would have been much better. I found myself skipping long, boring passages. needless to say, I did not like this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Interesting bits of nyc history
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
A engrossing read filled with a combination of fact and fantasy-