Friday, April 17, 2015

Mark Helprin: A Literary Genre all to Himself. "Refiner's Fire".

A soldier in one of the Israeli-Arab conflicts of the 1960's is gravely wounded in combat--so much so that he is laid among other dying soldiers in hospital ward, kept sedated for comfort. A lone young nurse watches the men for signs of life or proof of death. The soldier's name is Marshall Pearl; much of the action of the story takes place in the druggy, fevery visions and dreams in his head as he lies, awaiting the end--of his life or of the current condition. What memories he has! the author goes far out on limbs of description to bring to life this adventurous, intrepid young man. He is an American by upbringing and adoption, but was conceived in the ashes of the Holocaust and born on a sinking ship as its captain tries to run the British blockage of Palestine to deliver camp survivors to Israel.
Marshall barely survives his birth! As a child, his is fortunate to be adopted by wealthy Americans; he is given much freedom to roam around his parent's estate on the Hudson; he learns to climb, he hops freight trains, he is all about rugged adventure. But that doesn't begin to tell of the richly woven tapestry of the narration. If you ever read and liked "A Soldier in the Great War" by this same author, you will understand: the scenes in the book simply come alive in your head as you read; different scenes, repeatedly. Amazing story, released in 1977. The occasional gem of the book like this is why I love to read!

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