Sunday, March 3, 2013

Book Thoughts - The Gods of Gotham by Lyndsay Faye

The Gods of Gotham by Lyndsay Faye
published 3/31/12
480 pages

Synopsis from publisher -

1845: New York City forms its first police force. The great potato famine hits Ireland.

These two events will change New York City forever…

Timothy Wilde tends bar, saving every dollar in hopes of winning the girl of his dreams. But when his dreams are destroyed by a fire that devastates downtown Manhattan, he is left with little choice but to accept a job in the newly minted New York City Police Department.

Returning exhausted from his rounds one night, Tim collides with a girl no more than ten years old… covered in blood. She claims that dozens of bodies are buried in the forest north of Twenty-Third Street. Timothy isnt sure whether to believe her, but as the image of a brutal killer is slowly revealed and anti-Irish rage infects the city, the reluctant copper star is engaged in a battle that may cost him everything…

My thoughts -

Full disclosure? I almost didn't read this book. I saw it on the Publisher's Weekly best of 2012 lists and got it from the library, but when it came time to actually read it, I was torn. I just didn't know if I was really that interested, and sometimes these "thrillers" aren't really that well written.....

Boy, am I glad I took a chance on Gods of Gotham. This book is seriously good, folks. Faye tackles a lot - a real historical event, a fairly tense mystery, the slang used by the underworld in 1840's New York, a bit of romance, politics, and religion - and not a single aspect fell flat. I was engrossed from page one, and didn't want to put this excellent novel down until I'd turned the last page.

I was actually quite concerned by the novel's use of the "flash talk" that was starting to permeate society at the time this story takes place. I often struggle with books that rely heavily on a specific dialect - until I can get the flow, it is extremely difficult for me to actually enjoy the story, and I've been known to abandon a book simply because I couldn't crack the dialect "code". Faye does such a masterful job of integrating this slang into her story - with contextual clues and some small bits of explanation, I always felt like I knew just what each character was saying, and the dialect set the stage so well that I fell right into it and never looked back.

Faye's characters were rounded and interesting, with lots of interesting shades that made them quite real. I also found her writing style to be excellent - just perfect for the setting and voice of her novel. Because of her vivid descriptions of place and time, I was easily lost in the world of the Five Points, and felt the tension of each character trying to solve the tragic mystery.

"People tell me things. They tell me all sorts of things. About their finances, their hopes like torches in the dark, their tiny rages, their sins when the sins feel too much like shells and they want to break out of them. But never in my life had the new facts made me feel I weighed less instead of more, caught me op on a breeze. Maybe I would never understand Mercy, grasp why she spoke so glancingly or guess what she was thinking. Still. I only wished for decades to keep trying." (p. 203)

I only hope Faye plans to continue the story of Timothy and Val, Bird and Silkie - they are fantastic characters, and I can't wait to read what happens to them next!

Finished - 3/2/13
Source - South side library
MPAA rating - R for violence and adult situations
My rating - 9/10


bermudaonion said...

The flash talk kept me from getting into the story so I didn't like this as much as everyone else did.

Elizabeth said...

@Bermuda - I was surprised at how much it didn't bother me - I think I was just really into the story.