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Ten great books set in NEW YORK

25th October 2017

New York is the latest place for us to visit in our Great Books series – ten Great Books set in New York. New York City comprises 5 boroughs sitting where the Hudson River meets the Atlantic Ocean. At its core is Manhattan, a densely populated borough that’s among the world’s major commercial, financial and cultural centers. Its iconic sites include skyscrapers such as the Empire State Building and sprawling Central Park.

‘If You Can Make it Here, You Can Make it Anywhere’ – New York saying.

A Friend is a Gift you Give Yourself by William Boyle

Thelma and Louise Meets Goodfellas…

After Brooklyn mob widow Rena Ruggiero hits her eighty-year-old neighbor Enzio in the head with an ashtray when he makes an unwanted move on her, she retreats to the Bronx home of her estranged daughter, Adrienne, and her granddaughter, Lucia, only to be turned away at the door. Their neighbor, Lacey ‘Wolfie’ Wolfstein, a one-time Golden Age porn star and retired Florida Suncoast grifter, takes Rena in and befriends her.

When Lucia discovers that Adrienne is planning to hit the road with her ex-boyfriend, she figures Rena is her only way out of a life on the run with a mother she can’t stand. The stage is set for an explosion that will propel Rena, Wolfie, and Lucia down a strange path, each woman running from their demons, no matter what the cost.

Believe Me by JP Delaney

Claire Wright likes to play other people.

A British drama student, in New York without a green card, Claire takes the only job she can get: working for a firm of divorce lawyers, posing as an easy pick-up in hotel bars to entrap straying husbands.

When one of her targets becomes the subject of a murder investigation, the police ask Claire to use her acting skills to help lure their suspect into a confession. But right from the start, she has doubts about the part she’s being asked to play. Is Patrick Fogler really a killer . . . Or the only decent husband she’s ever met? And is there more to this set-up than she’s being told?

And that’s when Claire realises she’s playing the deadliest role of her life . .

The Dakota Winters by Tom Barbash

By turns hilarious and poignant, The Dakota Winters is a family drama, a page-turning social novel, and a tale of a critical moment in the history of New York City in the year leading up to John Lennon’s assassination.

It’s the fall of 1979 when 23-year-old Anton Winter, back from the Peace Corps and on the mend from a nasty bout of malaria, returns to his childhood home in the Dakota in New York City. Anton’s father, the famous late-night host Buddy Winter is there to greet him, himself recovering from a breakdown. Before long Anton is swept up in an effort to reignite Buddy’s stalled career, a mission that takes him from the gritty streets of New York, to the slopes of the Lake Placid Olympics, to the Hollywood Hills, to the blue waters of the Bermuda Triangle, and brings him into close quarters with the likes of Johnny Carson, Ted and Joan Kennedy, and a seagoing John Lennon.

But the more Anton finds himself enmeshed in his father’s professional and spiritual reinvention, the more he questions his own path, and fissures in the Winter family begin to threaten their close bond.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

This is a New York classic about a young girl growing up in Brooklyn, evocative of this area of New York (Williamsburg) and describes the experience of people immigrating into the city.

“A profoundly moving novel, and an honest and true one. It cuts right to the heart of life. . . . If you miss A Tree Grows in Brooklyn you will deny yourself a rich experience.”

Downtown by Pete Hamill

Manhattan, the keystone of New York City, is a place of ghosts and buried memory. One can still see remnants of the British colony, the mansions of the robber barons, and the speakeasies of the 1920s. These are the places that have captivated the imaginations of writers for centuries. Now Pete Hamill brings his unique knowledge and deep love of the city to a New York chronicle like no other.

Everyone is Watching by Megan Bradbury

Everyone is Watching is a novel about the men and women who have defined New York. Through the lives and perspectives of these great creators, artists and thinkers, and through other iconic works of art that capture its essence, New York itself solidifies. Complex, rich, sordid, tantalizing, it is constantly changing and evolving. Both intimate and epic in its sweep, Everyone is Watching is a love letter to New York and its people – past, present and future.

The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis

When she arrives at the famed Barbizon Hotel in 1952, Darby McLaughlin is everything her hall mates aren’t: plain, self-conscious, homesick and convinced she doesn’t belong. Yet when she befriends Esme, a Barbizon maid, she’s introduced to an entirely new, colourful yet seedy side of New York City. Over half a century later, journalist Rose Lewin hears rumours of Darby’s involvement in a deadly skirmish with a hotel maid. A perfect distraction from her own imploding personal life, Rose becomes obsessed with finding the truth about what really happened at the hotel.

Call it Sleep by Henry Roth

David Schearl arrives in New York in his mother’s arms to begin his new life as an immigrant in the ‘Golden Land’. David is hated by his father – an angry, violent man unable to find his niche in the New World – but is fiercely loved and protected by his Yiddish-speaking mother. An innovative, multi-lingual novel, Call It Sleep subtly interweaves the overwhelming love between a mother and son with the terrors and anxieties David experiences, as he seeks to find his own identity amidst the disarray of early twentieth-century America.

Little Deaths by Emma Flint

It’s the summer of 1965, and the streets of Queens, New York shimmer in a heatwave. One July morning, Ruth Malone wakes to find a bedroom window wide open and her two young children missing. After a desperate search, the police make a horrifying discovery. Noting Ruth’s perfectly made-up face and provocative clothing, the empty liquor bottles and love letters that litter her apartment, the detectives leap to convenient conclusions, fuelled by neighbourhood gossip and speculation.

Manhattan Transfer by John Dos Passos

Manhattan Transfer is an “expressionistic picture of New York” (New York Times) in the 1920s that reveals the lives of wealthy power brokers and struggling immigrants alike. From Fourteenth Street to the Bowery, Delmonico’s to the underbelly of the city waterfront, Dos Passos chronicles the lives of characters struggling to become a part of modernity before they are destroyed by it

Which titles would you add to the list? Remember there are more than 600 to choose from in the New York listings on TripFiction…! Each will transport you to some excellent fiction set in the city. Or you may have your own favourites you would like to include. Leave your thoughts in the Comments box below.

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  1. User: Jessica Norrie

    Posted on: 25/10/2017 at 8:57 am

    Have promised myself I won’t go back to the US while Trump is in the White House – but a girl can always read about it!

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