I tried, I really did. After Beloved, I thought I had turned a corner on my animosity for the magical realism sub-genre. Then I read this book and I just give up. There are hours of my life that I wasted reading this. (I know for some people, this is their favorite book ever, and if that describes you, just move along, there’s nothing for you here. Just turn around and never look back.)
I bet you’re wondering what this book is about. So am I. While I waxed poetically about Ian McEwan’s use of language in Atonement and his generous hand with SAT level words, Helprin tries the same tactic and I’m left discombobulated. Why did you start reciting all the synonyms that thesaurus.com pulled up for you, Mark? This isn’t school, there aren’t word count requirements! It’s like, I’m a terrible cook. I know this, Mr. Quorren knows this. So while making a stew one day, he assigned me the “easy” task of adding some bay leaf. So I put in a handful because “some” is an nonspecific term that, apparently, in the world of bay leaves, means one or two. So we essentially had bay leaf stew. There were other bits in there, but damned if you could determine what they were by taste. It was bay leaves, all the way down. So Winter’s Tale is a lot like that stew. Helprin threw as many SAT level words in there that he could find and you’re left with an after taste of “try hard”.
Good luck trying to figure out who, when and where the plot takes place. The descriptions of snow, when they didn’t take of twelve pages, were pretty, though, so I gave it one more star than I should have.