Author Garth Risk Hallberg
I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review
New York City, 1976. Meet Regan and William Hamilton-Sweeney, estranged heirs to one of the city’s great fortunes; Keith and Mercer, the men who, for better or worse, love them; Charlie and Samantha, two suburban teenagers seduced by downtown’s punk scene; an obsessive magazine reporter, Richard, and his idealistic neighbor, Jenny, – and the detective trying to figure out what any of them have to do with a shooting in Central Park on New Year’s Eve.
The mystery, as it reverberates through families, friendships, and the corridors of power, will open up even the loneliest-seeming corners of the crowded city. And when the blackout of July 13, 1977, plunges this world into darkness, each of these lives with be changed forever.
City on Fire is an unforgettable novel about love and betrayal and forgiveness, about art and truth and rock ‘n’ roll, about what people need from each other in order to live… and about what makes the living worth doing in the first place.
What did I think?
I really don’t know where to even start with reviewing City on Fire! The book is just under a hefty one thousand pages which doesn’t make it a quick read! City on Fire is a highly anticipated release for Garth Risk Hallberg, with this being his first novel, he has certainly gone all out to impress! The rights to the film have already been purchased (before Hallberg had even found a publisher!) and it appears that Hallberg has received a six figure publishing deal too!
But, while that is all very impressing, after reading the book I can’t really seem to understand the huge ‘hype’ about it. Don’t get me wrong, it is a good read…but I wouldn’t go as far to say I would read it again, nor would I actively tell people they had to read the book (unless they approached the book with me in conversation).
Firstly, there are so many different characters in City on Fire and while that is sometimes good in books, I often found it difficult to keep up with who was who and what they were last doing. From memory, I can count about 10-12 characters of focus from the book…but even then I’m sure I’ve missed some! This may be one of the reasons that the book is so long! Hallberg descriptive writing is spot on, and each character is painted in to your mind the way Hallberg wants you to see them. With this being said though, when you have so many characters and want to go in to so much detail it often makes the pages add up and not actually progress the story too much.
I found that the two main ‘events’ in the book happened within the first quarter and the last quarter. The remaining middle section of the book didn’t really do too much, kind of just kept you trundling along thinking something big was going to happen and it never did. It was slightly disappointing and I almost lost faith in the book and made it a ‘DNF’.
In the description of City on Fire, Hallberg points out that the lights go out in New York – a total blackout. When this eventually happened in the book (around 85% in to the Kindle Edition) it just seemed like “Oh well, what else can we do to make this a little bit more exciting?” And the black-out wasn’t that impressive, nor was it as descriptive as the rest of City on Fire had been. It’s a shame because this plot could have had so much potential.
I think this book has been written for film, I honestly believe this may be a rare occasion that I prefer the film over the book. I only say this because I feel it would be easier to follow the characters and their individual stories on film. I will be watching it when it’s released and I will be looking for future novels by Hallberg, he has the potential to make an incredible book…but City on Fire didn’t quite do that for me.
My Rating? ♥♥♥
Will you be adding this to your TBR pile?