Post Read Review
A book like this isn't for everyone but I loved it. It's long, has lots of characters, and jumps back and forth in time. But I'm a huge sucker for epic family centric stories, and one that takes me to an interesting time and place is right up my alley.
New York City, primarily 1976-1977 is brilliant choice for a setting. It wasn't a great time for the Big Apple. It wasn't a great time for music. And it wasn't a great time for the LGBTQ community. There was disco and punk. There was economic blight, riots and corruption. And there was a massive blackout in the summer of 1977. So much happened in the decade that followed that the late 70s often seems lost and forgotten. Fear not, City on Fire will bring it to you, not any in-your-face way, but craftily woven in as part of the tale.
No big analysis of the story or characters from me, but I do want to point out a minor bit that kind of fascinated me. Keith and Regan had a vintage <b>horsehair mattress</b> that had been passed down in the family. I had no idea of such things. In this memory foam sleep number mattress era, horsehair sounds like rather old timey and slightly appalling, but also kind intriguing. I can just see grandpa saying they just don't make them like they used to.
Halftime Show Review (written when I hit the halfway point)
Ok, I'm a bit past halfway. Given that this book is 900 pages (or 37 hours of audio) and given no one is forcing any rules upon me, I'm going to do something different here. I am going to give a mid-book book report. Because why the fuck not.
First, why am I reading this? My sister recommend it to me because she knew how much I appreciated <a href="https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1235220590">A Little Life</a> and she thought this might appeal to me. While this is not A Little Life, the recommendation made it an easy sell.
Very basic description - this is an ensemble cast sort of story where all the characters have some tenuous connection to one another. Early on, one character has an unfortunate incident on New Years's eve in Central Park that leaves her on life support. With this, it's sort of a who/what/why done it sort of mystery. <spoiler>i'm a lazy mystery reader, but Amory seems like a good suspect to me</spoiler>
Probably the best and most interesting aspect of this book is the setting. It takes place in NYC which isn't anything special. If I had a nickel for each NYC based book.... What makes City of Fire special is the fact that it takes place in 1977 NYC (and some years prior). The time period in general seems to be lost between the kitschy early 70s and the Reagan revolution of 1980. Punk, disco, classic rock? It was a cultural and economic crossroads and I find the portrayal to be the most compelling thing about the book so far.
I find myself personally drawn to Regan's story, her struggles with bulimia, family loyalty and personal relationships resonate with me. One one hand, she just wants to be fucking normal and not beholden to other powers. While she has privilege that she can't deny or shake, she knows she wasn't anyone's first choice.
There is still quite a bit to happen. Sometimes the writing thrills me, and sometimes I want to give it an eye roll. I can say this, I am engaged and I will see this through, even if it takes two more weeks.