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Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow Review

Title: Ragtime

Author: E.L. Doctorow

First published June 12, 1975

320 pages, Paperback

ISBN: 9780812978186 (ISBN10: 0812978188)

Rating: 3.89


First published in 1975, Ragtime redefines what a novel can be, with its extraordinary tapestry that captures the essence of American life between the turn of the century and the First World War. Set in 1906, in the affluent town of New Rochelle, NY, the story follows an American family whose lives are intertwined with real and imaginary characters.

From the famous escape artist Harry Houdini to the revolutionary musician from Harlem, the characters in this book come alive, blurring the line between fantasy and historical fact. The immigrant peddler and the likes of Henry Ford, Emma Goldman, J.P. Morgan, Evelyn Nesbit, Sigmund Freud, and Emiliano Zapata, all cross paths with Doctorow’s imagined family, creating an unforgettable reading experience.

About the Author

Edgar Laurence Doctorow is a renowned American writer, famous for his historical novels. His impressive collection of works includes Ragtime, The Book of Daniel, Homer & Langley, The March, Billy Bathgate, City of God, Welcome to Hard Times, Loon Lake, World’s Fair, The Waterworks, and All the Time in the World.

Doctorow has been honored with several awards, including the prestigious National Book Award, three National Book Critics Circle Awards, two PEN Faulkner Awards, The Edith Wharton Citation for Fiction, and the National Humanities Medal which was conferred upon him by the President of the United States. In 2009, he was also shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize, which recognizes a writer’s lifetime achievement in fiction.

In 2012, Doctorow was honored with the PEN Saul Bellow Award, which is given to an author who has achieved great success in American literature over a sustained career. Additionally, the American Academy of Arts and Letters awarded him the Gold Medal for Fiction in 2013.

Doctorow’s unique style of blending historical events with fictional characters has made him a beloved figure in the literary world. He will always be remembered as a master storyteller who captivated readers with his vivid imagination and unparalleled talent.

Editoral Review

Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow is a landmark work of historical fiction that has continued to captivate readers since its first publication on June 12, 1975. Doctorow was a prolific American author known for his innovative and experimental writing style that blurred the boundaries between fact and fiction.

In Ragtime, Doctorow takes readers on a thrilling journey through the early years of the twentieth century, providing a vivid snapshot of America at a time of great social and cultural upheaval. Set in New York City between 1900 and 1917, Ragtime tells the story of three families whose lives become closely intertwined.

These include a well-to-do family from New Rochelle, a young African-American musician, and an immigrant family consisting of a father, a mother, and a young girl who becomes the object of desire for a prominent businessman. Against this backdrop of rapidly changing society, Doctorow weaves a rich tapestry of characters, settings, and themes that explore the complexities of American identity, class, race, and gender.

At its core, Ragtime explores the tension between tradition and modernity, as well as the struggle for power and agency among different social groups. Doctorow masterfully interweaves historical events and figures with fictional narratives, blurring the lines between fact and fiction.

The novel’s depiction of the rise of capitalism, immigration, and urbanization reflects the larger cultural and social changes that were taking place at the time, making it a powerful commentary on the American experience. Doctorow’s writing is both beautiful and insightful, mixing lyricism with social commentary to create a work that is both emotionally charged and intellectually engaging.

The story unfolds at a leisurely pace, allowing time for character development and reflection. Each character is carefully crafted, with unique motivations, desires, and fears that bring them to life on the page.

Doctorow’s ability to capture the essence of historical figures is particularly notable, as characters such as Harry Houdini, Emma Goldman, and J.P. Morgan are portrayed with a great deal of authenticity. Ragtime is not without its flaws, however.

Some readers may find the novel’s nonlinear structure to be confusing and difficult to follow. Additionally, some characters are given more attention than others, resulting in inconsistencies in the pacing and development of the story.

Despite its shortcomings, however, Ragtime is a literary masterpiece that deserves to be read and appreciated by anyone interested in the complexities of American history and culture. In conclusion, Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow is a powerful and thought-provoking novel that continues to resonate with readers today.

Doctorow’s exploration of the American experience is both beautiful and poignant, offering a nuanced and complex portrayal of a time and place that continues to shape our understanding of the world around us. With its rich characters, carefully crafted narrative, and profound insights, Ragtime is a must-read for anyone interested in the power of literature to illuminate the complex realities of the human experience.

Based on the criteria listed, Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow deserves a rating of 9/10.

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