This week's reading from Winter's Tale fills us in on Peter Lake's backstory, how he got to Manhattan, and how he learned all of the different skills that made him such an effective burglar as an adult.
The details of Lake's childhood probably don't qualify as "spoilers," in that they don't give away any big turning points in the plot, and yet I am reluctant to discuss them because it really needs to be read to be appreciated - Lake's upbringing is part Pip, part Huckleberry Finn, part ancient myth. Parts of the Ellis Island chapter reminded me of Middlesex (and may, for that matter, have inspired it) and that sort of scene is such a critical part of American mythology that I had my guard down when the larger, more important allusion to the Book of Exodus occurs a few pages later. I appreciated the way that Helprin lets us believe he is headed towards familiar cliches and then branches off in another direction entirely.
The first couple of scenes in New York struck me as a little bit odd; the narrative jumps around a bit, and there are a lot of coincidences, and an out-of-nowhere teenager three-way (sort of?) sex scene, but once Peter ends up at the orphanage and the gritty Dickensian urchin stuff began, the story really picked up for me. Helprin again shows us hints of a few Dickensian cliches, but subverts them before we get too settled in. The story jumps ahead rather dramatically to Peter's adulthood, but by the end of this week's section it felt like the exposition was behind us and the plot proper was ready to begin.