We didn't post last week for Winter Olympics-related reasons, but we're glad to be back talking about Winter's Tale this week, because, after a couple of weeks of neo-Dickensian scene-setting, things got really, really interesting in the past two weeks.
This week's reading starts with Peter Lake burglarizing a mansion on Central Park West. The house belongs to Issac Penn, a newspaper magnate, who, along with most of his family, has left the city to spend the winter at their cabin on the Lake of the Cooheries, "so far upstate that nobody could find it." The only family member who remains in the city is their daughter Beverly, who is sick, the early stages of consumption, and who cannot make the trip with her parents and siblings. Lake breaks in and finds Beverly taking a bath; they fall in love at first sight and immediately have sex; presumably the sort of dirty burglar sex that occurs in porno movies and nightmares.
There are a lot of funny little scenes with Beverly and Peter. Days later, Beverly wants to go dancing at Mouquin's on New Year's Eve, and, though Peter Lake knows that his arch-nemesis Pearly Soames is guranteed to be there. Soames spots them and grows angry, but he is so mezmerized by their passion and their dancing that he decides not to bother Peter and Beverly that night. Later, in a hilarious travel sequence that's impossible to describe without spoiling, they brave the snow to pay the Penns a surprise visit at their place on the Lake of the Cooheries, while Issac Penn, unable to locate his daughter in the city, gives his employees orders to search for Beverly comprehensive enough to make Tommy Lee Jones' Agent Gerard proud. When Issac Penn meets Peter, he immediately identifies him as a criminal. Somewhat predictably, Penn welcomes him to the family anyway, because he makes his daughter happy, and because, since she is stricken with tuberculosis, he wants to make her happy while he still can.
The fantastical elements of the books first 100 pages or so lost me a little bit; I was too conscious of the fact that I was reading a fantasy novel. I totally lost myself in the past two weeks' assignments; I am now fully invested in the novel's characters. Helprin has elevated the novel from mere fantasy to something approaching a modern fairy tale, complete with a moral intelligence that makes itself apparent on almost every page. Its just wonderful writing. Without spoling anything, let's just say that it ends on a series of downers that made this reader wonder how Helprin was going to pick the narrative up again at the beginning of the second book.
What was your reaction to the past three chapters, and where do you think the book is headed from here?