This book read like a movie or a play. Oh wait…
I’m not entirely sure what this book was really about. There was some American melting pot stuff, some race relations stuff, some rich vs. poor stuff and some family dynamics stuff. I feel like the dominant theme was that everyone, no matter the background, deceives themselves of their importance. Houdini was a great fraud debunker, who gladly provided this virtuous service – no, actually he was just a cheap trickster himself. J.P. Morgan and Henry Ford were reincarnations, with accumulative genius, of mankind’s greatest minds – no, actually they were just a greedy banker and a lucky country boy, respectively. Doctorow weaves fictional stories of these and other actual historical figures throughout the narrative.
The author never uses quotation marks in the dialogue, opting to keep it in-line with everything else. This was disconcerting at first, but I got used to it. He also doesn’t name several of his main characters besides referring to them as Mother, Father, Younger Brother etc. He also doesn’t emphasize facial features or behaviors, which left the characters seeming distant and somewhat alien, but it worked.
While I still feel like I need to reflect on this one more to fully appreciate it, I can say that this was one of the more technically interesting books so far. Between the unique style and the historical fictional elements, it was captivating.