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Ragtime, a classic work of historical fiction first published in 1975, details the lives of three families in early 20th-century New York. The novel interweaves fictional characters with actual historic events and figures.
The story opens in 1906 in New Rochelle, New York, at the home of an affluent American family. One lazy Sunday afternoon, the famous escape artist Harry Houdini swerves his car into a telephone pole outside their house. Almost magically, the line between fantasy and historical fact, between real and imaginary characters, disappears. Henry Ford, Emma Goldman, J. P. Morgan, Evelyn Nesbit, Sigmund Freud, and Emiliano Zapata slip in and out of the tale, crossing paths with Doctorow's imagined family and other fictional characters, including an immigrant peddler and a ragtime musician from Harlem whose insistence on a point of justice drives him to revolutionary violence.
A rich tapestry, Ragtime captures the spirit of America in a unique historic context.
Time magazine included the novel in its Time 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923-2005.