An Israeli soldier’s life flashes before his eyes in this epic tale: “As if The Odyssey had been updated and rewritten by Dylan Thomas” (The Listener, UK).
In 1947, Marshall Pearl is orphaned at birth aboard an immigrant ship off the coast of Palestine. Brought to America, he grows up a child of the Hudson Valley, determined to see the world in all its beauty and ferocity. His epic journey takes him from Jamaica to Harvard; from Great Plains slaughterhouses to the Mexican desert; and from the sea to the Alps. Marshall is eventually drawn to Israel to confront the circumstance of his birth in a crucible of war, magic, suffering, and grace.
We first meet Marshall among the mortally wounded Israeli soldiers who are being transferred to Haifa during the Yom Kippur War. From there we follow Marshall—along with his memories and dreams—as he reconstructs his life, galvanizing strength through all that he has learned, suffered, and hoped.
“Superb...A first-rate odyssey, full of insight and humor and hard-earned truths”—San Francisco Chronicle
Refiner’s Fire Once More
Marl Helprin’s novels took me by surprise when I first read them. The language was lush and vibrant, much as one remembers Joseph Conrad’s. On this reading of an earlier work, Refiner’s Fire weighs the narrative down. Themes of love, lyrical overpower the character, Lydia in this novel, since she appears too beautiful to be true. Lydia is Beatrice to Marshal Perle’s Dante
Wandering on a Homeric scale recurs in Refiner’s Fire as in other Helprin works: Freddy and Fredericka come to mind. Formation of the central character—A Soldier of the Great War—is brutal, but emerges triumphant, like one of Hemingway’s limping heroes.
Fantasy and its transcending, reshaping of the novel as a genre: Winter’s Tale showed that: it could never be created in any other form.
Refiner’s Fire was a good ride through development and premise of later mastery.