Ragtime - E. L. DoctorowI first heard about this book when I watched Mariella Frostrup interviewing Roddy Doyle, and she asked him about books that he rated. He mentioned a few but he was very enthused about Ragtime. I thought I’d take a look.
Set in New York state around the time old walrus chops William Taft was president (1909-1910ish). It intertwines the stories of people at the polar opposites of the burgeoning industrial nation and society of the United States. At one end you have the poor Latvian Jewish immigrant Tateh who with his young daughter Sha struggle to survive the metropolis of immigrants on Manhattan island, and at the other end there are the likes of J.P. Morgan. Industrialist and banker with enough money in the bank to make Midas blush.
Doctorow winds us through tales of society debutantes, communist feminists, and a man who stands up for his rights and his race in the shape of ragtime pianist Coalhouse Walker. The writer takes on celebrities and historical figures like Henry Ford, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and Harry Houdini and blends them into the plot. A very enjoyable read and a great snapshot of a country on the brink of one of the most interesting centuries of its history.