In Sunlight and in Shadow

  • by Mark Helprin
  • Narrated by Sean Runnette
  • 29 hrs and 52 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Mark Helprin’s enchanting and sweeping novel asks a simple question: can love and honor conquer all?
New York in 1947 glows with postwar energy. Harry Copeland, an elite paratrooper who fought behind enemy lines in Europe, returns home to run the family business. In a single, magical encounter on the Staten Island ferry, the young singer and heiress Catherine Thomas Hale falls for him instantly but too late to prevent her engagement to a much older man. Harry and Catherine pursue one another in a romance played out in postwar America’s Broadway theaters, Long Island mansions, the offices of financiers, and the haunts of gangsters. Catherine’s choice of Harry over her longtime fiancé endangers Harry’s livelihood - and eventually threatens his life.
Entrancing in its lyricism, In Sunlight and in Shadow so powerfully draws you into New York at the dawn of the modern age that, as in a vivid dream, you will not want to leave.
About the author: Mark Helprin was educated at Harvard, Princeton, Columbia, and Oxford. He served in the Israeli military and the British Merchant Navy. He is the acclaimed author of Winter’s Tale and numerous other works.

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What the Critics Say

“In this prodigious, enfolding saga of exalted romance in corrupt, postwar New York, resplendent storyteller Helprin creates a supremely gifted and principled hero…Helprin’s suspenseful, many-stranded plot is unfailingly enthralling. The sumptuous settings are intoxicating. The novel’s seething indictment of mobster rule in the 1940s is bracing, and the lovers’ high-stakes predicaments are heartbreaking. Helprin’s personal articles of faith shape every scene as he expresses deep respect for soldiers, sensitivity to anti-Semitism and racism, and stalwart belief in valor and individual exceptionalism. So declarative is this philosophical tale that it can be read as Helprin’s spiritual and lyrical answer to the big, bossy, and enduring novels of Ayn Rand.” (Booklist, starred review)
“Elegant, elegiac…A fine adult love story - not in the prurient sense, but in the sense of lovers elevated from smittenness to all the grownup problems that a relationship can bring.” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review)
“Glorious and golden, truly like reentering another world where another sensibility prevails and even the sunlight and shadow have a different weight.” (Library Journal)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Great Insomnia Listening

This is sort-of a compliment. I suffer from bouts of insomnia, and have found that putting on an audiobook to occupy my brain is a great way to get back to sleep at 4 in the morning. It's also a great way to listen to a book without any of the distractions of the outside world, and really listen to the writing.

This only becomes problematic when a story becomes engaging (for instance, I initially started listening to Little Dorrit to put myself back to sleep, but at some point became so interested in the story that I would wake up and rewind back to hear what I'd slept through.)

So far, I have found In Sunlight and in Shadow is a perfect book to fall back to sleep to. The writing is dreamlike, lyrical and descriptive, the plot pacing so slow and the narration so generally monotone (there's nothing worse then when a male narrator badly imitates a woman's voice -- the pitch change can shock you back awake) that this is perfect insomnia listening. I fell asleep to it one night, and dreamt I was in New York.

My only issue with it is that by day, my waking brain cannot stay with it. I listened to a description of Catherine taking a breath in a music hall about 3 times and spaced out every time before I figured out what she was actually doing there. I honestly thought she was an oboe player. I had to read a review to learn that she was a singer.

To do this book justice, I think I'll go back to listening to it only at 4 am, and find something a little more engaging to listen to by day.

PS - A great thing about the Audible app on the iphone, is that you can program it to go off - and it sort of fades out very subtly. This is especially recommended when you are nearing the end of a book. The last thing you need at 4:45 am is to be jolted back awake with: "Audible hopes you have enjoyed this program!"
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- Leslie

It's Not the Story, It's the Narrator

I am still struggling through this recording, but have decided to switch to the written book. I've come to the conclusion that the narrator must have substantially missed the tone the author was going for.

Helprin is the author of one of my favorite books of all time - Freddy and Fredericka - which I have listened to at least three times. The narrator of that one, Robert Ian Mackenzie, gets it exactly right. No doubt In Sunlight and In Shadow is a different kind of book, but I can't help but feel there are moments of irony that are completely miscast in Runnette's sing-song melancholy tone.

I'm going to have a try at the printed work because I think Helprin is trying to do something that needs doing. I
think he is trying to cast a line from World War II to the present and show the seeds that have brought us where we are today - the difference between paper wealth and real productivity, and between image and identity. He's up to the challenge. I'm reserving judgment on whether he's accomplished it or not.

This is one of the few occasions that I've felt a narrator truly compromised my experience of a book. Too bad. Runnette has a nice voice, but he takes elegiac to a new high (or low) here.

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- Jayne

Book Details

  • Release Date: 10-02-2012
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.