STARRED REVIEW
September 2017

A pulsating prewar New York

By Brendan Mathews

New York City on the cusp of World War II is brought to glorious, messy life in Brendan Mathews’ sprawling debut saga. The Dempsey brothers—Francis, Michael and Martin—all left Ireland under clouds of trouble. But Martin has started a new life in New York, marrying into a powerful political family, with ambitions to become a groundbreaking jazz musician. The trouble begins when his brothers come calling, and it becomes clear that the past is about to catch up with the Dempsey clan.

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BookPage Top Pick in Fiction, September 2017

New York City on the cusp of World War II is brought to glorious, messy life in Brendan Mathews’ sprawling debut saga. The Dempsey brothers—Francis, Michael and Martin—all left Ireland under clouds of trouble. But Martin has started a new life in New York, marrying into a powerful political family, with ambitions to become a groundbreaking jazz musician. The trouble begins when his brothers come calling, and it becomes clear that the past is about to catch up with the Dempsey clan.

Mathews deftly handles a large cast of characters in The World of Tomorrow. On a collision course with the Dempseys is an IRA killer, an ambitious photographer fleeing Nazi-dominated Europe and a troubled heiress, among others. Perhaps the most vibrant character of all, however, is New York itself. In hard-boiled prose that ranges from gossipy to poetic, Mathews takes us from humble Bronx homes to rowdy Manhattan jazz clubs, from grimy back alleys to palatial Fifth Avenue estates.

Looming over these interconnected lives is the 1939 World’s Fair, held in Queens and seen by many as a light of hope in an increasingly dark world. But just as Old-World troubles follow Mathews’ immigrants to the New World, so will the war in Europe inevitably involve America. Until then, the Dempsey brothers—and all of the characters who’ve become entangled in their lives—may have only one choice: kill or be killed.

The World of Tomorrow is a sweeping, impressive accomplishment. Perhaps it could have been 50 or so pages shorter, and the ghostly appearance of an Irish literary icon may push past the cusp of believability. Still, Mathews has written an insightful immigrant epic, not to mention a first-class literary thriller.

 

This article was originally published in the September 2017 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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The World of Tomorrow

The World of Tomorrow

By Brendan Mathews
Little, Brown
ISBN 9780316382199

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