Novels Set in New York City

Novels set in New York City… and there are a lot of them, aren’t there? So when I find one that’s really outstanding, it’s an extra thrill.

Jami Attenberg’s latest book, All Grown Upclips along at a frenetic pace right from page one.  Chapter One itself is arresting, because it’s written in second person. Who does that?  Who writes a whole chapter in second person?  Turns out this is an effective hook into a New York story featuring Andrea Bern, an art-school dropout with a dull day job and a convoluted personal life.

Interesting as the second-person viewpoint is, I have to say it’s somewhat of a relief to get back to good old first-person point of view in the rest of the book.  Andrea tells her story in a hilariously disjointed way that somehow hangs together really well. Don’t ask me how; this is the mystique of the plot in this particular book.  The writing is sharp and the dialogue adds a lot of punch.  Even better, though, is Andrea’s voice when she is narrating conversations between herself and her therapist, or her friend who just had a baby, or that person who’s got this book about being single that every unmarried woman simply, absolutely has to read.  I enjoy Andrea’s voice a lot.

Plus, you know, there aren’t a lot of books in which the main character is named Andrea. For me, that’s somewhat of a perk. For obvious reasons.

Classic books set in New York City:

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

Washington Square by Henry James

Contemporary books set in New York City:

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan


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