I will look for more works by Robert Rotenberg
By Derryll White
I am always slightly excited to start a book by someone I have never read before. There is an expectation of new characters, new places, a new point of view on an increasingly complex and troubled world. I always see it as an unspoken deal. I will invest my time and the author will educate and entertain me. This author, a criminal lawyer, has a longstanding love affair with TO.
Rotenberg makes Toronto a featured character in the novel, exploring its history and growth, its neighbourhoods and cosmopolitan flavour. I am from the west and tend to see “TO” as a monopolizing cultural and economic monolith, an admitted narrow viewpoint. It is intriguing to see a Canadian city treated in such a generous manner, similar to Donna Leon’s Venice and Barbara Nadel’s Istanbul.
Rotenberg’s characters are tight and contained. Each has secrets and all are very human and believable. In this novel he keeps a back-beat going of high rollers and development, a feeling that all is not well in the field of high finance and the Canadian economy.
Robert Rotenberg has laid righteous claim to Toronto, celebrating it as the world-class city it is. Over time I will look for the four novels that precede `Heart of the City`. My hope is that they will be as good to read as this one was.
Excerpts from the novel:
TORONTO – They had met in high school, a multicultural mosaic of whites, blacks, Asians, Italians, Russians, Portuguese, Protestants, Catholics, Muslims and Jews. In many ways, it had been a precursor of everything that modern-day Toronto had become.
ECONOMICS – everyone knows the condo market in this city is a gigantic bubble that`s about to burst. The government is freaking out with all the foreign money coming in, jacking up the prices, building condos that no one is even living in, meanwhile twenty-five-year-olds are stuck in their parents` basements or moving out of town because the prices are going nuts. Fox had to diversify out of the upscale market.
KENSINGTON – In those days, it was known as the Jewish Market. People there still raised and killed chickens in their backyards and half of the conversations were in Yiddish. As the Jews moved north, waves of immigrants came from Portugal, the Caribbean, Chile, and East Asia to take their places. The Vietnam War brought in American draft dodgers. Then came Africans, Tamils, East Europeans and Russians, and more recently Mexicans and South and Central Americans.
– Derryll White once wrote books but now chooses to read and write about them. When not reading he writes history for the web at www.basininstitute.org.