Author: E. L. Doctorow
Publication Date: 1975
How I Found It: 100 Best Novels
Date Completed: 1/7/16
Summary: A unique blend of history and fiction, Ragtime offers the disjointed story of an unnamed family and their experiences with the events and personalities of the early 20th century.
What I Thought: The family depicted in Ragtime is referred to as "Mother's Younger Brother," "Father," "the boy," etc. Normally the lack of names would drive me crazy, but for some reason it doesn't bother me here. Perhaps because it's only the main family or because so many "famous" people are sprinkled through and named. Alongside the no-name protagonists are sprinkled personalities such as Harry Houdini and Booker T. Washington.
Their story also intertwines with that of a young African-American couple and their illegitimate son as well as a socialist immigrant and his daughter hailing from Eastern Europe. Doctorow, particularly at the beginning of the book, sets each chapter focused on a specific character or topic. As the chapter moves along, he winds himself into another character or topic and then sets the next chapter around that person or thing. I really liked that style; it kept me guessing at the end of each chapter what the next would be about and how far Doctorow would reach to tie them together. The second half of the book was more linear and traditional in its story-telling approach, but no less engaging.