In the mid 17th century, when the Dutch first established a settlement on the island of Manhattan, Gretje Reyniers was the town whore. She also lent money and dealt in pelts. She is listed in the court records; whom she slandered and sued; who sued and slandered her back; debts welshed on; debts demanded; minor assaults; charges on lewdness. Michael Pye discovered Gretje Reyniers while researching the early history of New York. Nothing was known about her until she arrived in America, so he has conjured a life for her: a childhood in Amsterdam in the 1620s, where she grew up working with the fishwives, as a maid to a whore; where she has a child, married, was widowed until her emigration to the colonies. This book is part history, part love story, part memoir, and above all, an account of one woman's life.
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Michael Pye writes for a living -- as novelist, journalist, historian and sometimes broadcaster. He is English by birth, but civilized by study in Italy and a newspaper apprenticeship in Scotland. For twenty years he commuted between New York and Europe as a political and cultural columnist for British newspapers. He now lives with his partner John Holm in a tiny village in the forests of rural Portugal.
He grew up in the English countryside and, in the classic English manner, was sent abroad to grow up: to the Universita per Stranieri in Perugia, Italy. He returned to study history at Oxford, won various prizes and was about to become an academic when he realized that writing, and writing often, was the only thing he knew how to do. He joined "The Scotsman" newspaper in Edinburgh during the headiest days of Scottish nationalism and in 1971 was hired by the "Sunday Times" in London, where he was financial reporter, editor of an Insight investigative unit and a writer and editor for the paper's Spectrum feature pages. At the same time, he presented current affairs programs on TV in Scotland, and wrote and presented documentaries for the BBC and STV.
Things can be just too agreeable -- and predictable. In 1978, he ran off to the Bahamas, discovering painfully that tax havens are much less attractive when you have no money in the first place, and found himself drawn more and more to New York. From 1980, he worked the transatlantic beat, writing an American political column for "The Scotsman," a New York cultural column for the "Daily Telegraph," and pieces for "Esquire, Geo, Atlantic Monthly, The New York Times" and many other newspapers and magazines. Even this semi-nomadic, demi-glamorous life palled; and in 1997 he went to write in the foothills of the mountains that divide Portugal from Spain.
He has published ten books, and is proud of some of them: The Movie Brats, written with Lynda Myles, which was the first serious study of what the Scorsese generation did to Hollywood; King Over The Water, which exposed the machinations of the Duke of Windsor in the wartime Bahamas; Maximum City, the biography of New York which set out to find the roots and history of the city's magic; The Drowning Room, a novel on the first whore of New York in its wild Dutch days; and, of course, Taking Lives.
From a sketchy but provocative set of facts, Pye has constructed a chilling, unforgettably haunting story set in Manhattan in the 1600s. The facts, which the author found in 17th-century New Amsterdam legal ledgers when researching his Maximum City: The Biography of New York, concern a woman named Gretje Reyniers: that she arrived from Amsterdam on a ship called the Soutberg; that she was married to a sailor named Anthony "the Turk" Janssen; that she publicly declared herself tired of being the nobility's whore; that on the waterfront she measured on a broomstick the genitalia of three sailors; that she owned various tracts of land and did some moneylending; that, five years after being banished from the settlement, she was again living there. The novel opens during a severe winter that has closed the harbor and made Gretje a widow?a tooth infection has led to the Turk's death. The frozen ground makes burial impossible, and so the Turk lies in a coffin in Gretje's backyard, amplifying her loneliness. When the elusive Pieter, an apparently orphaned adolescent, intrudes upon her grief, Gretje suspects him of being either an angel or a demon ("more tart than angel" she thinks). Through subtle proddings, Pieter prompts Gretje to revisit her life?a grim and nearly loveless catalogue of legal wrangles, prostitution, abandoned infants and flight from the plague. The sole bright spot is her strained, but lifelong, relationship with the Turk. In prose so terse it's almost rude, Pye endows his 17th century with a brutal physicality and casual violence. (The title refers to a method of execution the Turk particularly fears, in which the victim is put in a cell and water poured in.) The author's paramount accomplishment, though, is taking a woman whose character reflects this barbarity and making her life a fascinating tale of grim beauty.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Book Description Granta Books / Viking, 1995. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Dust Jacket Condition: New. 1st Edition.... Viking (New York), 1995. First American edition. First printing. Hardcover. New in dust jacket. A perfect unread copy. Novel. 0.0. Bookseller Inventory # 327
Book Description Penguin Books / Granta 1995-05-25, 1995. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. 0140141200 We guarantee all of our items - customer service and satisfaction are our top priorities. Please allow 4 - 14 business days for Standard shipping, within the US. Bookseller Inventory # TM-0140141200