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Extended Audio Sample Dreamland Audiobook, by Kevin Baker Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (776 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Kevin Baker Narrator: John Rubinstein Publisher: HarperCollins Format: Abridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Related: The City of Fire Trilogy Release Date: April 2006 ISBN: 9780060886769
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This is Dreamland, a uniquely fierce and magical tale that delivers both a sweeping chronicle of America at the turn of the century and an intimate, heart-wrenching portrait of the lives of its denizens. Among the thousands of immigrants who arrive in New York harbor is an Eastern European stowaway called Kid Twist, who soon earns his keep as an enforcer for the ruthless gangster Gyp the Blood. Soon though, Kid brutally splits with Gyp, leaving him bleeding from a shovel wound to the head in a rancid basement on the Lower East Side. His life now in jeopardy, Kid flees to Brooklyn, finding asylum with a Coney Island carny known as Trick the Dwarf.

While hiding out, Kid meets young Esther Abramowitz, a shirtwaist seamstress who labors under inhumane conditions. As their love affair blossoms, Esther emerges from quiet shop worker to foot soldier in the burgeoning labor movement. Changed by love, Kid, too, is no longer the ruthless scavenger he once was, as he prepares for an electrifying showdown with the vengeful Gyp the Blood.

Kevin Baker's deftly imagined blend of meticulous historical research and assured narrative invention recreates a world bursting at the seams, a world of freak shows, cataclysmic exhibitions, mad dwarves, and bathing beauties. In prose that is at once ferocious and breathtakingly lyrical, Dreamland weaves a richly layered tapestry that captures perfectly the emotional and psychological essence of the American experience at the dawn of a new age.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “A wild amusement park ride…Historical fiction at its most entertaining.” 

    New York Times

  • Dreamland is terrific fun.” 

    New York Times Book Review 

  • “An epic recreation of an era…A boisterous, rollicking carnival.”

    People

  • “A Dickensian epic…Meticulously researched and filled with passages of intoxicating, dreamlike frenzy.” 

    Entertainment Weekly

  • “Large, knowing, teeming with ambition and personality.” 

    Gentlemen’s Quarterly 

  • “Compelling…Dreamland is a wild ride…Paced like a police thriller.” 

    USA Today

  • “Remarkable…Original…Mingles real and fictional characters in an American fin-de-siecle swirl.” 

    Wall Street Journal

  • “This is literature and history at its finest.”

    Christian Science Monitor

  • “Mesmerizing…Dreamland tells us a great deal about what it means to be American.”

    Washington Post

  • “A sexy, dreamy romance.” 

    Los Angeles Times

  • “Brilliantly imagined and assiduously researched.”

    San Francisco Chronicle

  • “At once instructive and great good fun to read. A high-spirited and knowing saga of...an extravagant and surreal age.” 

    Boston Globe

  • “This novel entertains us, and it also makes us think.” 

    Chicago Tribune

  • “A populist masterpiece.” 

    Publishers Weekly

  • “Masterful and moving, this novel can transform a reader’s relationship with our history.” 

    Booklist (starred review)

  • A New York Times Notable Book

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Ruth | 2/11/2014

    " Another instance where choosing a random book at the library paid off! I have recently watched PBS' documentary on the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, and it was fascinating to read a fictional account of a young Jewish girl's experiences working there. Her story is interwoven with several others in New York City shortly after the turn of the century and I was quickly sucked into the book. The only storyline that I just didn't get and didn't understand it's relevance was that of Freud & Co.'s visit to New York. There is also a glossary of Yiddish/Irish/turn-of-the-century gang speak that I didn't know was there until I was half-way through - it was really helpful and I wish I had realized it from the beginning. That aside, this was a really good read and apparently it is part of a trilogy, so I will shortly be seeking out the second installment. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Brian Wagner | 2/7/2014

    " Favorite book of the year. I love the mix on real history with a fictional story. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kristin | 2/2/2014

    " my least favorite of the nyc trilogy-this one taking place during the turn of the century and focusing in on the iconic Coney Island--freak shows, roller coasters, and more! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Susan | 2/1/2014

    " I am also still reading this one... about halfway through. This paperback made my tactile test. Paper, flexibility, fonts-wise. Oh and it's a pretty great read too. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Alexis | 1/29/2014

    " I would do anything to be able to see the Coney Island of this era. On my way to work in the mornings, it's hard to believe that Dreamland, Luna Park, and Steeplechase used to be somewhere to my left. However, with this novel behind me, I can picture it all. The book is thoroughly historical, full of amazing dialogue/commentary, and has added yet another character to my "Female Protagonists to Emulate" list. Just brace yourself for a few gut-shots by the end. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Claire | 1/19/2014

    " Great book. Highly recommended for an interesting historical story in old NYC -- poverty, prostitution, gangs, immigration, assimilation, industrial revolution, labor organizations, race relations, politics, corruption -- there's something for everyone. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sara | 1/17/2014

    " I read this in fits and starts until finally the intertwining plots grabbed and ran. Many topoi familiar to fans of 19th-century NYC history (Triangle Fire, Delerious Coney Island, the tin elephant hotel, the electrocuted elephant) appear in thick profusion and are brought to life by unique characters who surely could have lived and breathed. They meet up with the lesser-known but roughly contemporaneous story of Sigmund Freud & Carl Jung's speaking tour of America. Underlying it all like a dreadful sucking undertow is the conviction that life was cheap. Horses, dwarves, abandoned boys, gangsters, immigrants, discredited rabbis, machine politicians, whores, working girls, and cops all poised to be thrown on the ash-heap. And in ways that make HBO original series look tame. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Nate | 12/31/2013

    " This is a fascinating subject that doesn't require a love story tacked on. Oof, The characters were interesting but it was a weird mesh of events forcing them together. I liked them as portraits but not as a story that felt the need to connect them. Long live Coney Island! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kathleen | 12/11/2013

    " A good yarn about turn of the 20th Century NYC, particularly the Lower East Side and Coney Island. Will probably check out the author's other books. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Matt | 12/4/2013

    " Awseome book about the characters of old New york City. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Melissa | 11/11/2013

    " The story was good. I think it would have been better if the Freud/Jung parts were left out. They were an unnecessary distraction and I found myself reading through those sections a quickly as possible so I could get back to the story. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kathryn | 9/11/2013

    " Not as good as Paradise Alley, but very good especially if you're interested in the very particular worlds and colorful past of New York City's lower East side, Brooklyn communities, and of course, Coney Island. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jean | 9/8/2013

    " almost a 4, epic historical fiction- another look at the american dream "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kaela | 5/6/2013

    " Very long but very good. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Lynne Von | 7/22/2012

    " I love this author and snatched this up when I came across it because 'Paradise Alley' is one of my favorite books of all times. I like the way each chapter is in a different character's voice. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Rachel | 7/2/2012

    " for all fans of the lower east side tenemant museum or new york in general - amazing and tangible history "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Amy | 4/22/2012

    " Very interesting historical fiction. It reminded me a bit of Carnivale combined with the rough and tumble immigrant life in NYC at the turn of the century. So many colorful characters. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Sundry | 10/22/2011

    " I enjoy historical fiction that deals with working class people and below, for whatever reason. This is a fascinating look at Manhattenites we don't usually get to see. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 theladyv | 10/15/2011

    " Mesmerizing. I'm already obsessed with NYC history and this book added more fuel to the fire. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Graceann | 6/4/2011

    " Please see my review at Amazon.com: Grace's Dreamland Review "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sarah | 4/5/2011

    " I enjoyed this book more than any other I have read in the last couple months of epic reading. I thought I was done with fiction, but this book reminded me how much I enjoy historical fiction. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Shari | 1/14/2011

    " This would be 3.5 stars for me. Extremely well-written, but I liked some of the characters' voices and stories more than others. I felt particularly drawn to Esther, the main character if there is one. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Paula | 1/8/2011

    " This was an ok read (or actually listen). It had A LOT of characters to keep up with and was interesting enough to keep me listening but the ending was anticlimatic for me. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Eric | 1/4/2011

    " This was not nearly as good as Paradise Alley. Too many characters means not enough depth to really know them. And I have no idea why Freud and Jung had to make such a long appearance as all they did was distract from the story "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jessie | 12/28/2010

    " I liked it! I learned a lot. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Phil | 9/9/2010

    " It took a while to get connected and interested in the characters, but the wait was worth it. There is something about that time and those places. Hard lives, for sure, but there is such atmosphere and romance in the characters and their locations and how they deal with life's challenges. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Claire | 7/10/2010

    " Great book. Highly recommended for an interesting historical story in old NYC -- poverty, prostitution, gangs, immigration, assimilation, industrial revolution, labor organizations, race relations, politics, corruption -- there's something for everyone. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Melissa | 6/23/2010

    " The story was good. I think it would have been better if the Freud/Jung parts were left out. They were an unnecessary distraction and I found myself reading through those sections a quickly as possible so I could get back to the story. "

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About the Author

Kevin Baker is the bestselling author of the novels Dreamland, Paradise Alley, and Sometimes You See It Coming. He is a columnist for American Heritage magazine and a regular contributor to the New York Times, Harper’s, and other periodicals. He lives in New York City with his wife, the writer Ellen Abrams, and their cat, Stella.

About the Narrator

John Rubinstein is an actor, composer, and director who won a Tony Award for his starring role in Broadway’s Children of a Lesser God. He has narrated dozens of audiobooks, earning several AudioFile Earphones Awards and being named a finalist for the prestigious Audie Award for best narration in 2013.