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The Street Sweeper Hardcover – Jan 3 2012

4.3 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Bond Street Books (Jan. 3 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385665628
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385665629
  • Product Dimensions: 16.3 x 3.9 x 24.1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 816 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #321,066 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


“An extraordinary tale powerfully told, The Street Sweeper reveals how individual people matter in history, how unexpected connections can change lives, and how the stories we hear affect how we see the world. It’s a tremendously moving work that deserves to be read and remembered.”
The Globe and Mail

The Street Sweeper is an impressive literary achievement, complex in its organization, meticulous in its plotting and deeply satisfying in its emotional payoffs.”
The Wall Street Journal
“Humane, compelling and convincing . . . artfully structured and well written.”
The Sunday Times
Street Sweeper . . . demonstrates how history and fiction can converge to tell stories that cry out to be remembered.”
The Telegraph (UK)
“Perlman offers an affecting meditation on memory itself, on storytelling as an act of healing.”
The Guardian (UK)

“An extraordinary tale powerfully told, The Street Sweeper reveals how individual people matter in history, how unexpected connections can change lives, and how the stories we hear affect how we see the world. It’s a tremendously moving work that deserves to be read and remembered.”
The Globe and Mail

“An expertly told novel of life in immigrant America—and of the terrible events left behind in the old country.”
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Brilliantly makes personal both the Holocaust and the civil rights movement.... A moving and literate page-turner.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Perlman’s compulsively readable wrestle-with-evil saga is intimate and monumental, wrenching and cathartic.”
—Booklist (starred review)

“In the best kind of books, there is always that moment when the words on the page swallow the world outside — subway stations fly by, errands go un-run, rational bedtimes are abandoned — and the only goal is to gobble up the next paragraph, and the next, and the next…. [The Street Sweeper is] a towering achievement: a strikingly modern literary novel that brings the ugliest moments of 20th-century history to life, and finds real beauty there.”
Entertainment Weekly

“A sprawling work, generous in its spirit and in breadth of imagination, unabashed in its liberal humanism.”
The Age

“A rich, engaging story of New York. [Perlman is] an author of rare erudition and compassion. The Street Sweeper is his boldest work yet and, quite probably, the one that will win him a greater following.”
The Washington Post

“[An] ambitious yet thoughtful novel.”
The Independent (UK)

About the Author

ELLIOT PERLMAN's Three Dollars won the Age Book of the Year Award, the Betty Trask Award (UK), and the Fellowship of Australian Writers' Book of the Year Award. The Reasons I Won't Be Coming was a national bestseller in the US, where it was named a New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice. Seven Types of Ambiguity, a national bestseller in France and the US, was also a New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice, a New York Times Book Review Notable Book of the Year and a Washington Post Editors' Choice. Perlman lives in Melbourne, Australia.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The Street Sweeper by Elliot Perlman caught me by surprise. It was both emotional, educational and even eye-opening. Beginning with the plight of African-American Lamont Williams' accidental journey into prison, Perlman weaves it with the story of a American civil rights historian, Adam Zignelik. The result is an interesting retelling of the history of racism.

The story reminded me of the movie, Crash. But where Crash showed racism through violence and stereotypes, The Street Sweeper does it by retelling historical events in society that mark racism and the heroic tale of those who rise against all odds to stop it. Perlman, a historian himself, reminds us all that one of the main purposes of history is simply to be retold. He does a fantastic job of retelling so much historic detail through dialogue (Sophie's World style).

The character, Lamont Williams finds himself out of prison but the world seems to work against him at every turn. Whether it's because he's poor or black or an ex-convict or just prone to bad luck, Lamont just can't catch a break. Working as janitor at a cancer care centre, he finds himself speaking to a Jewish patient who wants to him about his experience in Auschwitz.

The details about Auschwitz are gut-wrenching. Perlman may have left details out but I found some passages difficult to read but then again, nothing about Auschwitz is ever light reading. Meanwhile on the other side of town, Zignelik is looking for the truth behind the liberation of Auschwitz and hoping it ill save the remains of his career in academia.

I highly recommend The Street Sweeper for anyone who is looking for a story that is courageous enough to tackle one of the hardest subjects in history and today: hate. Perlman reminds us all that history repeats itself unless we learn from it.
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Format: Kindle Edition
I read "The Street Sweeper" on the recommendation of friends. It is a sweeping tale dealing with several interwoven stories over many decades of history. The lives of a custodial worker at Sloan Kettering Hospital on Manhattan's Upper East side is linked to the life of an elderly Holocaust survivor who is a patient at the hospital and their lives are linked to the life of a down on his luck History professor at Columbia University. The lives and backgrounds of these three characters are the focus of the novel; as well there are many other secondary characters.

I found the book interesting and feel it was a good read, but personally I love historical novels. As a retired History teacher, I am quite familiar with much of what is dealt with in this book, but I think others who are not so interested in history may find the book is long and plodding.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Beautiful writing! Novel composed of different stories that create other stories and all come together gradually. Deep and well documented. May be hard to follow at times and gets u interested later in the novel, when the stories start to make sense.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0xa7387c9c) out of 5 stars 187 reviews
55 of 57 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa734596c) out of 5 stars "Tell Everyone What Happened Here." Jan. 5 2012
By Fairbanks Reader - Bonnie Brody - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Tell everyone what happened here" is the mantra of Elliot Perlman's new novel, The Street Sweeper. Perlman has an uncanny and unique way of connecting people, history, psychology and contemporary events as he writes his tome of a novel. It is a history of the holocaust as well as the story of two men who are connected through time and events.

Lamont Williams is a poor black man who is relatively unsophisticated. He has just got out of jail after serving six years for a crime he did not commit. He has one main objective - to locate the daughter he lost touch with while he was incarcerated. Lamont lives with his grandmother in Coop City in the Bronx. He was very close to his cousin Michelle while growing up but she grew apart from him while he was in jail. Lamont manages to secure a job in building services at the Sloan Kettering Cancer Hospital through a back-to-work program for ex-cons. While at Sloan Kettering he is anxiously awaiting his six month probation to be over so he can be a regular employee with benefits.

During his time at Sloan Kettering, Lamont befriends an elderly holocaust survivor named Henryk Mandelbrot. After hours, Lamont visits Mr. Mandelbrot and is told his story of life in Auschwitz. Lamont learns the difference between concentration camps and death camps, of the inside uprisings at Auschwitz and Mr. Mandelbrot's intimate and detailed history as a Jew during World War II. Mr. Mandelbrot tells Lamont that he must remember everything that he is told by him. Lamont takes this at face value and studies the particulars of the story every night.

Meanwhile, at Columbia University, Adam Zignelik is an untenured professor of history who has not had a new idea in years. He knows he will not get tenure. His girlfriend of eight years, Diana, wants a child and Adam is unwilling to bring a child into the world. He can barely see his way through a class without fear of falling apart during a lecture. He is good friends with the chair of the history department but even that can't save him from his fate of losing his job shortly.

A friend of Adam's father (and the father of the chair of the history department) gives Adam an idea for research - to see if black troops were involved in the liberation of Dachau concentration camp. This idea blooms into full-scale research for Adam, leading him to Chicago, Australia, and Sloan Kettering. For the first time in years Adam has hope but he has lost Diana. What he has instead is her comb that she left behind in their apartment when he told her to leave. He talks to her as if she was still there and holds on to her comb as an artifact of their love.

Since this is a tale by Perlman, if the reader is at all familiar with `7 Types of Ambiguity', we know that there will be surprising connections found and formed. That is Mr. Perlman's style. He does this brilliantly in this book. However, it is hard to say that this book is a novel. It is as much a history book about the holocaust as it is anything else. Mr. Perlman tells the story well but it is very repetitive. There are also many, many facts to digest. Perhaps that is why he feels the need to tell and retell them. He wants the reader to remember and the novel deals a lot about memory and its place in human behavior and intent. He says of memory that "it can capture you, corner you or liberate you".

With this book, Mr. Perlman wants memory to liberate the reader. By telling the story it may even have liberated him. It is the telling, the active intent of utilizing memory, that is the gist of this 639 page novel that contains 5 pages of footnotes. I have to admit that at times I felt like I had to slog through the pages and at other times I was mesmerized, not able to put the book down. The novel either grabs the reader or drags him with it. It is a novel to read with reverence and respect. It also requires patience and fortitude. Having said that, I recommend this book to anyone who ever had questions of how the holocaust affected people personally, then and today. It tells this story in an exemplary fashion. It feels as if you are there and that is an amazing act of writing.
73 of 83 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa7345bb8) out of 5 stars Badgering has no role in a novel Jan. 20 2012
By Curious - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Mr Perlman has created another ambitious and epic length novel. I have read all of his outputs, including Three Dollars, Seven Types and Reasons he won't be coming (short stories). I am actually a fan. So this review is not a flippant dismissal.

The novel is a mammoth project, taking 5 years to write and spans 3 continents. Other reviewers have covered the plot and themes of the book comprehensively, so I won't duplicate all that good work. There is absolutely no disagreement with the importance of the subject matter, nor of the creative mind at work. The sentiment and the political persuasion that proudly underpin the book are actually completely aligned with mine. Mr Perlman, in his interviews, has talked about the painstaking research and visits to Europe to interview witnesses and people who survived the monstrous events. So why do I only give it 2 stars?

Fundamentally, I felt talked to, reading the book. The fervor and emotional tensions of the story was not weaved into building the characters or setting the foundations for the reader to participate in the journey. It was articulated in long, laborious sermons that sounded like it has come straight out of the pulpit of Mr Perlman. The complexity of the story and creativity of the plot was not match by the quality of the writing in this instance. The irreverent humor of Three Dollars or the subtle short scenes of Seven Types was absent. The endless repetition of the same message, filled in by long rambling sentences that did not go anywhere new or exciting, just made reading this novel hard work. I did not feel Lamont, Adam or Diana are real people, they were just pawns in the story to make you believe the story. The were manipulated, rather than built, as characters in a story.

I am not a novelist. But I am an extensive reader. So what I don't enjoy is being preached to, whatever the subject. Mr Perlman could have made his point, and created a far better novel with exactly the same complex plot with a third of the words he used. He has not mastered the epic novel. A serious and aggressive editor should have been allowed to slash the novel to a third of it's current length, and the readers would have been rewarded with a clear, sharp, hugely moving and fabulous novel. Just compare it with Michael Ondatjee and the English Patient, or more recently Anna Funder and All the I Am. Some things only need to be said once, if it is said well.

If you have never read a Perlman book, it is unlikely to move you to read others. If you have never read a book on the horrors of the Holocaust or other racial conflicts around the world, it may appeal, as it certainly will remind you and repeat the messsages so that you can't ever forget. If you are a relatively informed reader who would like to be discerning and choose to spend your precious hours of reading finding the 'gold' amongst the 'dust', then I suggest you give this a miss. That's why it's only 2 stars, for me.
22 of 28 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa7345df8) out of 5 stars The Impor­tance of Remembering Jan. 5 2012
By Man of La Book - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
The Street Sweeper by Aus­tralian his­to­rian Elliot Perl­man is a fic­tional book which deals with the Amer­i­can strug­gle for civil rights and the Holo­caust. The book beau­ti­fully ties together the idea that we are all human and touch each other's lives.

Lam­ont Williams, an ex-con African Amer­i­can, is try­ing to return to nor­mal life after being at the wrong time in the wrong place. Lam­ont gets a job at a hos­pi­tal where he works as a jan­i­tor and befriends a can­cer patient who is also a World War II sur­vivor. Lam­ont learns about Poland, the Jews, exter­mi­na­tion camps, gas cham­bers and the Sonderkommando.

Adam Zigne­lik is an untenured Colum­bia his­to­rian whose career and rela­tion­ships are falling apart. Adam pur­sues a research topic about African Amer­i­cans being part of lib­er­at­ing con­cen­tra­tion camps and finds a dis­cov­ery of a lifetime.

he Street Sweeper by Elliot Perl­man is sto­ry­telling at its best. The book man­ages to bring com­plex ideas to the fore­front of the reader's atten­tion such as what is his­tory, how do we record it or pass it along as well as the impor­tance of first­hand accounts.

A well writ­ten and sweep­ing book which touches many sub­jects and ties them all together in a humane sense rather than the metic­u­lous books we read about his­tory. How­ever, the main point of the book, for me, was the impor­tance of remem­ber­ing his­tory, not as dry dates and fig­ures but from the point of view of peo­ple who are real peo­ple, fathers, moth­ers, daugh­ters, broth­ers and sisters.

The book inter­weaves two main sto­ries, an ex-con named Lam­ont Williams and the his­to­rian Adam Zigne­lik. The book has its own unique rhythm which is intri­cate and involved.

While remem­ber­ing is cer­tainly a point which is ham­mered through­out the book, some themes also include love, lost and that basi­cally we are all human beings and we must always remem­ber that despite the unbe­liev­able out­ra­geous num­bers (like 6 mil­lion) which any per­son can­not even fathom.

Mr. Perl­man wrote a risky novel, one that is intri­cate, detailed yet cycles through events at almost break­neck speed only to stop, reflect and expend upon what we, the human kind, have been capa­ble to do to one another.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa7092090) out of 5 stars If you're looking for a series of lectures, this novel is for you Sept. 9 2012
By Mary Lavers (in Canada) - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Leaving no blank unfilled, Elliot Perlman unambiguously tells readers exactly what they should think and feel with characters who communicate almost entirely through a series of lectures. There's Adam Zignelik, a history professor and son of civil rights lawyer, who, when not busy delivering lectures, spends his time thinking back fondly on lectures he has heard in the past. There's Lamont Williams, who has just gotten out of jail and would be the most sympathetic character (read: the one who delivers the fewest lectures) if it weren't for the fact that he spends most of his time being lectured. And I don't mean this in the colloquial sense of "lecturing" as in "speaking down to in order to correct behaviour." I mean these characters deliver pedantic, heavy-handed educational essays to one another on every page, like they're in a university classroom (and often they are). Elliot Perlman wants us to care deeply about racism and injustice, but he doesn't seem to be able to leave anything up to the readers' interpretation. These characters did not stay with me when I closed the book, because there wasn't anything left unsaid, nothing left to linger. Everything I was meant to think and feel about these characters was written on the page. It's a novel with passion and a point of view (and how!) but with very little art or poetry. Perlman demands little of his reader other than that they learn something and agree with him.

Disclaimer: I received a digital galley of this book free from the publisher from NetGalley. I was not obliged to write a favourable review, or even any review at all. The opinions expressed are strictly my own.
HASH(0xa7092384) out of 5 stars Gorgeous and Gut Wrenching. Brilliant! Jan. 17 2016
By Joan - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book doesn't deserve a review it deserves a standing ovation. Its brilliance is to be celebrated. Its thoughtfulness appreciated. And its writing, lauded. Elliot Perlman wrote a gut wrenching gorgeous novel. For the story, read the synopsis. For what matters, I say the author's ability to make me cry, gasp and think about what I had read was no small feat. I don't remember ever being so emotionally engaged in book. It is not, by any means, any easy read. Some of the pages I had to turn away as though it were a film. But the story is so important, so vivid and vital that this is a must read book. Perlman's weaving of such an interesting story with fully developed characters is amazing. This book deserves more than superlatives. My appreciation and thanks to this author for the pleasure of reading this novel.