The Great Mistake | Granta

  • Published: 17/06/2021
  • ISBN: 9781783786244
  • Granta Books
  • 304 pages

The Great Mistake

Jonathan Lee

The ‘Father of Greater New York’ is dead. Shot outside his Park Avenue mansion in the year of our Lord, 1903. In the hour of his death, will the truth of his life finally break free?

Born to a struggling farming family in 1820, Andrew Haswell Green was a self-made man who reshaped Manhattan, built Central Park and turned New York into a modern metropolis. Now, at eighty-three, when he thought the world could hold no more surprises, he is murdered. As the detective assigned to the case traces his ghost across the city, other spectres appear: a wealthy courtesan; a broken-hearted man in a bowler hat; and an ambitious politician, Samuel, whose lifelong friendship was a source of joy and frustration.

In a life of industry and restraint, where is the space for love? As restlessly inventive and absorbing as its protagonist, The Great Mistake is the story of a city, and a singular man, transformed by longing.

Wily, virtuosic, very beautiful - an intimate portrait of a public man that also serves as an X-ray of America. The Great Mistake is a great novel of New York, in which the shaping of public space becomes inextricable from the loneliness, longing, and ferocious ambition of a single, damaged man

Garth Greenwell, author of What Belongs to You

A great novel of 19th-century New York. A meditation on the meaning of success, and a magical escape from the 21st century that sent me back feeling wiser and more hopeful

Sandra Newman, author of The Heavens

A wonderful, compelling, finely-tuned and deeply loveable novel, with a central character who is all of those things too. Jonathan Lee has taken the bare facts of a nearly forgotten life and turned them into a rich and unforgettable story

Jon McGregor, author of Reservoir 13

The Author

Jonathan Lee is the author of the New York Times bestselling novel High Dive, Joy and Who is Mr Satoshi?. He has been shortlisted for the Edinburgh Festival First Book Award the Desmond Elliott Prize for literature, and longlisted for the Sunday Times Short Story Award.

More about the author →

Jonathan Lee on

Fiction | The Online Edition

The Great Mistake

Jonathan Lee

‘The first attempt on the life of Andrew Green had occurred on Thanksgiving Day in 1873.’

An excerpt from the new novel by Jonathan Lee.

Essays & Memoir | The Online Edition

Notes on Craft

Jonathan Lee

The author of The Great Mistake discusses the importance of opening lines.

Fiction | The Online Edition

Amateur Dramatics

Jonathan Lee

‘I heard the news from a nurse with a piece of tinsel tied around her waist: my father had become a hypochondriac.’