Ragtime is a fast-paced read, focusing on an upper-class family and their connections to famous historical events and people. Doctorow uses a combination of simple and compound sentences plus very long paragraphs to keep the reader from stopping. Although at times it can be wearing, the short chapters give breaks to let everything sink in.
I know little about the time period, so I have no idea how historically accurate Ragtime is, but I thought it did well capturing the sentiment and mentality of the early 20th century. The story about Evelyn Nesbit was fascinating - I had never head of her before, and there's quite a lot more about her life that Doctorow didn't include.
The novel felt like riding on a train, taking snapshots, speedily moving towards the next event. Ragtime could have been much longer and I think it would have been helped by more character interaction and introspection. I didn't feel any connection to the characters. (Was Houdini really that odd?) However, I did like the story. I liked that it featured the difficulties immigrants and African Americans, although I thought it was written rather shallowly, focusing on action rather than social or political views.