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Eiffel's Tower: The Thrilling Story Behind Paris's Beloved Monument and the Extraordinary World's Fair That Introduced It
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Eiffel's Tower: The Thrilling Story Behind Paris's Beloved Monument and the Extraordinary World's Fair That Introduced It

3.73 of 5 stars 3.73  ·  rating details  ·  1,811 ratings  ·  261 reviews
The story of the world-famous monument and the extraordinary world's fair that introduced it

In this first general history of the Eiffel Tower in English, Jill Jonnes-acclaimed author of Conquering Gotham-offers an eye- opening look not only at the construction of one of the modern world's most iconic structures, but also the epochal event that surrounded its arrival as
Paperback, 354 pages
Published April 27th 2010 by Penguin Books (first published 2009)
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I wanted to like this book. I really, really did. It's about the Eiffel Tower, afterall, and I LOVE the Eiffel Tower. Sadly, I can't finish this book (although I'm giving myself credit for finishing it because it feels like I've been reading it for an eternity).

The author's writing style is very jarring. She jumps from topic to topic without warning, leaving the reader thinking, "Wait a minute...we were just talking about the Eiffel Tower and now we are talking about Annie Oakley. Where was the
Jennifer Ridgway
I was a little disappointed with the percentage of the book that is actually about the Eiffel Tower. There was a lot about Buffalo Bill and the Wild West Show and other side topics. The book alludes to the difficulty of the politics of the tower, the actual engineering of the tower, and the building/construction of the tower. The design of the elevators seemed like a side mention. The life of the tower since the World's Fair, too, could have been expanded. In short, I would have liked more about ...more
Another non-fiction book that reads like a novel - only you feel smarter when you have finished. The setting is the 1889 World's Fair to be held in Paris. A contest was introduced to bring a "grand monument" to the site that all would remember! Along with the story of Eiffel's design being chosen and then the multiple obstacles (money, elevators, completion dates, etc) there are multiple characters that play supporting roles including Annie Oakley, Thomas Edison, Paul Gaugin, Whistler and more! ...more
Susanna - Censored by GoodReads
Jan 12, 2010 Susanna - Censored by GoodReads rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people interested in the 19th century
Recommended to Susanna - Censored by GoodReads by: Scott Henderson
I actually liked this one better than Devil in the White City.

I liked the part of Devil in the White City that was about the fair more than the part about the serial killer. And this one is almost entirely about the Exposition Universelle of 1889.

A large part of Eiffel's Tower (actually, a very large part, thinking about it) sets the time and place for us. And it was a very interesting time and place. Coverage I would describe as not superficial and the writing I found fairly engaging.

I would re
Gustave Eiffel is most remembered today for the iconic iron lattice tower he built as the gateway to the 1889 World’s Fair. Eiffel, of course, also built the interior framework of the Statue of Liberty. You probably know this, but not much else about the turn of the century engineering genius who designed complex structures (bridges, monuments, lighthouses) all around the world.

Eiffel had originally planned to build his tower in Barcelona. When his design for the 1888 Universal Exposition was re
This was a really interesting book about the building of the Eiffel tower and the 1889 World's Fair in Paris that it anchored. It followed Eiffel and the tower from its concept through its ultimate completion, and the difficulties along the way--including the widespread opposition of many Parisians toward what would ultimately become their quintessential symbol. The tower and the fair also attracted an amazing assortment of Gustave Eiffel's famous contemporaries, including: Thomas Edison; painte ...more
Jason Pettus
Regular readers know that I'm a big fan of all the "NPR-worthy" nonfiction books that are being published these days, manuscripts that take a quirky event from history to instead examine the entire culture of that time and place, in a way that's easy to read and always fascinating; but there's an inherent danger that comes with such books too, that in their zeal to churn out a volume with the exact same standards as all the rest of these types of books (300 pages plus footnotes? Check. Ridiculou ...more
I thought this was going to be more interesting than it actually was. Having read "The Devil in the White City," maybe I was expecting more from a tale about a legendary World's Fair. Paris may not have had a serial killer, but it had drama and celebrity, no doubt. However, this telling of the events surrounding the World's Fair in Paris was a little dry.

The book focuses on several notorious personalities and events associated with the fair, including Eiffel and the controversy surrounding his b
Ross Mclean
This is the story of the amazing American contribution to the 1889 World's Fair. Americans were the most wonderful, ingenious, wealthy people at the time. The American Otis elevators were a key feature of the Eiffel Tower. Buffalo Bill and Annie Oakley, American icons and the greatest entertainers of the time feature prominently, as do American newspaper magnates, the American genius Thomas Edison and numerous other American personalities. The 4th of July was a magnificent celebration at the Wor ...more
There were a lot of interesting anecdotes and characters in this book, in fact the book seemed to be written as an excuse just to compile all these stories rather than make a specific point. I wish there had been more of an argument and more editing to keep it on point.
Laura Bang
I really wanted to like this, but this book has a serious problem with scope. A more accurate title would have been "Paris 1889: the Eiffel Tower, the World's Fair, and some other random stuff." I found everything interesting, it just didn't all belong in *this* book. There were at least a dozen people or groups of people to keep track of and Jonnes did not do a good job of transitioning between all these different characters. Some sections were incredibly short (so just as I remembered what I'd ...more
Bob Schmitz
Pick this up in the airport in NY on the way to Spain and France. Easy read with lots of interwoven facts.

The organizers of the 1889 Paris world's fair wanted to build some towering monument to be the centerpiece of their exposition. Many structures were submitted including a giant guillotine but in the end Gustaf Eiffel's unique steel tower was chosen. Though Eiffel at this time was a famous bridge engineer and builder there was no precedent for building such a tower. There was much opposition.
The subject matter (the 1889 Exposition in Paris) and cover of this book seem designed to invite comparison with Erik Larsen's The Devil in the White City. This book is similar in that it weaves together a number of stories of various historical figures whose paths crossed in Paris on this particular summer (Eiffel and the challenge of constructing the tower, Gauguin, Whistler, Buffalo Bill, Annie Oakley, Thomas Edison, etc.), but the structure is somewhat less determined by the subjects themsel ...more
Not a fast read, but still very readable and incredibly interesting. I learned a great deal, especially about Eiffel and his tower, but Jonnes also covers so much else about the 1889 Paris World's Fair, from artists like Gaugin, van Gogh, and Whistler, to personalities like newspaperman James Gordon Bennett, entertainer Buffalo Bill Cody, and inventor Thomas Edison. Sometimes I felt like Jonnes' scope was just too broad--there was so much information; but then other times I was equally as gratef ...more
Interesting story of the 1890 World's Fair in Paris. It was really four separate biographies that were weakly tied together - World's fair, Eiffel, Bill Cody and Annie Oakley, Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Gaugin, and Thomas Edison. The best story to me was Eiffel - railroad engineer who was designing bridgers in the French Colonies. He made a lot of money with his company. He proposes this massive tower (three times larger than anything previously built). Since he is not an architect, he faces a lo ...more
Todd Stockslager
Review title: He built it; they came
Jonnes sums up her history of the Eiffel Tower: "no other man-made artifact has ever rivaled the tower's potent mixture of spare elegance, amazing enormity and complexity when experienced firsthand.". But Jonnes reveals the struggle that Eiffel fought to get the tower approved and built (the French government first promised and then reneged on approving the project and providing partial funding) while facing criticism from artists and architects who hated the
A strong 3.5, verging on a 4. Eiffel's Tower is a story of the 1889 Exhibition Universelle in Paris - somewhat like the Devil in the White City, only without the serial killer. The central story is the creation and impact of Gustave Eiffel's tower, at the time the tallest building in the world. The tower was controversial in its time,and the battles to get it approved and constructed make for interesting reading. Intertwined with this sotry are a number of others related to the Exhibition: the a ...more
Mike Prochot
An enjoyable book.

It is written in what seems to be a popular approach, that is having several different parallel story lines running at the same time in order to give a more complete, or at least a broader perspective of the main story or subject of the book. The method also serves to set the story time with current events of the day. None of this is particularly bothersome but the end result is something of a watered down story.

At some point, I felt that I was gaining a better insight to Buf
David Hirschler
A good book about the Eiffel Tower and the World's Fair for which it was built. I learned a lot about Gustave Eiffel and the other main characters surrounding the event near the end of the 19th century, such as Thomas Edison, Buffalo Bill, Annie Oakley, the Van Gogh brothers, and many other famous artists. The Eiffel Tower itself is an engineering marvel and I would like to see it some day.
I have read reviews that compare this with "The Devil in the White City" by Eric Larson. As much as I enjoyed that book, in some ways I don't think it is a fair comparison. "Eiffel's Tower" is much more of an encapsulation of historical record (everything is documented) of its respective subject: the 1889 French Exposition Universel. It is a lengthy and occasionally dense text but it is written in a lively manner. Profiles of notable contemporaries such as "Buffalo" Bill Cody, Annie Oakley, Thom ...more
May 10, 2013 Amy rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Amy by: May 2013 Book Club
I wanted to like this more than I did. Perhaps I am biased by Erik Larsen' s Devil in the White house City (about the Chicago World's Fair), but I feel this one barely scratched the surface of many fascinating aspects (as listed in the subtitle). Overall, pretty informative and a nice introduction to this particular World's Fair for me.
Disappointing. Some how the author has made the 1889 World's Fair in Paris boring. I mean you've got the building of the Eiffel Tower, French impressionists, Guy de Maupassant, Thomas Edison, Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, Indians and Annie Oakley - I expected it to be a romp - but alas, it was not.
I enjoyed the first third of the book the most. It was all about the actual building of the Eiffel Tower. I didn't find the Buffalo Bill history or the painters as interesting (with the exception of Van Gogh), but with Jonnes' writing I felt completely immersed in the past.
Catherine Gillespie
Eiffel’s Tower: The Thrilling Story Behind Paris’s Beloved Monument and theExtraordinary World’s Fair That Introduced It is an interesting history of how Gustave Eiffel designed and built his eponymous tower, but it’s also a fascinating look at Belle Epoque Paris and the many famous figures who came to the World’s Fair when the Tower debuted. Author Jill Jonnes did a fabulous job of weaving stories together to give great insight into people like Van Gogh, Gaugin, Whistler, Edison, Annie Oakley, ...more
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. Enough historical tidbits to keep the old history major happy, enouch Paris to please the current Francophile. Well written, easy to read, recommended.
Virginia Brace
This is the kind of history I really enjoy! Many people and events are featured in the time frame leading up to and during The Exposition Universelle of 1900 that was held in Paris, France, from 15 April to 12 November 1900 to celebrate the achievements of the past century and to accelerate development into the next. Who were the interesting people living at that time, and how did these people interact with each other? We meet Gustave Eiffel, Buffalo Bill, Annie Oakley, Thomas Edison. What was g ...more
Susan Carpenter
If you read Devil in the White City and enjoyed it, you have to read Eiffel's Tower. Filled with hitory and historical characters it tells the building of Eiffel's Tower and the worlds fair it was constructed for.
I was expecting this book to be a bit more like Erik Larson's writing. However, there wasn't much of a typical "plot"; no conflict, climax, denouement. Really dry reading. Only a couple interesting historical snippets.
For a critic, this account of the 1889 World's Fair and all the activity and half-baked opinions swirling about at the time was a really humbling read. Come to find, much of the French press was vocally opposed to "Eiffel's folly" when construction started (to say nothing of their reactions to Impressionist art being made at the same time) —a reminder of how disorienting it can feel to be confronted with true originality. Reminds me of a provocative idea I once read in another book (don't rememb ...more
J Tea
I gave it one more star than Jennifer only because I like some of the subject matter. She hit it on the head with her review however. This book is so disjointed in its style that it is impossible to ever get into any kind of rhythm or excitement over what is happening. The first part, where it is about the actual building of the tower is not bad but then it disolves into a conglomeration of facts about people that for the most part never interact with one another. I really tried hard to finish i ...more
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