Erik Larson writes a very readable, popular history and Thunderstruck is no exception. Here he weaves the story of Guglielmo Marconi's development ofErik Larson writes a very readable, popular history and Thunderstruck is no exception. Here he weaves the story of Guglielmo Marconi's development of ship-to-shore and transatlantic wireless communication into the tale of the H. H. Crippen murder. Larson offers a detailed and interesting vision of Europe at the beginning of the 20th century, before World War I. In telling his twin stories, he manages to include a lot of information about tensions between England and Germany that fomented the first world war, the general xenophobia and trepidation of late Victorian English society, and the widespread (if uneasy) faith and interest in scientific developments occurring at the time. Larson excels at depicting his two main characters, Marconi and Crippen, in sympathetic but critical lights, thereby providing his reader with fairly subtle psychological insights. As an avid reader of academic history, I will always miss the extensive annotation of a scholarly volume, but Larson clearly did archival, primary research and displays a good command of his material. That he can turn this into a coherent and interesting narrative should not detract from his credibility (which sometimes is the case with popular history). Overall a fun, informative (and quick!) read....more
Published in 1869, Monsieur Lecoq predates A Study in Scarlet by 18 years and is acknowledged as an influence on Arthur Conan Doyle specifically, butPublished in 1869, Monsieur Lecoq predates A Study in Scarlet by 18 years and is acknowledged as an influence on Arthur Conan Doyle specifically, but also on the development of detective fiction in general. This entertaining novel has two parts. The first begins with a crime and follows the Parisian detective, Monsieur Lecoq, as he tries to unravel its intricacies. The second begins decades earlier, tracing the somewhat melodramatic affairs of some country folks and landed aristocracy whose turmoils eventually lead to the crime committed at the beginning of the first book. In other words, the entire novel in two parts ends where it begins. Although I enjoyed the first part with its focus on crime detection immensely more than the second melodramatic part, taken as a whole it has a very satisfying narrative construction. Gaboriau had a distinct flair for character and plot construction. I would happily read another Monsieur Lecoq adventure....more
As a ghost story The Little Stranger is not terribly inventive or original. [SPOILER ALERT] A family starts experiencing strange occurrences in a moldAs a ghost story The Little Stranger is not terribly inventive or original. [SPOILER ALERT] A family starts experiencing strange occurrences in a moldering mansion and becomes convinced a poltergeist has inhabited their home, while a more level-headed, science-minded friend believes they are all going crazy.
Sarah Waters does two things really well in this novel. First, she successfully conveys the haunted mansion, complete with its musty smells, shifting shadows and decaying everything. One feels the weight of the history of this place. Second, she depicts a really believable "type" in her narrator. Dr. Faraday is arrogant, self-deluded, patronizing to women, social climbing and narrow-mindedly rational. I detested him, but could yet maintain enough interested to read the novel all the way through, which is not always the case when I feel such extreme antipathy to a main character.
It is also clear that Waters did a good amount of research into post-WWII English doctoring and the disintegration of the landed aristocracy. Overall an enjoyable read and a well-constructed narrative....more
**spoiler alert** This novel has been so well read and reviewed, I won't worry about a plot synopsis. I do offer a few comments regarding my encounter**spoiler alert** This novel has been so well read and reviewed, I won't worry about a plot synopsis. I do offer a few comments regarding my encounter with it in light of having heard so much about it beforehand.
I have heard several criticisms launched at this novel that it is sexist. While I do believe it is a slightly trashy bit of brain candy that contains less-than-subtly drawn female characters, calling it sexist is a little knee-jerky and extreme. The mere inclusion of a female villain - especially one who's fairly entertaining - does not sexism make. This was fun, quick summer reading for me and my only real beef was the long-suffering baby daddy ending. I didn't find that redeeming in our anti-hero, just smarmy. I was pulling for some cleverly wrought comeuppance for our villainess, pregnant or not. Actually, I disliked both main characters enough, some dual calamity would have been grand. ...more
After the fifth story, I felt like I was reading the same story again and again...or at least stories that rehashed the same ideas over and over againAfter the fifth story, I felt like I was reading the same story again and again...or at least stories that rehashed the same ideas over and over again. So even while I liked the basic story template here, I didn't finish the whole book. Perhaps sometime I will. It was repetition that stopped me. I have one additional warning to modern readers - prepare for periodic but persistent racism. Written by a white European woman in the early 20th century, who purported to have extensive experience with "eastern" thought and philosophy (in quotes because she seems to mean India, but there is much much more "east"), these stories hinge on spiritual and philosophical views that would have been fairly unusual to the ears of westerners at the time - so unusual that the word "occult" winds up in the title. Anyway, the alarmingly blatant superiority complex especially typical of white people in this time period (and in so, so many others *sigh*) sneaks into otherwise interesting stories over and over again. The specifically patriarchal and condescending British view of their relationship to India in this period surely heightened this sense, even for a woman who seems to think she was writing sympathetically of Indian culture. Instead this is rather a great illustration of Said's "orientalism" at work. Interesting as sociology, I suppose. ...more
This book is exciting and frightening, touching and macabre. I sped through it wishing it were longer. Just a very good adventure story occurring in aThis book is exciting and frightening, touching and macabre. I sped through it wishing it were longer. Just a very good adventure story occurring in an exceedingly well-imagined nineteenth-century New England focusing on a compelling and resourceful protagonist. The prose is straightforward and driving. The plotting is clever but not overly contrived. It reminded me of Gothic romances and 100-year-old adventure stories and Margaret Atwood when she's being a little morbid. I loved every page....more