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Group Reads Archive > November 2011 - Thunderstruck by Erik Larson

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message 1: by Ally (new)

Ally (goodreadscomuser_allhug) | 1653 comments Mod
Welcome to the November non-fiction group read:

Thunderstruck by Erik Larson Thunderstruck by Erik Larson Erik Larson

Let us know what you think...


message 2: by D.A. (new)

D.A. (darosenthal) | 3 comments I could see these gleaming pavilions arising from a frothy mulch of sewage and blood.


message 3: by Julie (new)

Julie Received my copy today - looks good!


message 4: by Ally (new)

Ally (goodreadscomuser_allhug) | 1653 comments Mod
just waiting for mine to arrive...I'm looking forward to this one.


message 5: by Jennifer W (new)

Jennifer W | 1002 comments Mod
I listened to this on audio a couple months ago. At the beginning I had trouble keeping track of people because the author doesn't start at the early years of our main characters, but he goes back a couple generations. Once we got to the point of talking about Marconi and Crippen, I was interested. I liked Crippen's early years, even though he was often down on his luck and kept thinking, "I can't believe this guy is going to be acused of killing his wife."


message 6: by Jennifer W (new)

Jennifer W | 1002 comments Mod
I took this book back out from the library with the hopes of finding some good parts to ask questions about. I took the written version out this time and I had no idea it was such a large book! And no pictures! That's no fun! ;)

I do remember when I was listening to the book thinking about how far technology has come in such a short time. 110ish years ago they had no idea about transmitting without wires, now we live in an age of cell phones and wifi. I can't imagine that Marconi and the others had any idea how much their work would change the world.


message 7: by Jan C (new)

Jan C (woeisme) | 1525 comments My father used to tell us about hitching a ride on the back of the ice wagon and riding down the street hanging on to the back. We didn't really know what an ice wagon was. We had seen the cards that told the ice man how much ice to leave that people would put in their windows.

One of my grandmothers was part owner of a farm in Saskatchewan where there was an ice house and we would have to put a block of ice in the back of the car and take it up to the house. There was still an ice box and a privy. This was in the '60s.

My other grandmother still had her icebox sitting in the cellar. Mainly gathering dust. Probably by the coal chute. When I was young I do remember coal being delivered and shot down the chute.

I lived in a small town (now part of the megalopolis of Chicago) where you just picked up the phone and told the operator who you wanted to talk to. We lived next door to the volunteer fire department and they would call our number to report a fire. Someone (probably my father) would have to go next door to turn on the siren.

Even after we got a phone with a dial you would still have to go through an operator to make a long distance call. She would call you back when she reached the other party.

Or look at washing machines. Now you almost need to program them when in my grandparents day there was a washboard, a ringer and a tub.

Just a sample of how some things have changed.


message 8: by Julie (new)

Julie Strange what you remember! My memory is of the Rag and Bone man back in the early 60's when I was small. He used to drive his horse and cart up past my grannies house and shout out for stuff. He always had plenty of rags but I dont know whose bones he picked up!!!There was also a man who went door to door sharpening scissors and knives and one who sold encylopaedias. Ah the good old days!!


message 9: by Jennifer W (new)

Jennifer W | 1002 comments Mod
Things have surely changed quickly over the last century.

Something I remembered as I was flipping through the early pages of the book, Oliver Lodge was heavily involved with the paranormal. Do you think prominent scientists today would be allowed to dabble in such things? It seems it would be contrary to scientific research.


message 10: by Ally (new)

Ally (goodreadscomuser_allhug) | 1653 comments Mod
My copy finally arrived today. Think I'll start this one on the bus to work tomorrow.


message 11: by Bronwyn (new)

Bronwyn (nzfriend) | 651 comments Well, I won't be participating this month. :( I might read this once school's out at the beginning of next month, though.


message 12: by Ally (new)

Ally (goodreadscomuser_allhug) | 1653 comments Mod
Ooh - I'm loving this book so far. I'm even enjoying the 'technical' bits about Marconi's experiments (...and I'm not scientifically minded!) - Cora Crippen does not seem to be a very likable character but I'm also not too keen on the portrayal of Crippen either. He seems to be a bit weak when it comes to Cora and the abandonment of his son is also a little strange when you hear how much Cora wanted Children but couldn't have any of her own. Looking forward to reading on...


message 13: by Jennifer W (new)

Jennifer W | 1002 comments Mod
Bronwyn, join in when you can.


I didn't care much for Cora, either. I don't know how far you are, Ally, but to me she seemed (especially in London) to be a failed Bright Young Thing.


message 14: by Ally (last edited Nov 18, 2011 12:26AM) (new)

Ally (goodreadscomuser_allhug) | 1653 comments Mod
Yes - I'm just about at the part where she's trying her hand at being a london Variety performer. She just seems too 'desperate' and highly strung. Not rational at all and very self obsessed. Perhaps even bordering on some sort of mental illness. Although we probably have to be careful because the portrayal of women at this time was heavily tainted by the male view of femal 'hysteria' and so Larson's primary sources may have encouraged a view of Cora as a 'hysteric' that could be described very differently in the modern day.


message 15: by Julie (new)

Julie Strange how one book leads to another! I have just founished a murder mystery by Martin Edwards,an author new to me when I found after browsing around on his website that he had written this - Dancing for the Hangman.
It is a fictionalised history of Dr Crippens version of events written when he was awaiting the outcome of his appeal and before his subsequent hanging. Amazon reviewers have given it 5 stars. Has anyone else heard of it?


message 16: by Jennifer W (new)

Jennifer W | 1002 comments Mod
I agree, the info presented of Cora was likely shaded by the times. I think it must be, because her friends in London are very fond of her. I struggled with that because the woman I had come to "know" was not someone that I thought of fondly at all.

What about Marconi's personality? I was struck by how clueless he was to his treatment of his friends, "a social obtuseness that made him oblivious to how his actions affected others". I was just thumbing through the book and found this quote "In this race [to develop wireless] he saw no room for loyalty, not to Preece, not to anyone." These actions allowed a German spy (Slaby) to gain access to Marconi's research!


message 17: by Ally (new)

Ally (goodreadscomuser_allhug) | 1653 comments Mod
In the early stages Marconi seems wet behind the ears but he's very young. He's also completely focussed on his work to the exclusion of all else, even manners and the normal protocols of human interaction. I like him but he needs someone to look after him! not at all sure that his company is the right source of protection!


message 18: by Jennifer W (new)

Jennifer W | 1002 comments Mod
I haven't heard of it, Julie. You'll have to let us know how it is. I do have a bit of related "homework" for people reading Thunderstruck that I'll post a little later this week.


message 19: by Jan C (new)

Jan C (woeisme) | 1525 comments I have heard of the book mentioned by Julie. They have it at the library, so next time I go in I will take a look for it.

It didn't readily available on line. Although I didn't try Powell's or Abebooks.


message 20: by Julie (new)

Julie Just finished.Very thought provoking.Just formulating my responses!


message 21: by Jan C (new)

Jan C (woeisme) | 1525 comments Powell's does have "Dancing ..." I also found out about another book about Crippen published in 2007. Crippen: A Novel of Murder by John Boyne.


message 22: by Jennifer W (new)

Jennifer W | 1002 comments Mod
So, for a bit of related homework. I would highly recommend finishing the book first before checking this out. I'm not sure if the Brits in the group will be able to access this or not. Go to pbs.org and select "watch video". From the drop down menu "Programs" select the show "Secrets of the Dead" and find the episode "Executed in Error". I was floored by what modern science was able to glean from the bits of remaining evidence.


message 23: by Ally (new)

Ally (goodreadscomuser_allhug) | 1653 comments Mod
I'm about half way through (I'm not getting on as quckly as I'd like but I've got a long train journey tomorrow!).

I'm getting really anxious for Marconi and egging him on to 'beat the competition' - it's great how Larson has used this for pacing and tension building.


message 24: by Jennifer W (new)

Jennifer W | 1002 comments Mod
Ooh! I just stumbled on a tie-in between this book and The Green Hat. In The Green Hat there's a line "Says the lady to the Shop: 'Greeting, Sir. I will have a green hat pour le sport, similar in every way to the green hats I have bought here every year since the death of Dr. Crippen.'"

I love it when a book I read gives me references to other books I read!


message 25: by Ally (new)

Ally (goodreadscomuser_allhug) | 1653 comments Mod
I have to say that I loved this book - really interesting and engaging. While I do like non-fiction some of it can be rather dry but this was very exciting to read.

p.s. I know what you mean about the references. I've been watching Baordwalk Empire and they have some refernces to the first uses of 'wireless' to broadcast a boxing match. I was also watching some stuff on the Titanic and until now had no idea of the 'newness' of the technology when Titanic used it. the book did touch on this and told us how many Marconi wireless operators died during the war (many of them targeted deliberately) which was heartbreaking!

This is a book that is well worth a read - perhaps my favourite non-fiction choice from BYT so far...!


message 26: by Jan C (new)

Jan C (woeisme) | 1525 comments When I was reading Ulysses last year, I kept wondering how they could have received the news of the General Slocum so fast. Wireless!


message 27: by Jennifer W (new)

Jennifer W | 1002 comments Mod
I'm glad you liked it, Ally. I've read several other books since reading this one which comment on Marconi's invention. This book helped me understand how truly innovative and world-changing this really was.

There was a part in Crippen's story that I was confused about. The night he and Cora entertain a couple at their house and the husband gets sick. Cora blames Crippen for his illness and gets really mad at him over it. I didn't understand why she thought it was his fault. She ends the night with something to the effect of "I won't cover for you anymore" if I'm remembering correctly. What was going on there?


message 28: by Ally (new)

Ally (goodreadscomuser_allhug) | 1653 comments Mod
Hmmm - may have to re-read that part. My memory of it is a bit different but I may not have looked properly. I thought that she got annoyed at Crippen for his lack of social skills in not escorting his guest to the bathroom?


message 29: by Jennifer W (new)

Jennifer W | 1002 comments Mod
I'll go look it up, too, Ally. I remember her getting mad about that, but she seemed disproportionately mad, and I was confused about the whole thing.


message 30: by Jennifer W (new)

Jennifer W | 1002 comments Mod
OK, so I looked it up and yes, she was mad at him for not escorting the husband, Paul, to the bathroom. Then she said "that I was to arrange to cover up any scandal with our mutual friends and the Guild the best way I could." I assume that means the scandal of her leaving him. Then a little further down it says "The main thing that now occupied him, he said, was how to avoid the scandal that would arise if the true reason for Belle's departure ever got out." The true reason being that she left him because he didn't escort a friend to the bathroom?? Personally, I'd be using that as proof that my wife was nuts and let her be gone!


message 31: by Carly (new)

Carly Svamvour (faganlady) | 35 comments Actually, we live in an age where 'reception waves' that are naturally in our environment, are BLOCKED!

What we pay the cable companies and cell phone companies for is this ...

TO UNBLOCK what they've blocked.

:-)


message 32: by Carly (new)

Carly Svamvour (faganlady) | 35 comments Jennifer W wrote: "I listened to this on audio a couple months ago. At the beginning I had trouble keeping track of people because the author doesn't start at the early years of our main characters, but he goes back ..."

I too did it on audio, Jennifer. I read the written/text version a couple of years back when we did it for RGG - before they formed our group at GR.

I like both versions.

And I can say I like this story very much.


message 33: by Carly (new)

Carly Svamvour (faganlady) | 35 comments Jennifer W wrote: "OK, so I looked it up and yes, she was mad at him for not escorting the husband, Paul, to the bathroom. Then she said "that I was to arrange to cover up any scandal with our mutual friends and the ..."

I think she was merely 'looking' for something to be angry about. Just looking for an excuse to pick up and leave.


message 34: by Carly (new)

Carly Svamvour (faganlady) | 35 comments Jan C wrote: "When I was reading Ulysses last year, I kept wondering how they could have received the news of the General Slocum so fast. Wireless!"

Ahhh ... ok - I have Ulysses marked off for a read for this group and also the newly formed group 'Brain Pain'.

Can't say I'm looking forward to it - dunno' why I'm doing it - just determined, I guess, to get something really LITERARY under my belt - ha ha!

I'll remember your mentioning this when I come to that part.


message 35: by Ally (new)

Ally (goodreadscomuser_allhug) | 1653 comments Mod
She seems to have needed control and whenever Crippen didn't bend to her whim he was a source of annoyance. Its a matter of the dynamic of their relationship for me.


message 36: by Carly (new)

Carly Svamvour (faganlady) | 35 comments Jennifer W wrote: "Ooh! I just stumbled on a tie-in between this book and The Green Hat. In The Green Hat there's a line "Says the lady to the Shop: 'Greeting, Sir. I will have a green hat pour le sport, similar in e..."

OMG! Well, I be looking for that when I get into TGH.


message 37: by Jennifer W (new)

Jennifer W | 1002 comments Mod
On Netflix today I watched 2 shows about Crippen. One was looking at the remains that were found in the cellar. They are kept at a museum in Michigan. They have been tested against Cora's female living relatives and the mitochondrial DNA do not match. The other episode I watched was much more in favor of Crippen's guilt. I think it's fascinating that this crime is still talked about and relevant and that people still aren't sure what to think about it.


message 38: by Bronwyn (new)

Bronwyn (nzfriend) | 651 comments Oh interesting! I'll have to see if I can find them. I watched one a few weeks ago about him. It was part of a short series about London murders. I'm not sure if I really liked the show; I didn't like the narrator or the reenactments, but liked learning about things I didn't know of.


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