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Eiffel's Tower [Paperback]

Jill Jonnes
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
Price: 12.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

3 Jun 2010
Since it opened in May 1889, the Eiffel Tower has become an iconic image of modern times - as much a beacon of technological progress as an enduring symbol of Paris and French culture. But as engineer Gustave Eiffel built the now-famous landmark to be the spectacular centrepiece of the 1889 World's Fair, he stirred up a storm of vitriol from Parisian tastemakers, law-suits and predictions of a certain structural calamity. A compelling account of the tower's creation as well as a superb portrait of Belle Epoque France.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: PENGUIN USA; Reprint edition (3 Jun 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143117297
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143117292
  • Product Dimensions: 21.4 x 16.8 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 603,191 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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engineer Gustave Eiffel built the now-famous --landmark to be the spectacular centrepiece of the

1889 World's Fair, he stirred up a storm of --vitriol from Parisian tastemakers, law-suits and

predictions of a certain structural calamity. A --compelling account of the tower's creation as well --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

become an iconic image of modern times - as much a --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very informative and well written 15 Feb 2010
This book is full of factual details and stories within the bigger History.

This is not a novel, and all facts actually took place in preparation of the 1889 Paris Universal Exhibition, and during the Exhibition itself.

The most noticeable main characters of the book are Gustave Eiffel, Buffalo Bill and his Wild West Show, Thomas Edison, Paul Gauguin, and Whistler. Their personal history unrol in these months of the late 1880s with the tower going up, and the Exhibition gaining full steam towards the Spring of 1889.

This is not a scholarly publication in the sense that the author is not overtly making a point about anything in particular. However, the numerous quotations are fully referenced at the end of the book, not with the usual note call number in the body of the text. Instead, endnotes are listed by page number and the first words of each quotation, followed by the reference.

All in all, this is a very interesting read, plus very well written.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Excellent in its own way but one is acutely aware of the division between passages which have been properly researched and those, included as background, which are cobbled together from existing (defective) scholarship.

There is a mention of the familiar story of Black Elk, left behind in Salford in 1888 at the end of Buffalo Bill's first English season and reunited with him in Paris in the spring of 1889. However, there is no original research here - an opportunity lost - resulting in a number of factual errors, including the conflation in the index of Mexican Joe Shelley with the unrelated Mexican Joe in Buffalo Bill's show.

The passage on the genesis of Buffalo Bill's Wild West & Congress of Rough Riders of the World in the spring of 1891 is brilliantly well written but just wrong. A legion of books tell much the same story, all based upon an erroneous passage of Don Russell's. Check the programmes Ms Jonnes, and while you're at it try to find a single reference in the newspapers for 1891. You'll find that Buffalo Bill's show was Wild West pure and simple until January 1892. The 'Cossacks' and 'Gauchos' were introduced in London in the summer of 1892 and the show's new format was unveiled in Chicago in 1893.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Eiffel's Tower 1 Sep 2009
I bought this from a Daily Telegraph review and started to read it straight away. Fascinating book that weaves together the history and events leading to the Great Expo of 1889 and the construction of the fabulous tower.

A really great read.
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Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars  45 reviews
47 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Eiffel's Tower:" History that reads as well as fiction . . . 16 Jun 2009
By Classical Curiosities - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
During the restoration of the Statue of Liberty some years ago, I supervised several museum projects relating to its history and construction, which attracted me to the life and work of the famous French engineer, Gustave Eiffel. Everyone knows that his company designed and built the Eiffel Tower, but few know that they were also responsible for the internal support structure of America's most famous symbol. The builder of a number of remarkable railroad viaducts including the magnificent Garabit bridge, Eiffel immortalized himself with the unprecedented construction of the 300 meter tower, known to all the world as the Effel Tower.

So, when any books appear on the market relating to Eiffel, I feel compelled to have it. Such was true when I came across Jill Jonnes' newest publication, "Eiffel's Tower," I bought it. And from the day it arrived as I perused the first few pages, I found it utterly irresistible. Confronted with the life of a very complex personality and a long list of masterful achievements as is the case with Eiffel, Jonnes sensibly keeps her focus on the building of the tower as the centerpiece of the 1889 Paris Exposition, but sets it in the context of the many other fascinating individuals whose lives and activities--at least for a time--revolved around the tower. As the tower gradually rises to the heavens in the face of mounting controversy and public criticism, it serves as a backdrop to a veritable who's who of characters, including Buffalo Bill, Annie Oakley, Thomas Alva Edison, Rosa Bonheur, Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh, and James McNeill Whistler, whose various adventures are played out in its ever-extending shadow.

Jonnes' well-researched account does not ignore the engineering aspects of the Tower's construction, such as the frustrating problems with the installation of the elevator system, but she knows the right moment to pull away and pick up on any one of the several story-lines that gradually evolve throughout the book. As history, it has the taste and feel of really good fiction. But don't expect a dry historical kind of ending, which in so many cases, merely . . . .ends. "Eiffel's Tower" concludes in triumph and tragedy with the completion of the tower to world-wide praise and recognition on all sides (well, almost), followed by the Panama Canal disaster which fell heavily on the shoulders of Eiffel. Highly recommended.
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars All the Fun of the Fair 26 Aug 2009
By R. Hardy - Published on Amazon.com
When Gustave Eiffel built his famous tower in Paris for the 1889 Exposition Universelle, he fully expected it to be a temporary monument. It was to outlast the exhibition, but for only twenty years, whereupon it would be demolished. In _Eiffel's Tower: And the World's Fair Where Buffalo Bill Beguiled Paris, the Artists Quarreled, and Thomas Edison Became a Count_ (Viking), historian Jill Jonnes shows that part of the reason the tower was to be temporary was that it was not universally appreciated. It was an ugly eyesore, the critics claimed, "an inartistic ... scaffolding of crossbars and angled iron." As the foundation was being dug, artists and intellectuals (like composer Charles Gounod and author Guy de Maupassant) signed their names to an angry protest letter which called the structure a "dizzily ridiculous tower dominating Paris like a black and gigantic factory chimney, crushing [all] beneath its barbarous mass." It was a tower "which even commercial America will not have." The tower proved popular, however, and when the twenty year mark rolled around, Eiffel was glad to be using it as a scientific station, and to be able to claim that it was still needed in that role. He had convinced the French military to use it as a radio antenna in 1903 (but had had to pay for the telegraphy unit himself). When World War One came, any controversy about its permanence was over, since it was essential as a viewing tower and communications post. Jonnes's lively and funny book has a history of the building of the tower and its troubled reputation and construction, but is also about the fair for which it was built, an epochal gathering of notables that Jonnes profiles here. It is hard to imagine Paris without its tower, but the other buildings of the exhibition are long gone, as are the exhibitors, and this book is a welcome recreation of the event.

Eiffel had entered the new field of railroad engineering, and was adept at building complicated bridges and aqueducts. His tower (_Tour en Fer de Trois Cents Mètres_) beat out entries including the gigantic replica of a guillotine (the exposition was to celebrate the centennial of the Revolution). The tower was finished on time for the opening of the exposition, but the elevators were not, and for the first three weeks, if you wanted to get to the top, you took the stairs. You could go to the viewing platform, and if you were famous, you could get invited to Eiffel's own aerie apartment, a suite of rooms with settees and a piano (on which the composer Gounod, who had campaigned against the tower, was graciously invited to play). The tower was the anchor for the Paris Exposition, and it is the anchor for Jonnes's book as well. Jonnes has wonderful stories of those who exhibited, performed, or visited the tower and the fair. Among the most famous of the personalities here was Buffalo Bill Cody (or _Guillaume Buffalo_), who started an extremely successful European tour in Paris. He brought real Indians with him, and Frenchmen enjoyed the spectacle of re-enactions of the stagecoach battles that tamed the West, but the Indians enjoyed the spectacles of Paris. When they were taken to the Cirque d'Éte, they were delighted with French clowns parodying their riding and their Indian wars, and laughed so hard at the clown version of their war dance that they shed tears. With Buffalo Bill was his sharpshooter Annie Oakley, who was a sensation with her ability to shoot down glass bubbles tossed into the air or to split a playing card shot edgewise. Also featured here is Thomas Alva Edison, who was there to show off (and to market) his phonograph; Parisian celebrities were delighted with the machine's capacity to capture their voices. He was feted everywhere, and was dismayed by the richness of the eight or eighteen course dinners. The bad boy of publishing, James Gordon Bennett is here, running the _New York Herald_ from a distance and also founding a Paris edition which touted the exposition; it survives as _The International Herald-Tribune_. Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Gauguin are on the fringes as impoverished artists hoping for their big break, a break that the exposition did not provide.

Jonnes takes us on a tour of the fair, where visitors could see Arab orchestras, gigantic engines, and Javanese dancing girls, and could tour the grounds by miniature railroad or by authentic rickshaws. They could view the world's largest oaken wine cask (200,000 bottles worth), or a shepherd using the stilts traditional to his region for getting quickly to far-flung herds. They might fantasize about buying the Eiffel Tower model on display encrusted with 40,000 diamonds. For souvenirs, they did buy lamps, umbrellas, chocolate, and handkerchiefs depicting the tower, just as tourists still do. Jonnes's book swings nicely between engineering, celebrity portraits, and social history, and is a fine resource for all of us who could not make it to the Exposition Universelle ourselves.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well-researched, enjoyable read 23 Jun 2009
By Debbie - Published on Amazon.com
This lively and entertaining book is obviously extensively researched. Using newspaper articles, interviews, letters, and so forth, the author lets the reader see events unfold as those who lived at the time saw them.

The book covers the details of the building of the Eiffel Tower as well as the doings of famous people who attended the 1889 Paris World's Fair. The book has nice photos illustrating the building of the tower, showing famous people who attended the world's fair, and scenes from the fair.

Some untranslated French is used in the book, but I got the point even though I don't know French.

Two of my family members were also interested in this book, so we read it aloud. Reviewer Two thought the start of the book was a bit slow (while we were being introduced to so many people). However, once we got to know the characters, he thought the book was one of the most interesting books he'd read in a long time.

Reviewer Three enjoyed the whole book except the epilogue where we're told what happened to these people after the Fair. She was sad to hear what happened to most of them after their high point at the fair since many didn't have happy endings.

I'd recommend this book to anyone interested in the building of the Eiffel Tower or in what happened at the 1889 Paris World's Fair. Also, history buffs interested in technology would probably enjoy this book.

Review also posted at Different Time, Different Place Book Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Towerful Delight 12 Feb 2010
By Erin Johnson - Published on Amazon.com
This is my most recent foray into non-fiction. It was recommended by a colleague who thought I'd like it (same colleague who lent me Devil in a White City, so he definitely knows what I like in my non-fiction!).

Jonnes takes us on a trip to Paris in 1889. The story of the tower begins with Gustave Eiffel and his dream of making his tower the attraction of the 1889 Exposition Universelle in Paris. Let me tell you, there is always drama surrounding a piece of art that has beat out competitors, inspired some bad blood, and whose construction is at the mercy of politics. Ouch. Eiffel obviously persevered in the construction of this magnificent piece of architecture as its still there (and still causing controversy, although recently it's been more about the light show at night than its actual presence).

Though the title really focuses on the tower, there was a lot going on in Paris (and America) at this time. The point of the Eiffel Tower was to be the piece de resistance for the 1889 Exposition Universelle. Paris wanted the world to see its crowning achievement (as the tower was the tallest thing in existence for quite a few years), but it also wanted to showcase its art, inventions and achievements. There were displays from numerous countries, although it seems that the Javanese dancers really won the crowd over.

Some of my favorite parts dealt with Buffalo Bill and his Wild West show, Annie Oakley and her reception in Paris, Thomas Edison and his issues with partners as well as his Parisian reception when he showed up to the fair, and the squabbles amongst the artists.

Honestly, if you pick this one up expecting the entire book to be about the Eiffel Tower, you will be sorely disappointed. However, you will also learn a lot about the world, Paris, America and the people in this book at the time it is set.

The story is broken up into sections, so there is never too much of one particular subject in a row throughout the story. If you find one particular aspect boring, you can easily skip that section and move right along. I wouldn't recommend it, as you are sure to miss something fabulous and fascinating.

And on a personal note, as someone who has visited the tower and ridden in those elevators, it was really fabulous to read about how the tower came to be (because honestly, it may not have been or it could have failed miserably!) It was only supposed to be up for 20 years, and I am so glad that it is still there, as it truly is a marvel of architecture from the turn of the century. No, you don't have to know the history to appreciate it, but I find that I really want to go back now and pick out the spots where the restaurants were (are?) and find out if Eiffel's suite is still there. How bad is it that I can't remember that detail from 2003?

Notes on the Cover:
I love the combination of the black, gold and white. I love the way the tower is illuminated and how you see the rest of the Exposition around its base. I did wonder if the tower had ever been lit the way its depicted on the cover, so I looked it up and it is apparently a real photograph from the fair in 1900 by William H. Rau. Lovely!
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Lofty Achievement 15 Dec 2009
By Jeannie Mancini - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
Jill Jonnes new book Eiffel's Tower is not just a biography of Gustave Eiffel, or the incredible tale of the building of one of the world's most magnificent architectural wonders, it is so much more. The setting is 1899 Paris, it is the time for creating the magic for the new World's Fair.

Jonnes begins her story in 1897 by informing the reader of Eiffel's dream and plan, to use the tower as the centerpiece of the upcoming fair two years hence. This is an absorbing story of how one man fought against many people who were opposed to the building of the tower, and how he persevered to win the prestigious slot to use his dream tower to be the showcase of the future Paris World's Fair. Revealing to us the engineering feat of what it took to design and pull off this ingenious iron marvel, the book is simply fascinating. I learned a lot of how the Eiffel Tower was constructed and of the many talents and physical demands of the men who strived to make Eiffel's dream come true. Interesting too, are the little biographical tidbits that the author intersperses around the long lived years of Gustave's life, and of his many other astounding achievements. Eiffel had his hand in other major engineering projects around the world that readers will certainly recognize, never realizing he had been involved with their development.

As the Eiffel tower slowly soars skyward, the author begins to pull together various stories of the menagerie of famous and prominent people, that will be exhibiting and entertaining the many millions of tourists who will flood Paris with their enthusiasm to see the newest wonders of the world. Alternating between Eiffel's daily setbacks and conquests involving the erection of the tower, are delightful snippets of enchanting characters such as Buffalo Bill Cody, Annie Oakley, Thomas Edison, Charles Otis of Otis Elevator fame, struggling French Impressionist painters such as Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Gauguin and American artist James Whistler. Jonnes paints an evocative panoramic picture of what it was like to bring the World Fair's exhibits to fruition.

The Biographical sketches of Annie Oakley and Thomas Edison were to me very captivating as we learn many more interesting facts about each of their lives and talents that I doubt most people are aware of. I thought the author did a sensational job of developing the story of Paris' Victorian year of extravagance, giving the reader a fun and informative book of mechanical marvels, innovative scientists, inventors and engineers, and outlandish artists and prominent celebrities that at the time, dazzled every household around the globe. Eiffel's Tower was an engaging and delightful read that will be enjoyed by all lovers of history, Victorian era fans, World's fair enthusiasts and especially by all engineers and inventors. To view Paul Gauguin's Tahiti Paintings, to see Edison's new phonograph, to listen the blood curdling hoop and holler of the American red Indians of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, and to hear the daily newsboys hawking "Read All About It", as news of the fair and tower progress, had me feeling I was right there in Paris taking it all in. I Walked the faux streets of Cairo, boarded the trolley train, swayed to the music as Javanese dancers mesmerized the crowds, then ended the day by boarding an elevator 1000 feet up in the air to the top of Gustave Eiffel's electric lit crowing glory. Reading this book was a memorable experience that allowed me to feel I had stepped back in time.
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