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The Singing Line Hardcover – 16 Sep 1999

14 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Chatto & Windus; First Edition. 2nd Impression edition (16 Sept. 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0701166762
  • ISBN-13: 978-0701166762
  • Product Dimensions: 21.4 x 16 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,023,681 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

In 1855 a young scientist called Charles Todd left Greenwich for Australia, where he intended to wire the continent by stringing a telegraph line across the wilderness. In 1997 his great-grandaughter, journalist Alice Thomson, set off to retrace his steps from Adelaide to Alice Springs (which Charles Todd named after his wife, the author's great-grandmother, who never visited the town) to Darwin, where the telegraph wire would join up with an underwater cable from Java.

Needless to say, Todd's journey, reconstructed here through letters and family history, was arduous; more surprisingly, so is Thomson's. As she and her husband cope with breakdowns, illness and the poverty of isolated communities, it becomes clear that parts of the outback haven't changed much since Todd first saw them.

In Charles Todd and his wife Alice, Thomson has chosen intriguing subjects. Charles is brilliant and ambitious but increasingly unaware of the needs of those around him, particularly his large family. Thomson isn't afraid to cast a critical eye: "Certainty had helped Todd to span a continent. It may not always have made him an easy companion." But the strongest presence in the book is the enigmatic Alice, the sparky young woman who made family history by proposing marriage to Charles. Frequently separated from Todd, Alice oscillates between bouts of sociability, fierce spirituality and depression. Was she happy with Charles? The Singing Line is an exploration of personal as well as technological connections and it seeks to answer that question. --Tamsin Todd

Review

"To return to a world in which news traveled less quickly, one only needs to read Alice Thomson's...The Singing Line."--"The New York Times Book Review "From the Trade Paperback edition.

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 10 Mar. 2001
Format: Paperback
i received this book as a present, and being 18 and never particularily interested in telegraph lines, it was with definite prejudgment that i first started reading this book during a four hour train journey. however, alice thomson's style of writing is such that it is part her diary, part her great grandfather's diary and also part history guide. i have found this book to be very absorbing and also highly detailed proving that thomson's journey was well worth it, but it also shows the very human side to the story which she tells. this book tells two very interesting stories - charles todd's, and alice thomson's. recommended for passing the time in a constructive way whilst enduring long train journeys!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Hannah on 8 May 2006
Format: Paperback
This is an inspiring book for anyone who is planning a trip up the Red Centre of Australia, or who is interested in gaining a further understanding of what the colonists faced on arrival in Australia. Alice Thomson manages to weave her own trip along the telegraph line neatly into the historical account of Todd's great endeavour and perhaps in doing this ensures that the reader is not bogged down too much by the Victorian aspect. The arduous journey Thomson and her husband undertake amply demonstrates quite how much an achievement the building of the telegraph line was 125 years earlier. Her writing style is fluid and enjoyable to read. Highly recommendable, a great mix of history and travel with the latter bringing the former to life.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 15 Jan. 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you liked 'Longitude', 'The Explorers' & Bill Bryson's 'Down Under' this is a really fascinating mix of the three - recounting the author's great grandfather - Charles Todd's struggle to overcome the practical and technological hurdles of stringing a telegraph line from the northern territory to south australia in the 1850's and her modern day journey retracing his footsteps.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By MR D CHESHIRE on 28 May 2005
Format: Paperback
This is book with a lot of charm, part travel book, part history and part family investigation. It takes you straight into the heartland of 19th century Australia, as well as opening up the little known history of pioneers like Samuel Morse and the author's ancestor Charles Todd who linked the world by the telegraph. Todd, one of those eccentric, driven people who embark on extraordinary adventures, put Australia on the map and helped create the global village. That Charles' patient, long suffering but equally eccentric wife Alice should be imortalised in Alice Springs is one of those historical quirks that you only find in oddball books like this. Todd's rivalry with the horrible Patterson adds some dramatic tension to this extraordinary adventure. A lovely book.
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Format: Paperback
The great great granddaughter of Alice Todd, the woman for whom the town of Alice Springs was named, tells two great tales of adventure: the story of Charles Todd and his quest to connect Australia and the world by telegraph, and her own adventure tracing the route of the overland pioneers over 100 years earlier. The bulk of the story is about the Todds and the telegraph project, and it is an very well researched story that draws material from personal diaries of the key figures, historical newspapers and academic research, as well as the personal stories captured and retold by the author's relations. I was captivated by the quest of Todd and the drama that surrounded it and I was inspired by the eventual success of the team despite all the unknown conditions they had to face in terms of central and northern Australia's landscape, climate and fauna. The author's personal journey following the telegraph route was an informative and entertaining travelogue, particularly as I am formulating my own plan for tour through central australia. I was left dreaming about things I could rediscover for myself by venturing off the beaten track when I travel up the middle of Australia.
Overall, I found the novel to be very well written, entertaining, historically insightful, and the two intertwined stories provided additional fuel to my own travelling ambitions.
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By LindyLouMac on 9 Jun. 2008
Format: Paperback
This is the biographical story of Charles Todd, the man who successfully managed to connect Australia with other continents by taking the telegraph across its interior and Alice Todd his wife who gave her name to the famous Alice Springs. Written by Alice Thomson their great great granddaughter it is also partly a travel story as in 1997 she and her husband retrace the steps that the Todd's had taken over a hundred years previously.
She vividly describes the trials and tribulations of these Victorian explorer's and those of her and her husband. In crossing some of the most isolated and hazardous terrain in the world, they discover that some parts of the Australian outback have changed little since Victorian times. Even with all modern day advantages to help them it was still not and easy task in modern times.

It was an amazing feat that these pioneers achieved and Alice's account made me realise just how much this was so!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 5 Feb. 2000
Format: Hardcover
Gave this to my grandmother for Christmas and she has raved about it to all her friends. Very interesting insight into the hardships that the early explorers encountered. A thoroughly enjoyable book, easy reading and entertaining.
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