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Thunderstruck Paperback – 6 Nov 2006


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Product details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; Export ed edition (6 Nov 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0739483331
  • ISBN-13: 978-0739483336
  • ASIN: 0385608462
  • Product Dimensions: 15.4 x 3.5 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,029,663 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"Shines a vivid electric light on the birth of the modern age...Larson is a great master of narrative " Mail on Sunday "Meticulously researched...a fascinating read " Daily Express "A big, bold approach to the writing of narrative non-fiction...it shows how tiny lives may occasionally become caught up in the wonders of the age" Guardian "Larson has an exceptional mastery of historical detail and a real flair for suspense...carried off with effortless resonance" Observer "Compelling...Larson's research is meticulous and he presents a vivid picture of a world that was throwing off the shackles of Victorian restraint while barrelling downhill towards the horrors of the First World War" Birmingham Post

Book Description

The New YorkTimes bestselling story of the notorious murderer, Dr Crippen, whose life (and eventual death) were inexorably interwoven with that of Marconi and his miraculous invention: the wireless. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By I. Curry VINE VOICE on 17 Jun 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Two very different stories, one a tale of betrayal, intrigue and murder and the other the crackling history of the development of radio transmission, but melted together in this third delicious offering from historian and writer Erik Larson.

Larson's other books have stuck to a winning formula, and he does not deviate from this simple framework for Thunderstruck. In the Devil and the White City the story of the Chicago World Fair, and the awesome demonstration of science and technology that went with it, was narrated alongside the gruesome story of mass murderer [ ]. In the Drowning of Galveston the nascent science of meteorology was tested and found flawed with devastating consequences, and again Larson wove a story of technological progress around human suffering.

In Thunderstruck the technological progress takes the starring role. The main thrust of this book is the story of radio waves, wireless telegraphy and the intriguing personalities that developed them. This is the story of Marconi, Fleming, Lodge and Tesler in an age where the transmission of messages through the ether to once isolated ships seemed as miraculous as the psychic and metaphysical demonstrations of mediums that fascinated late Victorian England.

But once again Larson ties the story of progress with something darker. In this case it is the case of Dr Crippen, his domineering and eventually dismembered wife Belle and Ethel Le Neve, his mysterious mistress. Most people will be familiar with the story of Crippen, the body in the basement and his eventual capture by use of wireless telegraphy. This is the connections that binds the two stories.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Mr. S. Hall on 24 April 2007
Format: Hardcover
As an ex radio officer I bought this book to read more about Marconi. I found myself becoming equally interested in the story of Dr Crippen. The two stories are woven together excellently. at no point was I bored by excessive detail. An excellent read
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By V. Mccloy on 2 April 2007
Format: Paperback
I received this as a surprise Christmas present and probably wouldn't have picked it as an obvious book to read. However once I started reading I found the story (or in fact the inter-weaved stories) fascinating, and this turned out to be a book I couldn't put down. The stories of Crippen and Marconi are cleverly alternated which really kept my attention. (I suspect they both had the potential to be a bit dry on their own). The book is very readable and really keeps your attention to the end. A few more photographs would have enhanced it further perhaps.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By G. Palmer on 26 April 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A fascinating piece of social and technical history, well written and with occasional moments of levity. Erik Larson's repeated the device of interleaving two stories together like his previous book, but it doesn't quite work as cleanly this time round.

There, the 'White City' as a human construct, built to highlight the brightest of men's achievements, serves as an unknowing and unwilling lure to the deadly and dark ensnarement of 'The Devil' - Almost a case of "The brighter the light, the darker the shade"; In this book the tales of Marconi and Crippen are also related in parallel, but in a slightly hazy chronological order sometimes, and the two stories really only touch, make contact, at the end.

It doesn't make it any less satisfying which is why I've given it a 5*, and it's fascinating to read about people's incredulous amazement that any kind of messages could be sent through the ether (given how wireless technology in all its forms is absolutely embedded in our civilisation, just a hundred or so years later).

On a total side-note, years ago I'd read a book about the sinking of the Empress of Ireland, captained by Henry Kendall - It was interesting to get a glimpse into his eventful past and the part he played in the capture of Dr Crippen.
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Format: Paperback
In THUNDERSTRUCK, Erik Larson tries to repeat the successful formula that made his previous book THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY so compelling. One again he tries to tell two parallel stories that intersect at one Earth-shattering point in history and this time it is the downfall of the notorious Doctor Hawley Crippen in 1910 by the invention (or at least practical application) of wireless telegraphy by Guglielmo Marconi.

On the whole this is a successful formula as both stories are fairly interesting in themselves, although the life of Marconi doesn't generally come across as being all that compelling, and Crippen is actually a rather less interesting and more pathetic figure than might previously have been thought (given his rather high profile in Madame Tussaud's for example) the alleged murder being possibly the most interesting (and - of course - completely unacceptable) event from an otherwise fairly dull life. In this way the stories just don't take off in the way they did in THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY, but that might just be because the stories of Crippen and Marconi are less surprising and more widely known, or maybe just less totally horrifying (although we should still be horrified) than in the previous work.

Another problem is that the timelines are not as concurrent as they were in the previous book, but the book still persists for the most part in alternating chapters between the two stories, so that events in 1910 are followed by events in 1902, so the book seems less seamless than its predessessor.
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