Top positive review
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Crackling and cracking
on 17 June 2007
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.
What makes Larson such an enjoyable and consummate writer of historical prose is his gift with the language, his ability to pace the stories to gripping, electric finishes and the diligent research which ensures he is able to inject life and interest into the past.
Anyone who has read any of his previous work and enjoyed them will be well served by this latest offering. Any one unfamiliar with Larson, but who enjoys deliciously well written history, would be advised to give them a go.
Would give 4.5, but obviously the Amazon rating system won't allow this!