I just finished reading this book. I did struggle a little to get into the book at first but then recently bed ridden with a cold I started to power through it (no pun intended). Found it a very enjoyable and interesting read. I think the book could benefit from some pictures or diagrams, particularly in the initial chapters so readers have an idea of how the different technologies being trialled in those years differed from one another. It would help those of us who aren't that familiar with the technology follow the story better. But all said, it is a very interesting introduction into the topic and provides a good starting point for identifying where one might want to read more closely into a particular era or topic.
"Children of Light" is highly misleading title for a book which is essentially a popular history of the Electric Supply Industry in the UK. Interesting though that topic may be.
The title implies that the book will primarily concern itself with consumers of electricity - the public, their reaction to electricity and consumer trends - which it touches on only in passing - the "children" rather than the suppliers who are essentially the parents. And it doesn't.
There is a very interesting social history waiting to be written on electricity and its growing impact during the course of the 19th and 20th century, but unfortunately this isn't it.
For instance mention is made of the fact that in 20's and 30's many electrical appliances were hired out to those who couldn't afford to buy them outright. As a way of encouraging customers to use more electricity. However precise details of how exactly these schemes operated is sadly lacking. Similarly the sale of vacuum cleaners door to door in the 1930's is illustrated solely by the same anecdote, by the self same former vacuum cleaner salesman, as has already appeared in at least one TV documentary. Yes that one. Where he spreads the soot on the potential customer's carpet prior to his demonstration, only to be told the house isn't yet wired up for electricity. Then there's the question of domestic wirelesses which were commonly powered by batteries or accumulators. Who charged these accumulators, how much did this cost, how long did each charge last ?
These topics can of course be researched on the Net for those who are really that interested. But then, there would be be no point in buying or reading the book in the first place.
There must surely be a wealth of original material still available out there, which would bring this topic to life, all of which appears to have been totally overlooked.
In its reliance on secondary sources this book also repeats some highly questionable statistics on the spread of electrification - for instance that by 1935 95% of French households were supplied with electricity (page 174).
Finally, as already noted the complete lack of any illustrations - uncaptioned vignettes at the start of chapters don't qualify as illustrations in my book - is unforgivable in a book on this topic, certainly at this price.
A necessary and important historical survey, but with some major errors and badly edited. The errors include the claim that Calder Hall was the `first commercial power station' (it was the first civil nuclear station); that it was proposed to generate electricity from `the waste heat from a nuclear power station' (the author has only a hazy grasp of nuclear physics); that Kinlochleven is on the shore of Loch Ness and missing `of' out of the name of the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board. Annoying is the lack of page numbers for illustrations or numbers on the illustrations themselves. So I only recommend it with a warning.