Robin (Clinton TN)
Interesting Presentation, but Plotless
First off, I loved the way this book was presented. The report-style format was very inventive (pun intended) and creative - not many publishers put that much thought into Advanced Reader's Copies- kudos for that. As for the content of the book, I wasn't overly impressed. I was attracted to the historical fiction category it was described as, but generally I found the book lacked a strong plot. I did enjoy learning more about Tesla, but without much of a plot, I felt like it plodded along.
Betsey (Austin TX)
Lyrical, lovely, ethereal
Samantha Hunt's novel is a "what if" historical fiction on the last months of the life of Nikola Tesla, the inventor of alternating current electricity. His life was much obscured by the better known Thomas Edison; however, as this book well illuminates, Edison was more rigid, capitalistic, and less visionary than Tesla.
This book is allegorical and metaphorical. Although we learn about Tesla's Serbian roots, his boyhood, and the inner workings of his great mind, Hunt shines even more light on his heart. She does this with aspects of time travel, with his relationship with pigeons, and a fictional relationship with an astute and intelligent chambermaid at the Hotel New Yorker, where he lives the last years of his life.
There is much inner dialogue from the main characters of the story, which makes it a more character-driven than a plot driven read. There is definitely a plot, and suspense, but the texture of the tale and the beautiful turns of phrase and imagery stay with you long after the story ends. Hunt weaves in concepts of psychology, philosophy, and literature, giving the story many dynamic layers. This novel is a novel of ideas as much as it is a fictional biography on the life of a genius. I wanted to ask the author if she had read "Hopeful Monsters," by Nicholas Mosley, as there are strong parallels about the elusiveness of time and the enigma of the human heart, as well as specific references to Goethe. Additionally, both authors are exceptionally open and generous writers and do not borrow from religion in order to hold high values and ethics. I look forward to Samantha Hunt's next novel.
Stephanie Chance (Prattville AL)
This book is full of eccentric, interesting characters. A little bit of history, a little bit of fantasy and time travel... It reminded me a little of Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveler's Wife in that you have to suspend your disbelief, but it is ultimately rewarding. The thing I love most about this book is that it sparks my interest in learning something new. I had no idea who Nikola Tesla was before I read this, but now I am glad that I do know about him and his contributions to society. I particularly enjoyed the theme of conflict between invention for invention's sake and invention for fame. Thomas Edison as foil for Tesla in this regard was a surprising and thought provoking element. I definitely recommend this book to any reading group whose members like to be challenged.
Juliet (Clarendon Hills IL)
The Invention of Everything Else
In The Invention of Everything Else, Samantha Hunt skillfully evokes the world of New York city in the beginning of 1943. She captures the feel of an era where nothing seems impossible; the miraculous inventions which transformed American culture almost overnight gave rise to a collective suspension of disbelief, as exemplified by the national response to the radio broadcast of "War of the Worlds." The discoveries of electricity, magnetism, and radio play directly into to the lives of Louisa, a maid at the Hotel New Yorker, and her widowed father.
As the characters struggle with loss and love, their paths circle around the figure of Nikola Tesla, living out his last years in the hotel where Louisa works. His part of the story is written in first person, while he is consumed by memories of his past as well as by his constant pursuit of knowledge and invention. The parts of the story which incorporate the true details of his life are riveting, but the individual stories of each character are held together more by abstract ideas than by the plot itself. In the end, one is left with a palpable sense of the era, where (heartbreakingly) the possibilities of science seem endless, and how that plays into the inner lives of the people of the time.
Cathy (Shelton CT)
Not bad, not great
It was hard to believe that the inventor in this book was actually a real person. The author could have been more clear and developed her characters better. The ideas she touches on were good ones...loneliness and confusion in all individuals, not just the aged. It's a subject that everyone has to deal with in real life. It would be a good book for a book club, they could touch on the subjects of age (young and old), loneliness, confusion, and how these individuals dealt with those issues. I liked the ending, it seemed to really come together and explained a lot of what I needed to put it all together.