Friday, November 24, 2006

Book Review: "Thunderstruck"

Erik Larson's Thunderstruck takes as its subject two plotlines - one about the vicious North London Cellar Murder and the other about Guglielmo Marconi's difficult road to develop workable wireless radio technology - which are seemingly unconnected for much of the book but end up (unsurprisingly) converging in a fascinating way (apparently a motif he also used in The Devil in the White City, which I have not yet read, although it's on my pile). It's an interesting writing style, and the only thing that bothered me about the alternation between the stories was the sometimes all-too-abrupt perspective changes.

Both plotlines are fairly well-developed, which is good; both also do an excellent job of bringing the late Victorian/early Edwardian period into sharp focus. Larson's research into both his main subjects and many tangential bits was obviously extensive, even if the citations here are hidden in that obnoxious style Crown seems to be preferring these days (no indication in the text of what's being referenced).

This wasn't a book that knocked my socks off, but I did enjoy it. Richly detailed (I won't fault Larson for that, I enjoyed them), and well written, I'll recommend it as a good armchair history.

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