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The Invention of Everything Else Hardcover – February 7, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
In Hunt's (The Seas) overstuffed and uneven novel set in New York, circa 1943, an aging Nikola Tesla lives at the Hotel New Yorker and cares for (and chats with) pigeons while planning what could be his boldest invention yet. He forges an unlikely friendship with Louisa Dewell, a 24-year-old chambermaid at the hotel who also keeps a pigeon coop. The book alternates between Niko's reminisces of turn-of-the century Manhattan and Louisa's current domestic dramas; Niko revisits old grievances concerning the usurpation or dismissal of his many inventions, and Louisa gets ensnared in her zany father's mission to travel back in time and reconnect with his dead wife via a time machine built by his lifelong friend Azor Carter. Assisting in the scheme is Louisa's mysterious beau, Arthur Vaughn, who may or may not be from the future. Although many events are drawn from Tesla's life, he and his peers, including Thomas Edison and John Muir, are cartoonish. Likewise, the city backdrop is drenched in rosy nostalgia (even Hell's Kitchen is a quaint neighborhood). Each individual plot thread has potential, but the cumulative effect is dulled by an unwieldy structure. (Feb.)
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From The New Yorker
In this surreal historical novel, the aged and forgotten scientist Nikola Tesla is eking out his last days at the Hotel New Yorker in 1943, communing with pigeons and the ghost of Mark Twain. His ruminations on his career (he was exploited by Edison, cheated by Marconi) and on an unrealized love intersect with the inchoate aspirations of a chambermaid whose father wants to use a time machine to be reunited with his dead wife. Hunt is adept at entering the mind of a rudderless young woman, but she is less convincing with the brilliant and possibly crazed eighty-six-year-old Tesla. Still, her vision of punch-drunk, teetering-on-modernity Manhattan dazzles in the details: a vast hotel with its own hospital and ice-skating rink; a Poverty Ball attended by millionaires in rags.
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Top customer reviews
Others have summarized the plot of this book, so I won't go into that. This writer's style reminds me of Anne Tyler, with her portrayals of unusual characters and their off-kilter family lives. The surrealism is heightened by the author's unusual structural choices. Occasionally the storyline jumps into the past, and segues into Tesla's journalistic recollections of his own life. Further surreal touches are brought in with a section describing Edison's electrocution of animals and his invention of the electric chair. (Yes, Edison really was an evil and unscrupulous fellow, but TIME Magazine still sells the Edison special, and they have never done a Tesla special...go figure.) The sections written from Tesla's viewpoint are in first-person, while all the rest is third. Certainly not how they tell you to structure a novel in 'writers workshop'!
Louisa was an engaging character, but the entire subplot about Louisa's father, Azor and Arthur, and the "time machine" weren't that interesting to me. Louisa's relationship with Arthur just didn't come alive. Other reviewers said "he may have come from the future", I didn't pick up on that. He was just a sort of wooden, blank character. I wish the entire book had been about Louisa's conversations and interactions with Tesla and his pigeons. Those scenes are marvelous. Tesla is wonderfully portrayed as eccentric, a bit scary yet fascinating, mysterious, wise, witty, sad and a little bitter, yet noble and resigned. I have read descriptions of the elder Tesla as physically frail, yet possessing a presence and a dignity that dominated any gathering. This novel captured that quality for me! Oh, if only I had that Time Machine, so I could go back and meet Tesla!
Tesla offers that inventors should not fall in love, yet his association with chambermaid Louisa, while proper, has a passionate proximity. It could be the one true love they both have found, but the author never lets the story get too close for comfort. The screwball friends and relatives they both have make Tesla and Louisa seem relatively normal by comparison.
Hunt's descriptiveness is better than her plot line. The whole idea about time travel gets confusing without a satisfactory conclusion, but her prose is colorful and never lacks definition. A tighter novel would have been better but Samantha Hunt is a promising writer and one from whom I hope we hear more.
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nineteen more words not required, all i need is my personal opinion of this product still need more words. this form is why more products are not reviewed