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Thunderstruck
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Showing 1-10 of 171 reviews(3 star). See all 1,107 reviews
on July 6, 2015
Loving, as I had, the other books that I had read by Larson, I was somewhat disappointed in Thunderstruck. The book tells, simultaneously, the stories of Marconi's invention of and attempts to market wireless telegraphy, and a highly publicized ( murder of the century ) London homicide.
The story of the murder by an unassuming pharmacist of his show-biz wife who did not love him and whom he had stopped loving, was an interesting tale but I have read more engrossing true crime stories.
Much of the account of Marconi and his invention was tedious and over - detailed. At times I found it to be a chore to get through it. The stories of his personal life, though, were of interest.
While, in general, the book was worth reading, I thought that it was over - rated and disappointing.
3 people found this helpful
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on May 4, 2018
This title by Erik Larson didn't keep my attention like his hit, The Devil in the White City. It jumped back and forth between the Marconi story line
and the Crippen murder case so often that it was difficult to follow either one clearly. The book was well researched, but better editing might have
made it more readable. The personalities of the protagonists were so flawed that I wanted to say to Crippen, "So murder Belle already!" and to
Marconi, "Stop being such an insufferable narcissist!"
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on January 4, 2012
I read Erik Larson's DEVIL IN WHITE CITY some years ago - probably about the time it came out in 2004 - gave it rave reviews and would list it as one of the top 100 books I've ever read. I recently read IN THE GARDEN OF BEASTS and can't say enough good things about it. Based on those two reads I undertook THUNDERSTSRUCK. But the third book was not a charm. In a format much like DEVIL IN WHITE CITY, Larson presesnts a work with parallel stories of the Crippen saga, murder and mystery and a biographical account of Marconi and the development of wireless technology.

The account of the Crippen saga is a fascinating account of life in the late 19th and early 20th century. How Hawley Crippen went from rags to riches and then back to rags and riches again; how he moved from the US to London and engaged in the development of patent medicines is really interesting; how he managed his relationships with his wife and then lover will keep the reader turnng pages. It is a real look at life and how people worked and lived during the period. In addition it shows the development of early forsenic science.

However, the account of Marconi was, in my opinion, long, tedious and sometimes confusing. This is not to diminish the amount of research and information that Larson provides about Marconi and his toils in making his fortunes in the wireless industry. And closer to the end of the book I felt that I got a better feel for Marconi and his often quirky personality. But for me, the Marconi sections did not flow as well as the Crippen sections.

The author immediately captures the readers interest with his initial chapter which tells the story of Ship Captain Henry George Kendall. The reader does not meet Kendall again until page 300 or so and thats when the two stories come to mesh. The meshing of the two stories near the end of the book are worth the read. In Larson's own words on page 379 he says " The Crippen Saga did more to accelerate the acceptance of wireles as a practical tool than anything the Marconi company previously had attempted." That sentence sums up the book.

I enjoyed the book, but if you are expecting another work like Devil.... and In the Garden.... THUNDERSTRUCK may not meet your expectations.
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on April 9, 2015
Didn't find this novel as engrossing as many other of Mr. Larson's books. Not sure if it was the subject matter, or what. A few of his books I have gone into on faith that I would find it a great read despite not being interested in the subject matter. This was one of those. It was interesting, interesting enough for me to finish it (which as I get older, I am less likely to waste my valuable time finishing inferior books than when I was a kid). There were lots of little nuggets of fascinating information and glimpses into that era, as always with Mr. Larson. I just didn't find it quite up to his other efforts. But still great research and story telling, as always.
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on July 9, 2015
Although the writer thinks he is preparing the reader for his writing style by declaring that he likes to digress, let me warn you: Larson requires so much patience with the digressions that I, for one, have lost interest in what might be a fascinating story somewhere in these hundreds of pages. But I don't want to waste any more time trudging through the history lessons and social commentary and gossip and asides and fashion statements and what-all. I've given the book to Goodwill for resale.
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on April 22, 2012
I loved "Isaac's Storm" and "Devil In the White City," two books that set a very high bar for comparison with future works. This book is actually a fine book and consistent in every way with the author's treatment of historical events. However, the characters in this book are one dimensional in their interests: Marconi's compulsive pursuit of wireless telegraphy and Crippen's single murder and his flight from the police. This resulted in what seemed to be repetitive and irrelevant passages. You can only describe antenna configurations so many times before the mind blurs. And the detail on Belle's life simply made me want to kill her too.

In both his opening remarks and the final sentence of NOTES at the end, Larson emphasized that all dialogue in the book is taken verbatim from the source in which it initially appears, a far cry from "historical novels" that create dialogue to suit whatever serves the author's purposes. I look forward to "In the Garden of Beasts" and many more of Larson's work.
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on February 28, 2014
I liked Thunderstruck, but was expecting more after having read Devil in the White City. I think this book jumped back and forth between the two stories more that "Devil" did. The stories were not as interesting. Without giving spoilers, the killer here was not nearly as sinister, and I actually had a lot of sympathy for him. The Marconi story was OK, but after a while I got the point that he was a workaholic with a big ego. I'd been to Cape Cod and saw one of Marconi's stations, so that part gave it a little interest. However, I live in Chicago, so "Devil in the White City" literally hit closer to home. Erik Larson is a good writer, and he kept my interest throughout the book, even with less interesting subject matter. I plan to read more of his books.
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on December 13, 2016
I always enjoy Erik Larson's books. But, the minutiae about Marconi made me quickly bored and I skimmed through much of the details of his life and invention.
I glazed over while reading most of those details but read with fascination how Belle's murderer was apprehended. The details are gruesome.
Larson is a master storyteller. I enjoyed the book.
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on June 22, 2015
I was interested in reading this book because it was the only book that I hadn't read yet by Erik Larson. I confess that I wasn't that interested in wireless communication, however, Erik Larson did grab my interest and I feel like I know a little more about it than I knew before reading this book. However, I did find the subject dry and repetitive. The murder mystery part of the book was intriguing, but unfortunately, I really didn't care much about the characters involved. I only gave it three stars because the story telling didn't match up to his previous books.
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on May 4, 2013
Larson certainly does his research and he's a fine writer. But his chapter-by-chapter separation of two completely different stories becomes tedious by about halfway through the book, and he tends to go overboard with his research. (Do we really need to know the complete list of clothing and jewelry that Ethel gives to Mrs. Jackson?).

If you're interested in the dynamics of a scientific development (and all the politics and human frailties therein), the Marconi story will be interesting. But otherwise, the template he uses for storytelling is a bit much to take.
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