Friday, 3 July 2009

The Invention of Everything Else by Samantha Hunt

I'm not sure what I want to say about this book. The Invention of Everything Else took me a long time to read because I kept picking up other things that seemed more interesting. I can't say I didn't like it because whilst I actually had in my hands I enjoyed it and wanted to keep reading it. But once I'd put it down, I didn't have the feeling of needing to pick it back up again and could quite happily leave it sat on the pile and read something else.

It's the story of Nikola Tesla, the little known but very influential inventor of radio as we know it and AC electricity. When we start this novel, he is an old man (86), living in a New York hotel and virtually destitute. We also meet Louisa, a chambermaid at the hotel, who stumbles into his room one day when she is assigned to a different floor, and who starts to read his journal, as snooping in hotel guests rooms is her custom. They develop a rapport through a love of pigeons, although Louisa's is a more conventional passion for homing pigeons, Tesla actually talks to his birds, and more strangely, believes that they talk back to him.

From this point the novel follows the lives of both Louisa and her father, and chronicles the life of Tesla through his journal, his conversations with his birds, a man called Sam (Sam Clemens, Mark Twain) and his dealings with Louisa. We learn about how he felt about his inventions, how he lost them to capitalism and about some of his more madcap ideas. Louisa's story is a more conventional one, more of a love story and her father's is one of love, loss and longing. Louisa has never known her mother, as she died in childbirth and when her father's old friend re-appears and claims to have built a time machine, her father jumps at the chance to go back and see his wife one last time. At the same time, Arthur appears in Louisa's life and claims to have been at school with her, even though she can't remember, and a passion between them develops quickly.

As far as plot summary, that's about as far as I can go without giving too much away. It's a story mainly about love, and time and memories. Although there is a time machine,the majority of the time travel is done through memories, both Tesla's and Louise's father's memories of their past lives. These people are all connected, through birds, love, loss and electricity. I did find it interesting, although the science went over my head a bit, as usual. In fact I think the whole book may have gone over my head a bit. I'm sure I missed something. I was really well written though, and I think in the end, it was the writing, rather than the story that kept me reading it, even if it was only in short bursts.


farmlanebooks said...

I didn't like this one at all. It was all a bit weird for me. and as you say it doesn't really grab your attention so can easily be put down.

I found it a real effort to make it to the end. I was interested to read your thoughts though.

Anonymous said...

Oh I liked this one, I didnt have the 'put down and not feel bothered about picking up again' feelings which i empathise with you on as thats happened a lot with books and me!