Friday, July 25, 2008

The Invention of Everything Else

Throughout the summer, whether at Maryknoll, sitting watching the laughing gulls at Chincoteague, or waiting at the train station for Becca, I’ve spent small snatches of time on Samantha Hunt’s The Invention of Everything Else. Today I finished it and I’m not sure whether I loved it or am indifferent to it. That’s because the book is so uneven.

The dazzling and creative descriptions of life in New York City in 1943 that make up the background of much of the book were well-done, drawing the reader into what life at that time much have been like. And I found Nikola Tesla, who for most of the book, is an old man holed up in the Hotel New Yorker with his pigeons, fascinating. I really enjoyed both Hunt’s imaginings of what his inner thoughts were along with the flashbacks to his being exploited by Thomas Edison or beaten out of the Nobel Prize by Marchese Marconi, hanging out with Mark Twain, or sitting in the park with his pigeons.

But what I didn’t care much about was the other main character, Louisa Dewell, who is a 24-year-old main working at the hotel. I kept waiting to get interested in her life—in her relationship with her father and crazy uncle who wants to travel through time, in her romantic interests, in her pigeons, or even in her relationship with Tesla. It never happened. (And I’d expected the opposite, since reviews I read had said that Hunt was much better at describing the thoughts and feelings of the 24-year-old than the 86-year-old.)

So I'll have to ruminate some more on whether or not the book was worth my time. Right now I'm just not sure.

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