Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Invention of Everything Else - Samantha Hunt

The second of my Orange shortlist reads has quite taken me by surprise. I think I am going to have to stop myself reading other peoples reviews of what I am very shortly going to read and hold off until I have finished reading the book. I love reading other peoples thoughts on books and indeed find some great new books to read through others but sometimes it can overhype a book and other times it can make you dread a book. Samantha Hunt’s novel ‘The Invention of Everything Else’ was falling into the latter category and frankly I shouldn’t have let it.

The Invention of Everything Else starts quite surreally with the inventor and scientist Nikola Tesla waiting for a pigeon at his hotel window, one who when doesn’t appear he goes to find and ends up in deep conversation with. If scientists talking to pigeons would put you off reading a book like it might do me please do try and continue, normally I would have put the book down and not picked it up again, it just seemed a little bit too whacky. However something in Samantha Hunt’s writing kept me reading and held a promise of more to come and she didn’t fail in that.

Nikola Tesla has become something of a recluse in his later life, slightly embittered after having his colleague Marconi steal his invention of ‘the radio’, he has lost touch with reality and the world and lives alone in room 3327 of the New Yorker Hotel creating new inventions and avoiding people. However one person he cant seem to avoid is Louisa, a young chambermaid who has an inquisitive streak and keeps ‘cleaning’ his room/laboratory which she finds as mesmerising as his inventions and mysterious air. However it isn’t only the fact that they have the hotel (which is wonderfully described as in the 1940’s it was one of the tallest largest hotels in existence) in common, as the book continues their separate lives become more and more linked. A friend of Louisa’s father suddenly reappears after two years ‘missing’ claiming he has designed a time machine which happens to be based on Tesla’s theories. It is chance that at the same time mysterious man called Arthur bumps into Louisa and knows everything about her and then who is told, by her fathers friend, to be her future husband? I wont say any more for fear of giving away more of the plot which I became totally lost in.

Like I said I wasn’t sure I was going to like this book at all from how it started and also from the fact I hate science (seriously it goes over my head or bores me) but I completely fell under its spell. I can see why people found it The premise is a little whacky though Nikola Tesla is indeed a very real scientist and inventor but I loved the magical almost science fiction to it that in some ways reminded me of one of my favourite books The Time Travellers Wife and in other ways some of Margaret Atwood’s surreal magical moments both of which are great things. An unusual book that I wasn’t expecting and which completely won me over where many couldn’t have.

… So at the moment two books in it’s a roaring success, and I have nearly finished Burnt Shadows which is… no, I shall hold my tongue until the last page is turned as it could all change for the better or worse.

4 comments:

Karen said...

I love you review! It sounds as though your thoughts on this one would be similar to mine - I'm not a science person at all and the idea of people communicating with pigeons does sound a little wacky to me - but apart from that it really does sound like an interesting book. I'm not sure I have seen this one in Australia as yet but I will keep an eye out.

Candy Schultz said...

Damn I tried not to read this as I just don't need any more books on the pile but now I am interested. I love reading about science. Tesla was a character from all I've read about him. I know this is fiction but it sounds delicious.

farmlanebooks said...

I think your lack of science knowledge is the reason you managed to like this book.

I love reading about science and have a degree in chemistry, so know a lot about it too. I found many sections in this book patronising and the rest implausible. I loved Time Traveller’s Wife and can’t see any similarities between the two. It is amazing how we can both love some books, but have polar opinions on others!

I’m interested to see which of the Oranges is your favourite. Good luck in reading them all before 3rd!!

Kim said...

I have heard varying comments about this book and wondered if I would get on with it as the story is a mixture of fiction and historical fact, which I usually do not like - after your review, though, I think I would. Knowing that Tesla was a tortured genius and undoubtedly eccentric, I think I could handle the talking to pigeons bit. Thanks for the review, Simon, you have helped me off the fence and I have now put the book on my list.