03/05/08 10:45 PM
I’d read Erik Larson’s Devil In The White City a couple years ago and found it to be one of those light little books that went down quickly, so when I ran across Thunderstruck at a thrift store one day, I decided to pick it up. Written in a similar style (nonfiction pulled from historical records and then flourished with a touch of imagination), it’s another breezy sort of read that again follows a man trying to achieve a scientific breakthrough (in this case Guglielmo Marconi) and another who was a murderer (Hawley Harvey Crippen).
That description might not sound breezy, and although the book is definitely a quick read, perhaps that’s not quite the right description of the book. “Pulpy” is probably more apt, as it moves with a sort of brisk thriller feel that you could easily imagine being made into a movie (think something along the lines of The Illusionist). At any rate, Larson once again pulls intertwines the two stories in a way that at first doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense, but finally reveals the connection later on. The bulk of the book is alternately spent describing triumphs, setbacks, murder, marital breakdowns, a getaway, breakthroughs, capture (for Crippen), and ultimately a brief bit of success (for Marconi).
It’s one of those nonfiction titles that reads like a work of fiction, largely for the sometimes-flowery language that Larson uses. Definitely different than most recent nonfiction titles that I’ve read lately (in that it felt a lot more like entertainment than anything of real learning value), it was nonetheless a fun, quick read that I’d recommend to those looking for a good little potboiler (with a few nice historical references thrown in).