“On the day he would first meet Thomas Edison, Paul watched a man burn.” // Review of “The Last Days of Night” by Graham Moore

Title: The Last Days of Night
Author: Graham Moore
Audio book narrator:
Johnathan McClain
Genre:
Historical fiction
Date Read: 13/03/2018 – 18/03/2018
Rating:
 ★★★★★

Review:

I gave a book 4.5 stars back in January but this is my first 5 star book of 2018! To be honest, had I simply enjoyed this book, it probably would have only got 4, but I’m giving it the extra one because I kept running off to google historical events and figures because I found it all fascinating, and I’ve never done that before. On top of that, it actually helped me with the world-building for my own novel, so I definitely owe it for that!

The Last Days of Night tells the story of “the war of the currents” between Thomas Edison, commonly considered the inventor  of  the electric lightbulb, and George Westinghouse. The novel’s central character, Paul Cravath, was Westinhouse’s lawyer, and along with him, the reader observes events from a layperson’s perspective. Most of the characters and events in the novel really took place in one way or another, though Graham Moore does admit in his lengthy author’s note at the end that he did take some liberties with the timeline and amalgamated some figures into one character.

Paul is depicted as a likeable yet fallible character. He makes some mistakes, some with huge consequences for his client, and others which affect him more personally. Thomas Edison is arrogant and self-serving, though the book did manage to make me feel sorry even for him at the end. George Westinghouse was more sympathetic, though he was still a businessman. And Nikola Tesla, another key figure in the game… I wanted to give him all the hugs.  Though to be honest, I have always wanted to give Nikola Tesla all the hugs.

I got rather invested in the romantic subplot between Paul and his client-turned-love-interest, Agnes Huntington. Agnes was a great character, too. She was intelligent and not afraid to speak her mind, though she was also caught up in the typical pretenses of New York high society. Even though this was one of the things I googled and I knew that the real Paul Cravath did marry the real Agnes Huntington, there were a couple of points where I wasn’t completely sure their fictionalised versions were going to get it together and actually get engaged. I may have made som undignified squeaking noises as I worried about this.

do need to mention that there is one scene of particular animal cruelty that may upset some readers. There’s also a rather graphic description of the first execution by electric chair, which is not for the faint-hearted, along with some other descriptions of electricity-induced accidents.

But all in all, this was the first time I’ve really felt like I was learning something as I read a historical fiction novel This is a fascinating examination at a unique point in history, and I recommend it!


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