More Orange longlist reading, The Invention of Everything Else by Samantha Hunt and I think for me this was a book of three thirds.
Or perhaps that's because I read it in three longish sittings separated by a couple of days and each time it felt as if I was picking up a different book. I couldn't quite get back into my stride quickly and felt as I was starting over as I picked up the threads again.
Add into that the fact that I'm the person who decided to listen to The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger on an iPod shuffle and inadvertently pressed the shuffle button and listening chaos ensued (though many said it hardly mattered and should have worked as a book just the same). It's all left me with a bit of a phobia about time travel books because I can't quite get my head around people being here last week when actually it's next week really, so they're not actually dead because the accident that happened this week hasn't happened yet because they are still in last week but you know they are going to be dead soon.
See, it's complicated isn't it and I need these things explaining very clearly, like Michael J.Fox does in Back to the Future.
However I gamely reached the end albeit in a slight state of unknowing with a book that has nonetheless proved to be a fascinating blend of fact, fiction, history and dare I say, science fiction surrounding the weird and wonderful life of Nikola Tesla the acknowledged father of radio and AC electricity.
Most people would credit Edison and Marconi with both of those inventions however it was Tesla's chaotically eccentric genius that came up with the ideas but sadly not the business acumen ever to convert the ideas into money. I suspect if anyone had ever sat Tesla down and suggested he did the Belbin Team Roles test it would have become abundantly clear that he was not a Completer-Finisher.
'It's carrying your idea to fruition that is your stumbling block. And the world requires proof of genius inventions.'
And then a trip to the behavioural psychologist would have planted him firmly somewhere along the autistic spectrum, definitely towards the high-functioning Aspergers end,
'Most often I would avoid anything as social as this supper. Society is best kept at a distance, like a guiding star, far off and easy to ignore.'
But this is the late nineteenth, early twentieth century, autism wouldn't become a recognised condition until 1943, strangely the year of Tesla's death. As it is this brilliant genius and inventor of so much, faded into eccentric poverty and obscurity and with little recognition for his life's work and it is this period of Tesla's life that forms the main focus of this book.
I'm making an assumption of faction, historical veracity mixed in with fictional events and once I twigged who 'Sam' was I realised that Tesla had some very influential friends...but then I got confused perhaps this was the Sam who had written this book...
'Are you ready Sam? Enough paper? Pens? Fine. We can start with the darkness.'
It's all complicated and kept me on my toes.
Samantha Hunt also adds in a fictional sub-plot surrounding the family of Louisa a chambermaid at the New Yorker Hotel where Tesla sees out his days and this is where the time travel started to confuse little old me. The scientists and physicists among you will relish this book and though I'm not raving about it, I don't want to damn it with faint praise either because all credit to Samantha Hunt for tackling such a huge subject with such vivid imagination and clever writing, keeping me there and interested to the final page.
The book certainly deserving of Orange shortlist recognition in that case for the sheer scope of its vision and inventiveness.
I know a great deal more than when I started that's for sure in fact I could probably knock up a death ray with a few bits from our kitchen drawer. You know, the one where you put everything you don't quite know where else to put,
Ours is the third one along and it's a vampire's haversack of chaos, in fact on reflection I think there's a little bit of the Tesla in all of us.