The Last Days of Night: A Book Review

I was originally introduced to The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore last year by the (now defunct) podcast Books on the Night Stand. The book takes place just before the turn of the twentieth century during the time of the Current War between Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse, and was a beautiful blend of historical fiction and fact.

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The main character Paul Cravath is hired to represent George Westinghouse in a patent infringement case against Thomas Edison. Fresh out of law school, the brilliant protoge Cravath is looking to climb the ladder of ambition and distance himself from his humble beginnings in Nashville. The infringement case (which in all appearances is a lost cause) turns out to be just the tip of the iceberg of a bitter feud between the two business magnates, and the dispute reaches its arms out to bring in some of the most prominent New Yorkers of the time. Nikola Tesla, J. P. Morgan, Graham Bell, and the beautiful singer Agnes Huntington all make appearances, and each character brings its own quirks and flaws to the plot.

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While I do not consider myself to be a tech geek whatsoever, this novel did a great job of covering a period of history that I was previously unfamiliar with. This book’s plot was nuanced and developed   not a litany of names and technical jargon   that kept me engaged and interested. Moore managed to explain the necessary background science behind lightbulbs and Alternating and Direct Current in a way  that was approachable and easy to understand without detracting from the story and flow of the plot, a difficult feat considering the complexity of the topic. I read part of this book while taking a Physics class for my Undergrad, and Moore’s explanations helped to support and build on what was being taught by my professor.

And the quotes at the beginning of each chapter! It’s the little things sometimes, but the scientist in me loved contemplating on the words of wisdom sprinkled through the pages and seeing how they applied to the characters.

I have always taken for granted the ease of being able to turn on lightbulb when it is dark, but The Last Days of Night brings a new awareness to just how much of a luxury that truly is. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes a good plunge into history, or a mildly suspenseful story full of subtle surprises.

Question of the Day:

What is your favorite period of history? If you could go back in time and meet any person, who would it be and why?

 

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