Author: Samantha Hunt
No. of Pages: 251
First Released: 2008
Synopsis (Courtesy of B&N): “From the moment Louisa first catches sight of the strange man who occupies a forbidden room on the thirty-third floor, she is determined to befriend him. Unbeknownst to Louisa, he is Nikola Tesla—inventor of AC electricity and wireless communication—and he is living out his last days at the Hotel New Yorker. Winning his attention through a shared love of pigeons, she eventually uncovers the story of Tesla’s life as a Serbian immigrant and a visionary genius: as a boy he built engines powered by June bugs, as a man he dreamed of pulling electricity from the sky. The mystery deepens when Louisa reunites with an enigmatic former classmate and faces the loss of her father as he attempts to travel to the past to meet up with his beloved late wife. Before the week is out, Louisa must come to terms with her own understanding of love, death, and the power of invention.”
Comments and Critique: I’ll admit that I didn’t know very much about Tesla, his life or his inventions, other than the Tesla coil and even then I’m not 100 percent certain I know what that is. This lack of knowledge is what initially drew me to this book – I viewed it as a great opportunity to learn more about Tesla. To that end, this book did not disappoint. I did learn more about Tesla. I learned about everything that he invented, which is a quite lengthy list. I also learned that one of the great tragedies of Tesla’s life is the fact that his accomplishments were huge but because he did not believe that one person could own or capitalize on those inventions, he signed away all rights to them. His madness towards the end of the novel, whether perceived or real is up to the reader to determine, is all the more poignant because of everything he signed away.
The other half of the book deals with Louisa and her relationships with her father, with Tesla, with her father’s best friend, and with the mysterious Arthur. Louisa is equal parts dreamer and pragmatist but above all the caretaker. When Arthur comes on the scene, we finally meet someone who is willing to take care of Louisa, which is something she well deserves. However, we first must address the issue of who exactly is Arthur and why Louisa doesn’t remember him.
This book is difficult to classify. It has elements of historical fiction, romance, science fiction, mystery and drama, but to label it as either one of those is impossible. It’s an interesting mix of genres and definitely compelled me to keep reading. The symbolism of the pigeons cannot be ignored, especially with the sci-fi elements of time travel.
I really did enjoy this book and the trip through post-WWII New York. I find it difficult to describe without giving away the entire plot. At times, it did get a little technical, especially when Tesla was describing some of his ideas. However, the questions about love and life remain no matter how technical the inventions. Both Louisa and Tesla have tragic elements, making the reader sympathize with and root for them.
I would definitely recommend this book for anyone who is interested in science, science fiction or learning more about Tesla in a fictionalized setting. Thanks to Houghton Mifflin for the opportunity to review this book!