Can you believe there are only 10 days left in Orange July?! I’ve had a lot of fun with this event — reading, blogging, and interacting on the Orange January/July Facebook Page.
I’m currently reading my fifth — and last — Orange July book : Burnt Shadows, by Kamila Shamsie. I’ve heard wonderful things about this 2009 shortlisted book, and the first 50 pages were really good. But more on that some other time. Today I’m reviewing another 2009 shortlisted work, The Invention of Everything Else by Samantha Hunt. While I don’t think I’ve ever come across an Orange nominee that’s a real clunker, this one didn’t compare favorably to the other books I’ve read this month. I rated it 3 stars: respectable, but I won’t be rushing to recommend it to others, as I would for books rated 3.5 stars or better.
Are you enjoying your Orange July reading? Do tell …
Nikola Tesla was a Serbian inventor who came to the United States in the late 1800s. The Invention of Everything Else is a fictional account of his friendship with Louisa, a chambermaid at the Hotel New Yorker, where he lived. Louisa lives with her father Walter, who works as a night watchman at the New York Public Library. One day Louisa’s curiosity leads her into Tesla’s room (which is to be cleaned only upon request). Tesla discovers her reading through some of his papers. Despite this, they become friends and Louisa learns a great deal about Tesla’s life and work.
Meanwhile, Louisa’s father spends most of his time with an old friend, Azor, who is working on a time machine. He lives in hope that Azor will be able to reunite him with his dead wife, Freddie. And a young man named Arthur has turned up out of nowhere, claiming to know Louisa from elementary school. They are attracted to one another, although it’s not clear why. Arthur also pals around with Azor and Walter, assisting them with the time machine.
The story was rather disjointed. The sections describing Tesla’s life and career were most interesting, and Tesla was a likable character. But the fictional characters and their relationships were not believable. Why didn’t Tesla kick Louisa out of his hotel room when he discovered her rifling through his stuff? How did Arthur become so strongly connected to Louisa and Walter? Why did Louisa care for him, and why did Walter and Azor include him in their work?
I followed the story with interest, and had no problem suspending disbelief as Walter and Azor worked on the time machine. But overall, it seemed Samantha Hunt was trying to do too much with this book, and in the final analysis it just didn’t all come together. This is a somewhat engaging read, but not what I’ve come to expect from Orange Prize nominees.