“Edison gets the audience. Westinghouse gets the excellence. Tesla gets the ideas.”

lastdaysofnightThe Brown Bagger’s discussed Academy-Award winning author Graham Moore’s second novel, The Last Days of Night on November 16. The historical-fiction centered on the light bulb rivalry between inventors George Westinghouse and Thomas Edison. Of course Nikola Tesla had a role in this war of currents, but the novel followed Westinghouse’s young lawyer, Paul Cravath, and his quest to win an impossible lawsuit against Thomas Edison.

Both Westinghouse and Edison wanted their current to provide electricity to America- Edison tried to discredit Westinghouse’s Alternating Current by saying it was dangerous, so that he could supply America with his Direct Current. However, it was proven that A/C current was safer than D/C current. The story itself followed the actual war of currents, in a more compressed time frame. The characters in the story were well-developed- Edison was portrayed as a man who was only interested in name recognition, which he achieved, even at the loss of the company he started. Westinghouse was depicted in a kinder manner, and as someone who wanted to make the best products possible. And, Tesla was portrayed as an eccentric genius who just wanted to invent and did not care about money.

Paul Cravath was fresh out of law school when he took this case, and while he was smart, he was inexperienced and made some mistakes. However, by taking Westinghouse as a client he was introduced to the more glamorous side of New York and meets Agnes Huntington, an opera singer with a mysterious past. Cravath had to take continually bigger risks throughout the lawsuit but doing so meant that he would change as a person, and possibly lose those that he cared about.

The Brown Baggers overwhelmingly loved this novel! Many felt that the book provided a great background on the history of light bulbs and the nuances of patents. The quotes at the beginning of each chapter made the content even more relevant for today’s world and most agreed that the writing was very descriptive- almost as if it were a screenplay. There was a lot of legalese in the book, but not so much that it was hard to follow. Many felt that the novel was both emotional and fascinating- it was a page turner!

Reviews of the novel:
New York Times Book Review
Washington Post

Interview with the author:

Books mentioned during the discussion:
The Riverkeepers by John Cronin and Robert F. Kennedy
Thomas A. Edison, Young Inventor by Sue Guthridge

The Brown Baggers will meet again on December 21 at 12pm to select titles for the next 12 months- bring a treat to share and participate in the *book swap (new this year) if you want!

*Book swap- bring a book or two to trade- any leftover books will be donated to the Friends of the Library Booksale.

New Historical Novels

Looking for a new read featuring characters from history? Here are a few recently received historical novels about women.

The Other Alcott – Louisa May Alcott’s younger sister May, perhaps the inspiration behind Little Women‘s Amy, is the protagonist of this novel.
All That Makes Life Bright – Follow the life of Harriet Beecher as she meets her future husband and builds her life as a writer.

I, Eliza Hamilton  – Alexander Hamilton is all the rage right now, so if you’d like to learn more about that period grab this novel that has his wife Eliza as the strong-willed main character.

Caroline: Little House, Revisited  – This tale is told from the point of view of Laura Ingall Wilder’s mother Caroline, as she sets out west while pregnant.

Novels That Reminisce

When looking for some similar titles for a book request from our What Do I Read Next? service the other day, I stumbled upon a collection of interesting fiction. The thing these books have in common? They are all told from the point of view of a person in their later years reminiscing about their life.

Here are a few of the many titles.

belle cora

Belle Cora by Phillip Margulies – A historical novel about the orphaned daughter of a merchant in New York and how she suffers before transforming her life.

The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street by Susan Jane Gilman – Russian immigrant Malka goes on a cross country trek in an ice cream truck in 1913 New York.

In Falling Snow by Mary-Rose Maccoll – A young Australian nurse heads to France during WWI to find her 15-year-old brother who ran away to enlist.

The Tin Horse by Janice Steinberg – A story about one twin’s life after her sister disappears in 1939.

Ancient Light by John Banville – An actor reflects on his career and his first love affair at age fifteen.

The Bird Sisters by Rebecca Rasmussen – Elderly sisters Twiss and Milly spend their days tending to injured birds and reminiscing about what could have been in their lives.

The Bungalow by Sarah Jio – Anne tries to discover the truth about what happened 70 years prior when she was serving in the Pacific as part of the Army Nurse Corps in 1942 and fell in love with a mysterious soldier.

If you’d like to explore this topic more, check out the other books we have that fall into this category.