Do you think much about electricity? Yeah, I don’t either. As long as the kitchen light goes on when I flip the switch I’m happy. How does the electricity get there? How was it harnessed? I didn’t know or care much. I kind of knew that over a 100 years ago Thomas Edison had something to do with it along with George Westinghouse, something about light bulbs, A/C and D/C, I had no idea or even thought about it. As I said, as long as the kitchen light goes on I’m happy.
I was looking for another good book to read in my library and saw that “The Last Days of Night” by Graham Moore had a long wait list. That’s the sign of a good book to me. If everyone wants to read it so do I. I had no idea what it was about. I was hoping for a good dystopian novel. The title sounded like it could be. Finally the library notified me that it was ready to download which I did immediately. I opened it up, read a few pages and said, “Electricity?” I figured I waited so long for it I might as well keep on reading and see where the story led. I’m so happy I didn’t give up on it right away.
In 1888 New York is on the brink of having electricity. New lawyer, Paul Cravath, sees a workman trying to hook up some electric cables and ended up watching the workman die as the electricity burned him, set him on fire, and started melting his skin off. It was a harrowing experience for Paul and the others who also saw the man’s terrible death.
It just so happens that Paul is the lawyer for electrical genius, George Westinghouse. Thomas Edison is suing Westinghouse over the light bulb that Edison had invented. But did Edison really invent all of it including the shape, filament, and everything else? Only the court can determine if Westinghouse is actually infringing on Edison’s patent.
Thomas Edison could afford the sue Westinghouse because of his good friends who had deep pockets, like J P Morgan. The only people Westinghouse had was Paul’s law firm and Paul’s two partners.
The case ends up becoming a lot more than who invented the light bulb. It expanded into everything else about electricity including which was safer, D/C (Direct Current) or A/C (Alternating Current). The concepts of electricity are nicely explained to the readers. I had absolutely no trouble following the science.
We’re also introduced to all the men who contributed to harnessing electricity including Nikola Tesla. Alexander Graham Bell also makes an appearance in this historical fiction novel.
“The Last Days of Night” is far from boring. There’s a little bit of a love story, plenty of insight on Edison and Westinghouse (Edison comes off as being pretty evil), the lawsuit is really interesting, and the back story is intriguing. The book isn’t just about electricity but also about the mores of society especially the segment about how safe or unsafe A/C current is.
The novel is close to 400 pages but 400 pages that everyone should read since we, over 100 years past just having gas lamps to light our way, are a little spoiled having all the electricity we need and never thinking about how much Edison, Westinghouse, and Tesla put into controlling it.
Another thing I didn’t realize was that all three men were geniuses in their time and even in our time. Without them we wouldn’t have electricity, the light bulb, or any medical technology that the doctors need to help heal us. You can thank Nikola Tesla for the X-Ray. How did they create of all this or even conceptualize it?
Don’t let “The Last Days of Night” by Graham Moore slip off your reading list. There’s a good reason why the hold is so long at the library. The book is excellent.