Thursday, June 3, 2010

Conquering Gotham: Building Penn Station and Its Tunnels by Jill Jonnes

My respect for Jill Jonnes is rising steadily. After reading Eiffel's Tower and enjoying it, I looked her up and realized she was also the person who wrote Empires of Light: Edison, Tesla, Westinghouse, and the Race to Electrify the World, which I remember enjoying. So, I grabbed Conquering Gotham: Building Penn Station and Its Tunnels off the library shelves and settled down happily.

I wasn't disappointed. Conquering Gotham is an excellent book, an immersion into late nineteenth and early twentieth-century American life. Jonnes is an incredible researcher, drawing from unpublished letters as well as from newspaper accounts and books, and she manages to present the information fluidly, as lived reality, no mean feat.  There's an array of personalities here and also a sense of this as a real time where ordinary people and their daily lives were affected by one man's decision to build a railway tunnel. I highly recommend this and Jonnes' other work.

Oh, and the reason you're not getting a review of Empires of Light just now? I checked it out to reread but left it lying on the table where someone else saw it, read a few pages, and got pulled in. I hadn't the heart to pull it away, so I'll be rereading it later.

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