Saturday, February 6, 2010

Saturday Book Review-Eiffel’s Tower

For anyone who loves the Eiffel Tower, art history or Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, Eiffel's Tower: And the World's Fair Where Buffalo Bill Beguiled Paris, the Artists Quarreled, and Thomas Edison Became a Count will be a delight. The Eiffel Tower was built as the crowning achievement of the 1889 Exposition Universelle in Paris. It’s such an iconic landmark that we take for granted but this book tells the story of the building, politics and public opinion we rarely contemplate.

Besides the building of the Tower, Jill Jonnes, the history loving author, recounts the adventures of Buffalo Bill on the continent, the first time Europeans encounter the American Wild West. Of course, Annie Oakley is along for that wild ride. Thomas Edison is feted and adored, while trying to market his new phonograph. Gauguin and Van Gogh quarrel, as James McNeil Whistler aggravates everyone. Newspaper millionaires and Shah’s visit the Exposition and Paris is aghast at Asian dancers and half naked American Indians.

I loved reading this book for a lot of reasons. Putting all these historical figures in perspective and seeing how their stories tie together was fascinating. The descriptions of the actual building of the Tower had me seeing in my minds eye furnaces glowing in the fog shrouded early mornings and hearing the ringing of giant hammers against oversized bolts. And once the Fair is under way, Jonnes conveys the excitement and chaos of hundreds of thousands of people converging on a small section of Paris with entertainment and refreshments on their minds.

If you want more information on Jill Jonnes and her historical books (I also enjoyed her Conquering Gotham, Building Penn Station and Its Tunnels), here’s her
website. You’ll find author’s notes for each book, detailing her research. Her enthusiasm for history and the satisfaction of finding long lost facts is endearing and definitely adds to the fun of reading her books.

When you go to her website, be sure to roll your cursor over the Eiffel Tower book cover. It’s really cool~I love the simple things…

Do What You Love!

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