Audio Book: Thunderstruck, by Erik Larson

I just finished listening to Thunderstruck, by Erik Larson. Here’s the blurb from Barnes & Noble:

A true story of love, murder, and the end of the world’s “great hush”.

In Thunderstruck, Erik Larson tells the interwoven stories of two men—Hawley Crippen, a very unlikely murderer, and Guglielmo Marconi, the obsessive creator of a seemingly supernatural means of communication—whose lives intersect during one of the greatest criminal chases of all time.

When this book came out, I immediately added it to my “to read” pile because I very much enjoyed The Devil In The White City. However, once I read a few pages I decided to pick-up other titles instead. The opening pages did not grab me like Devil did. A year passed.. and although it was still in my “to read” pile, I decided to pick-up the audio version instead.

Much like Devil, this book is made up of basically two stories. The story of Marconi and how wireless telegraphy came about and the story of Hawley Crippen, a doctor that falls in love with a woman who does not love him. The book alternates between science and invention, and the troubled relationship between Hawley and his wife Belle. As you are listening to the alternating stories, the reader is left wondering how the two stories intersect.

In Devil, the two stories intersect almost immediately. In Thunderstruck, they do not intersect until the last fourth of the book. This created some problems for me. For one, the story of how telegraphy came into being is interesting, but did not hold my attention on its own. I looked forward to hearing more about Crippen and Belle.

Crippen is quite taken with Belle, but Belle treats him miserably throughout their marriage. They agree to be married in “appearance” but in fact, sleep in separate beds. Belle surrounds herself with fine things, paid for by Crippen’s unending supply of cash but even though their future looks bleak, he still holds hope that their marriage will somehow survive.

After years of living this way, Dr. Crippen meets Ethel, a young typist that works in his office. She sees him as an older, wiser man and looks to him for guidance. This appeals to Crippen as Belle always took matters into her own hands. Eventually, the two begin to feel affection for one another. It is shortly after this time that Belle goes missing and then Crippen receives news that Belle has died from illness.

Belle’s whereabouts and her sudden illness cause suspicion amongst the people that knew her and an investigation is launched to find out the truth. This is where I felt the story took a turn and where the stories began to intersect. The introduction of wireless communication allowed the public a glimpse of what would otherwise be private. I found this part of the story to be intriguing.

As a whole, Thunderstruck fell a bit short for me but there were sections that were very well written and some of the characters held my interest. Perhaps reading it in book form would have given me a different perspective.

If you have read it, I’d be interested in hearing your comments.

5 thoughts on “Audio Book: Thunderstruck, by Erik Larson”

  1. I felt the same way about this audio book. It was actually boring in many parts and I only listened with half an ear most of the time. I kept hoping I was on the last CD … I can’t imagine what I’d have done had I actually been READING it. This was my first Larson book and has kept me away from Devil in the White City. Do you think I should give in and try that one, even though this one was so bad?

  2. I really liked Devil In a White City. It was more balanced and the Chicago World’s Fair, was much more interesting to learn about. It was more of a “murder” story (in the truest sense). I say try it.

  3. My book club loved Devil, but I’ve heard mixed reviews of Thunderstruck. I don’t think I’ll run out and buy this one:)

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