Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Lightning Keeper by Starling Lawrence

This is a rather strange book because there is a story interwoven with a great deal of technical writing. I've read one which is interwoven with recipes and a great deal of cooking but tech stuff doesn't interest too many people.

Its the era of the industrial revolution when electricity is just beginning to replace steam as power. So the wonderful energy,the enthusiasm, the belief in the Mechanical God of the Inventor is all there.There are detailed descriptions of many things from cars to railroads and even pictures of the era.

The story takes place in a little town not too far from New York but set in the very cold mountains with a huge and picturesque waterfall. The waterfall drives some large wheels which power the iron and steel works which is the core of the little town.

Amos Bigelow is the third generation owner of the Iron works, which is fast getting outdated and uncompetitive in a world where new methods and machinery are taking over. He is ably assisted by his daughter Harriet who has a better head on her delicate shoulders. (can any heroine ever have any other kind?)

They procure a large order which could make or break the industry. To their rescue comes Toma, a Serbian refugee who is a natural engineer and inventor.Can he make a new kind of turbine which would help not only Bigelow but also GE, already a major force in Americ?

Behind all the industry and hard work, is a gentle love story between Harriet and Toma and the local legislator who owns the bank which finances the industry. Harriet is torn between her own feelings and what she thinks is right for her family.

There is the strange relationship between Horatio , the black man who runs the turbines and Olivia , the beautiful woman he lives with. Horatio was living with her mother , who dying , entrusted her daughter to him. When Olivia was 12 years old, Horatio enters her bed saying he needs it and stays there, never letting her know anyone else in the world.
so when the handsome Toma comes along, she sets out to get him and she does.

But Harriet is always in his heart and head and Olivia knows it. She's doomed to unhappiness.

Maybe I'm guilty of gender generalisation but there seems to be techy stuff for the men and the love story for the women. And both can skip the other half.:-)

Its written very well so worth a look whatever gender you are.

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