Sunday, May 31, 2009
by Samantha Hunt
Published February 2008
SAMANTHA HUNT is the author of the acclaimed first novel The Seas, which in 2006 won a National Book Foundation award for writers under thirty-five. Her fiction has been published in The New Yorker and McSweeney’s. She lives in New York City.
Louisa, a maid at the Hotel New Yorker, likes to snoop through the rooms as she is cleaning them. As soon as she sees the man in the forbidden room on the 33rd floor, she becomes obsessed with learning more about him and begins sneaking into his room. The man, it turns out, is the brilliant inventor Nikola Tesla. Tesla, who is now quite old and destitute, spends much of his time talking to pigeons and the ghost of Mark Twain. Caught by Tesla almost as soon as she begins, Louis and Tesla form a friendship. Louisa is also dealing with her father, Walter, who is even more obsessed with his late wife, and a former classmate who mysteriously begins appearing everywhere Louisa is. Before the end of the novel, Louisa learns about love, loss and the power of the inventive mind.
I very much enjoyed the parts of this book that dealt with the relationship between Louisa and Tesla and the stories of Tesla's earlier years, as well as Louisa's relationship with her father. I did feel like Hunt tried to pack too much into the book and often found myself skimming over parts of the book to get back to the parts that interested me. The characters are very real, the relationships believable. I just felt like I was reading more than one book at the same time.