New York, 1888. Gas lamps still flicker in the city streets, but the miracle of electric light is in its infancy. The person who controls the means to turn night into day will make history–and a vast fortune. A young untested lawyer named Paul Cravath, fresh out of Columbia Law School, takes a case that seems impossible to win. Paul’s client, George Westinghouse, has been sued by Thomas Edison over a billion-dollar question: Who invented the light bulb and holds the right to power the country?
The case affords Paul entry to the heady world of high society–the glittering parties in Gramercy Park mansions, and the more insidious dealings done behind closed doors. The task facing him is beyond daunting. Edison is a wily, dangerous opponent with vast resources at his disposal–private spies, newspapers in his pocket, and the backing of J. P. Morgan himself. Yet this unknown lawyer shares with his famous adversary a compulsion to win at all costs. How will he do it?
In obsessive pursuit of victory, Paul crosses paths with Nikola Tesla, an eccentric, brilliant inventor who may hold the key to defeating Edison, and with Agnes Huntington, a beautiful opera singer who proves to be a flawless performer on stage and off. As Paul takes greater and greater risks, he’ll find that everyone in his path is playing their own game, and no one is quite who they seem.
I’ve always been intrigued by the drama between Tesla and Edison but never really knew anything about Westinghouse, so I found The Last Days of Night very interesting. All of the characters seemed real and alive, and the story, obviously dramatised from fact, was incredibly easy to read.
Some parts seemed repetitive, and Paul was very naive – sometimes you just wanted to shake him and tell him to open his eyes and pay attention to the people around him. I think maybe because of this he was my least favourite character. He seemed one-dimensional and more a plot point than a person of substance or interest. Paul was there to drive the story, not participate in it. Considering he was supposed to be this prodigy lawyer, you’d hope he was a bit smarter than he appears within these pages.
Everyone else in the story was a complex character, capable of making both good and bad decisions that aligned with their motives. Paul didn’t seem to grow in complexity until the very end and almost immediately went right back to his simplistic nature.
I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction or legal stories. It may be difficult to become invested if you don’t have any interest in Edison, Tesla, or Westinghouse. I found it well-written and hard to put down, but I do happen to belong to almost all of the above categories.