The DNF Chronicles: The Last Days of Night

I was feeling pretty smug about my reading. I was enjoying book after book, amazing title after amazing title. I was starting to feel like my great reads streak wasn’t going to end.

Pride goes before the fall right?

I started reading The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore, interested in the story of the battle over electricity rights. Edison sued his competitor George Westinghouse for $1 billion in 1888 and Westinghouse’s response was to hire a baby lawyer (26 years old) to defend him. The tale was supposed to be twisty and turny and showcase Edison as a dangerous enemy, rather than the brilliant inventor. Tesla even makes an appearance!

Around 30 pages in, I noticed something strange: there were no women in the story, just white men. Allowances must be made for the story being set in 1888, I suppose but it left me feeling rankled. I pushed on.

Nearing page 70 and still no mention of a female character (Westinghouse’s wife does make an appearance but only as the hostess of a dinner party for eminent male guests). I started to flip through pages to see if a woman would appear soon – I came across the name Agnes. On page 110.

Sadly, I wasn’t invested in the story at all at this point and didn’t want to read another 40 pages to meet a woman.

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Fine, this is a true story from a time when women weren’t exactly running around on the streets. It was nearly impossible for women to have careers outside the home, especially in STEM fields. But that doesn’t mean that I have to spend my time reading that story.

I did not finish this book. It’s still something I have trouble doing but I wasn’t interested in this story  – I kept waiting for something to hook me and nothing really did. Add to the general lack of interest to a scarcity of any women in the story, which actively irritated me, (I would have taken a clever maid at this point) and you get the perfect case for a DNF.

This isn’t the first time this has happened to me with one of Moore’s books either. I remember feeling similarly about The Sherlockian. At the end of it, I felt all of “that’s it?”

I’m sure there are people for whom this is a great story, who can’t get through it fast enough; I am not that audience.

Thanks to Penguin Random House of Canada for an ARC of this book. 

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9 thoughts on “The DNF Chronicles: The Last Days of Night

  1. The History Channel had a pretty good documentary about this issue, maybe a year ago. If you were still interested in the subject, I would recommend it. But 2 hours of TV are not as bad as however many hours it would have taken you to read the entire book. I hope that this will prove to be only a little hiccup in your string of great books.

  2. Ugh – I’m sorry….DNFs are so frustrating but also glad you didn’t waste anymore time on books that aren’t working for you. Life is too short and time is too precious!

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  6. I just finished this book and the lack of women didn’t really deter me from enjoying it. Agnes does become a main player and at the end the author explains that Agnes was real but there was hardly anything about her that he could find, aside from a few mentions in the gossip columns of old newspapers. But that’s pretty much par the course for the time period. Unfortunately.

    • You’re right that it’s par for the course for the period and early on, I was willing to cut it some slack. But then I thought naaaaaaah. I don’t actually have to read it if it’s not working for me. So I stopped. I haven’t regretted it at all.

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