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.


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.