Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Great Bridge by David McCullough

This monumental book is the enthralling story of one of the greatest events in our nation's history, during the Age of Optimism - a period when Americans were convinced in their hearts that all things were possible.

 In the years around 1870, when the project was first undertaken, the concept of building an unprecedented bridge to span the East River between the great cities of Manhattan and Brooklyn required a vision and determination comparable to that which went into the building of the great cathedrals.  Throughout the fourteen years of its construction, the odds against the successful completion of the bridge seemed staggering.  Bodies were crushed and broken, lives lost, political empires fell, and surges of public emotion constantly threatened the project.  But this is not merely the saga of an engineering miracle; it is a sweeping narrative of the social climate of the time and of the heroes and rascals who had a hand in either constructing or exploiting the surpassing enterprise.

It was suggested that I read The Great Bridge by David McCullough to prepare for my trip to New York.  There is something about the way Mr. McCullough writes a book that makes me sit up a little taller and pay attention. I don't know, maybe it's because you can feel the enthusiasm he has for the subject while you're reading.  It's like being there with him while he's giving a lecture even though you're not.   I've read a couple of his other books, so I really wasn't surprised to feel the same excitement from Mr. McCullough while reading The Great Bridge - The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge. 

I found the book fascinating just while reading the Author's Note.  Call me overly sentimental, but I truly believe some people are just meant to do certain things.  With this particular book it seemed to me that David McCullough was destined to be its author.  He set out to write a book about a bridge that had yet to be completely documented.  He had an interest in  the Roebling family, the family behind the building of the Brooklyn Bridge, and he also had an interest in Brooklyn, having lived there with his wife in a house just down the street from where members of the Roebling family once lived.  But my fascination for the book came while reading about David McCullough unlocking a storage closet in the library at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and stumbling upon shelf after shelf  of documents written and collected by Washington Roebling.  David McCullough stumbled upon a treasure, and using other information he had access to, he was able to bring to life the story behind the people, the politics, the wealth, the sacrifices, the courage, and even the heartbreak behind the building of the Brooklyn Bridge.

I'm glad I read the book before and during my trip to New York this month.  I can honestly say that while walking the Brooklyn Bridge I couldn't help but think of the people behind its creation.  Knowing how much sacrifice went into the building of the bridge and the people who lost their lives in the process, I couldn't help but appreciate the history and the incredible size of the structure.  It amazes me that they were able to build something so grand and magnificent without the aid of modern technology.  These men were incredibly intelligent, not to mention gifted.  Their lives truly fascinate me. The construction of the Brooklyn Bridge meant so much to us as a nation, so I was a little disappointment  to see how much wealth and politics played a part in the process.  It was a reminder of  how some things just never change in life.  Some people will always find a way to exploit, and there will always be someone willing to sacrifice another for their gain.  It truly is a fascinating story and I would encourage you to take the time to read it.


Anonymous said...

You need to find a way to get paid for writing reviews. After reading this I would consider reading the book. Before reading it, no way I would want to read the book.

jchrz said...

You always seem to capture and report the best points from books that can be found. Love the review and I would also like to read the book.

Sara said...

I guess I never really think about the lives of people who give us beautiful buildings and art. I appreciate the gifts that people give, but I never stop and actually think that there is a story behind that particular piece of work. I am just caught up in my own little world most of the time. Thanks, Sabrina, for reminding me to stop and ponder every once in a while.

gbeck said...

I love historical novels and have also read other David McCullough books so I definitely plan on reading this one. It sounds fascinating and I have ancestors from Brooklyn so that adds to my interest. Thanks so much Kate for telling us about this and other books.

angelabarra99 said...

what Dennis said lol

Stephanie said...

Because of you, I am now very interested in reading this book. Thanks for the information.