Synopses & Reviews
Signal & Noise
is the epic page-turning story of the laying of the trans-Atlantic cable, and the men and women who are caught in its monumental tide. It is also a novel about the collision of worlds seen and unseen: the present and the future; the living and the dead; the real and the imagined.
On a wet London morning in 1857, American engineer Chester Ludlow arrives on the muddy banks of the Isle of Dogs to witness the launch of the largest steamship ever built, the Great Eastern. Also amidst the tumultuous throng is Jack Trace, a lonely bachelor and sketch artist hoping to make his name as an illustrator and journalist in the hurly burly of Fleet Street. Other witnesses include a drunken German by the name of Marx; the child who will christen the massive vessel by the wrong name; and Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the ships apoplectic and dwarfish architect who will soon die in ignominy. As chief engineer for the Atlantic Cable Company, the charismatic Chester enters the orbit of business and showmanship embodied by J. Beaumol Spude, the bombastic Western beef magnate who will mastermind the funding of the project; Joachim Lindt, creator of the Phantasmagorium, an animated tableaux vivant; and his beautiful wife, the musician Katerina Lindt. Drawn by the demands and adventure of creating the first transoceanic telegraph, Chester leaves behind his fragile wife, Franny, at the family estate of Willing Mind in Maine.
Abandoned and still mourning the accidental death of their four-year-old daughter, Franny finds solace in the company of Chesters troubled brother, Otis, who introduces her to the mysteries of the world of spiritualism just as séancing is becoming all the rage in the jittery times leading up to the Civil War. As Chester achieves renown as the glamorous engineer of the trans-Atlantic project, Franny, desperate to contact her dead child, becomes the preeminent spirit conjuror of a war-torn America.
"Griesemer's second novel, following No One Thinks of Greenland (2001), is a rousing historical adventure set in the mid-nineteenth century, an ambitious, technology-obsessed era much like our own....An incredibly rich and rewarding read." Joanne Wilkinson, Booklist
"Ambition, failure, triumph, love, betrayal, farce, and spirit - conjuring these are some of the subjects powerfully animated in this grand novel. John Griesemer is a masterful writer. In Signal & Noise, he has turned the clamor of history into a beautiful symphony." Joanna Scott, author of Arrogance
On a wet London morning in 1857, American engineer Chester Ludlow arrives on the muddy banks of the Isle of Dogs to witness the launch of the largest steamship ever built, the Great Eastern. Also amidst the tumultuous throng is Jack Trace, a lonely bachelor and sketch artist hoping to make his name as an illustrator and journalist in the hurly burly of Fleet Street. The two men, along with Ludlow's wife Franny, his imposing brother Otis, the bombastic entrepreneur J. Beaumol Spude, the dwarfish inventor of the Great Eastern, the creator of the modern sewer system, his adulterous wife, and a wily prostitute will all become involved with various modes of communication, with the realization of the Victorian age. They will witness and participate in the creation of the first transoceanic telegraph cable. It is the thread that will connect worlds and break apart lives.
About the Author
John Griesemer is also the author of No One Thinks of Greenland, a novel Esquire magazine called “that rarest of first-novel achievements: an across-the-board success.” Griesemer lives with his family in Lyme, New Hampshire, and is currently at work on a collection of stories.