Margaret Creighton has created a very enjoyable yet also focused history of events happening at the Pan American Expo in Buffalo, New York, at the turn of the century. Told through several viewpoints (McKinley, his assassin, a couple of female barrel daredevils who rode the falls, a cruel circus showman, and one of his performers) the book keeps a nice narrow focus and doesn’t derail. But that said, those looking for a more in depth discussion of the fair will likely be a bit disappointed. This is a book about people, not facts.
Because human interest stories can be so fascinating, Electrifying Fall is a very easy and fun read. The author does an excellent job of weaving the stories in a loose chronological basis with plenty of pithy foreshadowing and drama. Fortunately, Creighton doesn’t become overly enamored with her subjects and keeps the book from becoming maudlin over overly long. We don’t have to slog through the entire life story of the subjects in order to understand their foibles and motivations, strengths and downfalls.
There is a decided feminist angle to most of the stories. And the subject of the poor race relations at the time is also discussed. So the book does go beyond the rather limited aspects of the expo and delves into the social issues of the time. Really, this is a story about those who are discriminated against or abused, including blacks, women, disenfranchised, animals. And really, it should be noted as a trigger warning that the treatment of the animals at the expo was quite horrifying to read.
Although this is ideal for those who like history or human interest stories, I also enjoyed it from the standpoint of someone who enjoys reading about Worlds Fairs. Again, the author doesn’t go into a lot of detail about the planning or facts – this is very much about the people at the fair and their unique stories. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the