Book Review: The Electric Fairy by Alex Mar

This is the second of a series of Kindle Singles about intervention during the Belle Epoque (Beautiful Era, 1871-1914), a period I know very little about. It was a time of advancement in science and art, with leaps forward in technology changing the world and shaping the 20th century.

The period of optimism, of course, would die with the opening shots of World War I but it seems an interesting period which we overlooked in school to focus on Henry VIII and mining (this is Wales, after all).

electricfairy mar

This book deals with Loie Fuller, an American who rose to prominence in Paris thanks to her unique dancing style and innovating use of lighting and costume. The emerging technology of electric lighting helped her realise her vision and she earned the nickname that titles this book.

This is another well written account of a fascinating time, which draws on letters, news articles and diaries to get an idea of who Fuller was and how she worked. Unfortunately, while she was made for the emerging technology of cinema, Loie was never caught on film, although imitators were filmed and became incredibly popular.

Mar does a good job of capturing the energy and spirit that drove Fuller in her endeavours even if it lacks Daniel Engber’s knack for getting inside the heads of the figures he writes about. We’re never entirely sure where Loie got the ideas for her unique style or what drove her to improve, refine and experiment with her performances.

What Mar does manage to do is capture the odd overlap of science and art during this period. As the Lumiere brothers and Edison pursued the moving picture, they needed something to capture, and Fuller’s style was the perfect fit. Similarly, it’s odd to hear of an entertainer interacting with leading scientific figures like Marie Curie. Luckily, Curie was able to dissuade

Again, as fascinating a read as this is, it feels like an introduction and I really wanted to know more.

Verdict: 7/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

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