A Look at The Great Bridge, According to Essy Dean

Photo by Lex Photography on Pexels.com

.

In our last installment in the series paying tribute to the winners of the 2021 Bridgehunter Awards in the category Bridge Media and Genre, we look at the Great Bridge, the novel itself, by David McCullough. In June 2021, Essy Shapiro Dean wrote an extensive book review on this 500-page work of art, focusing on the bridge and serving as the springboard to the podcast that would be produced by Greg Jackson in October the same year. It was one of the series she wrote about the Brooklyn Bridge, as this structure has been part of her life.

I had a chance to interview her about the book review to learn more about the book and her connection with the bridge. Some of the answers will surprise you as the reader. Before you proceed with reading the interview, check out the two book reviews she did on the Brooklyn Bridge: The one by McCullough (click here) and the one by Tracey Wood called The Engineer’s Wife (click here). If you are still not so sure about the review, let alone the interview questions, I would read the books themselves. You will be amazed at the hidden treasures each book presents to the reader.

Enjoy the reviews and the interview that is presented:

.

1. What is your personal connection with the Brooklyn Bridge? Have you visited the bridge and if so when?

My grandmother first took me on the bridge when I was about five. I’ve walked across it several times and I never get tired of it. I’m looking forward to doing it again in 2022. Now, the East River has always been one of my favorite walking spots, and I always spend time looking at the bridge and how it was built. Emily Warren Roebling has also become one of my favorite historical women in recent years.

.

2. There are dozens of materials about the Brooklyn Bridge, but you decided on the book by David McCullough. Why did you choose this book?

I had wanted to read The Great Bridge for a while. It first piqued my interest when I had to read another David McCullough book, 1776, for school.  At the time I was fifteen and the minutia detail McCullough included bored me, so I didn’t read it. Then last year, for the anniversary of the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge on 24 May I decided to make it a whole Brooklyn Bridge weekend on my blog, and this book was a part of that. I also wanted to read a nonfiction about the building of the bridge, which I haven’t done since I was a child. 

.

3. Have you met Mr. McCullough in person?

No, I’ve never met David McCullough.

.

4. If you were to make a summary about the book, how would you describe it?

It’s the story of the building of the Brooklyn Bridge with lots of minute detail that I now revel in.

.

5. What points in the book should the reader pay attention to?

The actual building, the problem-solving that had to happen, how much of a force Emily Warren Roebling was after her husband, and the chief engineer of the project, Washington Roebling, was unable to come to the building site.

.

6. What points in the book did you find interesting?

The points that I found interesting are the same as what I’d want future readers of the book to pay attention to.

.

7. What points can you mention that were quite difficult to read? Why is that?

I don’t think any of it was particularly complicated to read. The hardest bits were probably the nitty-gritty of spinning the wire for the cables, and trying to visualize various engineering processes, some of which I definitely got lost in.

.

8. On the scale of 1 to 10 (one being the best), how would you rate the book and why?

I usually rate my books on a 5-point scale (five is best), so a bit of conversion is needed here. I also have a hard time rating nonfiction. Probably somewhere between a three and four, maybe three and a half. I really liked it, but the book as a whole wasn’t something I loved. I love the things Emily Roebling stood for and that she took on so many of the tasks Roebling could no longer do. 

.

9. Who would you recommend the book to?

Those who like nonfiction, New York City history, American history, building or want a good story.

.

10. If a person starts reading the book, what advice would you give to him/her?

Try not to get too bogged down by the minutia details, it’s McCullough’s writing style. The actual story of the building of the Brooklyn Bridge is one of family, women taking a place in a man’s world, happiness, anger, struggle and success and is the type of story that can create great nonfiction.

.

11. Any future book reviews, especially on bridges, that we should look forward to?

There are book reviews going up on my main blog two to three times a month. I’m not sure about future reviews, that have to do with bridges, but during the anniversary weekend of the Brooklyn Bridge opening in 2021 I reviewed a historical fiction book about Emily Warren Roebling called The Engineer’s Wife by Tracey Enerson Wood. 

.

.

Thank you for answering the questions and also congratulations! 🙂

.

To summarize, we have six people that deserve recognition for winning the 2021 Bridgehunter Awards in the category Best Bridge Media and Genre. We have David McCullough for writing the 500-page biography The Great Bridge, Tracey Wood for writing about Emily Roebling in The Engineer’s Wife, Essy Dean for reviewing both and writing extensively on the Brooklyn Bridge in her column, Greg Jackson of History That Doesn’t Suck for the extensive research on the Roebling family and creating a very interesting podcast and lastly Dave Arnold and Kristen Bennett of Infrastructure Junkies for interviewing Jackson in a two-part series. Both can be found in an article and podcast here. Sometimes it takes a team to go into detail on how a structural wonder, like the Brooklyn Bridge and make it a work of art. The bridge is interesting not just as a civil engineer or historian, but also for everyone who wants to know how America was developing as a country during the Guilded Ages and how it has developed in terms of the country’s infrastructure, bridge building and American culture in general. The Brooklyn Bridge symbolizes America in a way that when you think it, when you design it and when you have the stamina to build it, you can make it a work of art for others to use and to take pride. When I cross the bridge next time when visiting New York, I will think of not only the Roeblings for actually building the bridge but the winners of the 2021 Awards for bringing the history to light, right down to the wire cable. 🙂

.

The Engineer’s Wife

The Engineer’s Wife

We now move on to the interview I had with the columnist who did the book review on the Brooklyn Bridge by David McCullough. Eloisa (Essy) Dean has spent some significant time with the subject which focuses not just on the bridge and its construction but also on the Roebling family, who built this masterpiece. One of the key players that helped make the bridge a reality was Emily Roebling, Washington’s wife who was also a self-taught engineer. And there is a book review that focuses directly on her as the person who was a shadow of her husband and father in-law in the past but eventually became a pioneer for the field, empowering women to become engineering greats. And with that, we have the book review on The Engineer’s Wife.

My interview questions to follow in the next article. Enjoy! 🙂

Essy Shapiro Dean

I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m not usually one to purchase ebooks for full price, sometimes there are books that stick out when you’re searching for a kitchen utensil for a gift and you can’t resist a spontaneous purchase for yourself. That’s what happened to me with this book and it took reading the cover for my love for Emily Warren Roebling to come back.

In The Engineer’s Wife, Tracey Enerson Wood tells the story of Emily Warren who dreams of being involved in the fight for women’s suffrage. She was born into a upper middle class family and she constantly tries to reconcile her dreams with what’s expected of her.

When her older brother G.K. comes home from the Civil War to attend a ball, Emily meets one of the men under him, Washington Roebling. When she overhears Roebling taking to a group of men about the bridge…

View original post 827 more words