Customer Reviews for

The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

The Great McCullough

It is hard for me to be objective about this book. First off, I am a great admirer of David McCullough's histories. Second, I have published two novels which are set in New York during the mid-19th Century. But what probably makes it hardest for me to be objective is th...
It is hard for me to be objective about this book. First off, I am a great admirer of David McCullough's histories. Second, I have published two novels which are set in New York during the mid-19th Century. But what probably makes it hardest for me to be objective is that I have walked over that bridge for my own personal pleasure so many times over the decades that I consider it an old friend. It's my bridge. Having said all that, I can say that Mr. McCullough has written a history that is not only about a bridge and its builders, which are fascinating subjects in their own right, but it is also about what New Yorkers were thinking back then. This was still a horizontal world the era of early skyscrapers was a few decades away. Because of this and the rapid growth in population after the Civil War, Manhattan was mostrously choked by block after block of four- and five-story tenements, warehouses and factories. The need for a reliable means to get to the vast open spaces of Brooklyn was urgent. Ironically, however, it wasn't the horizontal--the length of the bridge--which stunned the witnesses to the construction. Instead they marvelled at the height of the towers and the height of the roadway over the East River. Not as ironic, however, were the people who didn't marvel at the bridge's beauty and the strength of its construction. They were too busy licking their lips, wringing their hands and wondering how much of the bridge's budget would make its way into their wallets. The elements of corruption, then as now, always lurked near a great public work in New York. McCullough covers this tainted side just as carefully as he reports on the glory of the growth of the bridge. Heroes (the Roeblings) and villains (Tweed & Co.) abound, while New York's most beautiful and efficient structure comes to life. I've been as honest as possible. I recommend this book highly to anyone with an interest in engineering, New York history, or just a good story with great characters. Rocco Dormarunno Instructor, College of New Rochelle

posted by Anonymous on August 29, 2007

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Most Helpful Critical Review

2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

No ilustrations no page no s in index

Ilustrations essential to understanding. They are there but you cant find them. Idex has no page numbers. Table of contents shows illus but dont take you to them. These flaws easy to find in printed edition. E book requires wasting your dollars with no recourse.

posted by 15253478 on November 23, 2012

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 29, 2007

    The Great McCullough

    It is hard for me to be objective about this book. First off, I am a great admirer of David McCullough's histories. Second, I have published two novels which are set in New York during the mid-19th Century. But what probably makes it hardest for me to be objective is that I have walked over that bridge for my own personal pleasure so many times over the decades that I consider it an old friend. It's my bridge. Having said all that, I can say that Mr. McCullough has written a history that is not only about a bridge and its builders, which are fascinating subjects in their own right, but it is also about what New Yorkers were thinking back then. This was still a horizontal world the era of early skyscrapers was a few decades away. Because of this and the rapid growth in population after the Civil War, Manhattan was mostrously choked by block after block of four- and five-story tenements, warehouses and factories. The need for a reliable means to get to the vast open spaces of Brooklyn was urgent. Ironically, however, it wasn't the horizontal--the length of the bridge--which stunned the witnesses to the construction. Instead they marvelled at the height of the towers and the height of the roadway over the East River. Not as ironic, however, were the people who didn't marvel at the bridge's beauty and the strength of its construction. They were too busy licking their lips, wringing their hands and wondering how much of the bridge's budget would make its way into their wallets. The elements of corruption, then as now, always lurked near a great public work in New York. McCullough covers this tainted side just as carefully as he reports on the glory of the growth of the bridge. Heroes (the Roeblings) and villains (Tweed & Co.) abound, while New York's most beautiful and efficient structure comes to life. I've been as honest as possible. I recommend this book highly to anyone with an interest in engineering, New York history, or just a good story with great characters. Rocco Dormarunno Instructor, College of New Rochelle

    7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 15, 2011

    Captivating story, but where are the illustrations??

    An astonishing story of the building of an American architectural icon. Mr. McCullough brings it to enormous life. However, none of the illustrations and pictures in the printed version appear in this e-book (I borrowed a hard copy from the friend who recommended it). Very interesting, though, that Mr. McCullough's narrative descriptions of the engineering are so well-done that when I was able to view the illustrations, they were nearly as I had pictured them.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 13, 2010

    Best Read in several years

    Always fascinated by the story, especially after seeing the documentary several years ago. (Wikipedia reports that the documentary was based on this book and the author narrated).

    Tremendous story of personal sacrifice, dirty politicians, greed, an irresponsible press, a gullible public, both at the end joyously appreciative, (you thought these symptoms were the sole province of today's TV culture?) and an unbelievable technical achievement when you think of all the technology they didn't have.

    I was somewhat sad when I hit the end realizing there was no more to the story. Throughly enjoyable read.

    Comments on the eBook version: no pictures which is a real shame as they are immensely helpful when visualizing some of the more technical passages. Halfway through the book, I finally went to the store and spent a few minutes going over the pictures to set things right in my mind before continuing. The pictures helped bring the scale of the effort into play more than words could. Seems my copy had the Epilogue duplicated which was odd. Some occasional and weird typographic errors. Other than that all was good.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 23, 2012

    No ilustrations no page no s in index

    Ilustrations essential to understanding. They are there but you cant find them. Idex has no page numbers. Table of contents shows illus but dont take you to them. These flaws easy to find in printed edition. E book requires wasting your dollars with no recourse.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 26, 2007

    Mr McCullough

    I first became aware of Mr McCullough through Ken Burns' excellent documetary on the Civil War. Being a great student of American history I have since read several of his works, and happily have found with the completion of each my respect for his literary abilities grows. With this fine piece Mr McCullough has once again transported his readers back in time, for he has the ability like few authors I have ever read to make you feel as if you are actually living in the period. In this case he has shown us the dishonesty and greed of some less than honorable men, as compared to the hard work and sacrifice of a great many others in particular that of the Roebling family. I had the pleasure with my wife in the spring of 2002 to drive across Mr Roebling's bridge, never having known then all the hard work and turmoil which took place in it's contruction. I strongly recommend anyone who is a student of American history, the City of New York, or a fan of Mr McCullough's read this book!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2004

    Read with great interest.

    Trying to picture some of the details explained concerning methods employed in the various aspects of constructing the bridge were difficult to image, e.g., workings of the caissons, anchorages, and tricks used in wiring. Otherwise, enlightening.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2000

    A quintessential American story

    Mr. McCullough came to my attention with his mellifluous narration of Ken Burns' Civil War documentary, as well as on The American Experience. Little did I know, his voice was only one of his talents: His writing in The Great Bridge has the same haunting ring on the printed page as his voice does on national television. He writes about a time in American history--the building of the Brooklyn Bridge--that people today would rather not think about. But through the dignity of his storytelling, the exactitude of his research, and the empathy for his subjects, he brings the ghosts of historical past to life once again. These characters--and there are many--breathe and heave in all their fallible beauty. This is a story about America at a time when the concept of America was only beginning to take shape. It was a time after the Civil War, at the rise of the Industrial revolution, at the end of the 19th centry; and it was a time when corruption walked hand in hand with ingenuity; when the visionary and the meek came together; when wonders still existed and there were mountains left for man to climb. Mr. McCullough gives us a rearview mirror look at our country and, though many people would regard the building of a bridge--any bridge--an innocuous moment in time, this book makes clear that dreams are never insignificant.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 11, 2012

    First McCullough book I read. His gift is a rare one. He delve

    First McCullough book I read. His gift is a rare one. He delves into the details and doesn't water it down, but instead of the story becoming tedious, it becomes riveting. The book goes beyond the engineering feat. It is the story of a son committed to carrying out the daunting task of building the last and greatest dream of his legendary father. It covers the business, politics and corruption, that exerted their influence on the project. Buy the paper version. You will often refer to the illustrations and photographs. You will also want to lend it to a friend once you are done reading it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 15, 2008

    A Stunning Bridge and the Pride of NY

    At nearly 6000 feet long and 85 feet wide, the Brooklyn bridge is an iconic structure of New York. McCollough has done a masterful work here and gives a great historical background regarding the bridge's construction and lives lost building it. An important part of American history. -Tahir Rahman, author of We Came in Peace for all Mankind: the untold story of the Apollo 11 silicon disc

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 1, 2000

    The best of the best. Simply

    Being an a structural engineer I highly recommend it for its historical and technical attributes. It is a fantastic story of human struggle against nature. It is simply great!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 19, 2000

    Awesome and moving reading experience

    What a wonderful, well written and inspiring book. The author 'time machines' the reader back into Brooklyn/NYC in the 1800s. As your mind's eye watches the great bridge built savor the smells and sounds of a time long gone. Much of the book centers around J. Roebling and son, Washington, who masterminded the design and inspiring building of this beautiful bridge. Don't miss this one; it's a book and a story that you won't soon forget.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 16, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    I was thinking no one would buy a scholarly tome like The Great

    I was thinking no one would buy a scholarly tome like The Great Bridge as a pleasure read... and having finished it I realize that for some readers, pleasure is exactly why they would buy this wonderful book. I had research reading to do for a work in progress, so having been carried away once before by Mr. McCullough's writing (John Adams) I figured I'd be getting the biggest bang for my buck.

    Reading The Great Bridge, I was struck by the sheer humanity of the undertaking. Monumental works seem to usually dwarf the human component, but the East River Bridge, as the author so carefully expands upon, was a feat of humanity first. The result of the fourteen year struggle is a soaring monument to the hopes and dreams of New York's citizens, from the vaulted halls of political intrigue to the working folks in the rough and tumble neighborhoods of the day.

    The conceptual development itself a marvel, McCullough has captured an intensely personal slice of the longing and pride that was so widespread as our Nation began its second centennial. From his careful documentation of the engineering facts and figures to his careful reconstruction of the shadowy world of crony politics, I was floored by the immediacy of the comparison to our own time and sadly, how little has really changed since then. Tammany Hall may have receded, and the media circus may have quieted a bit, but even today, the very real needs of the working man are almost always pushed into the background when public projects become the focus of discussion. And when there is money to be made.

    Not only did I get a startlingly clear image of the impossibly difficult project itself, but also of the very real people involved. Col. Washington Roebling, the son of the designer, John A. Roebling and the man who actually built the bridge, is revealed as a hero for the ages. New York itself is revealed as a dynamic community of honest and dishonest people, all trying to find ways to build the city into a paragon the whole world would respect and admire. The aspirations of a Nation sculpted into architecture.

    As a research tool alone, the book would seem to be without peer; but I can't imagine any other writer's approach so full of the gritty and heartfelt emotions that surrounded the project. For me, it was actually a page-turner. It gave me a very profound desire to spend time in Brooklyn again, once the weather turns, and thanks to David McCullough, my wife and I will be sure to take that magical walk across the East River that Col. Roebling's Herculean efforts have left us, all these years later.

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  • Posted December 14, 2012

    Great Bridge - Great Book!

    Excellent read...If you like New York and you like history...this book is for you!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 21, 2012

    Sample is ample but it repeats

    Author is obviously quite talented. Subject matter is dry but the dialogue and interactions are lively. Tough topic, Roebling's Erection, tough character; John Roebling. In all, a formidible book.
    NOT Harry Potter or Twilight!!!
    If you enjoy Edward Rutherfurd, James Michener. And detail enjoy. The sample runs about 40 "real" pages. Try first?

    Also. Perhaps better in hard cover?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 20, 2012

    this was a excellent book, very enjoyable, would highly recomend

    this was a excellent book, very enjoyable, would highly recomend this

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  • Posted July 9, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    You will not be disappointed

    I am not a highly educated individual but i can say that this book, story, part of history etc..is beyond interesting. Mr.McCullough did an an outstanding job with his homework. Look at this research as a part of our history and you will not be disappointed at all. It held my interest all the way. He absolutely made the time in history come alive to our day. You will enjoy "The Great Bridge" for sure.

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  • Posted December 5, 2010

    Brooklynites unite behind our bridge!

    If you are from Brooklyn or want to be from the fourth largest city in America you MUST read this book. The Brooklyn Bridge is ours and we should know ALL about it. This book will educate us all.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 9, 2004

    A great book about the great bridge

    It is hard for me to be objective about this book. First off, I am a great admirer of David McCullough's histories. Second, I have published two novels which are set in New York during the mid-19th Century. But what probably makes it hardest for me to be objective is that I have walked over that bridge for my own personal pleasure so many times over the decades that I consider it an old friend. It's my bridge. Having said all that, I can say that Mr. McCullough has written a history that is not only about a bridge and its builders, which are fascinating subjects in their own right, but it is also about what New Yorkers were thinking back then. This was still a horizontal world; the era of early skyscrapers was a few decades away. Because of this and the rapid growth in population after the Civil War, Manhattan was mostrously choked by block after block of four- and five-story tenements, warehouses and factories. The need for a reliable means to get to the vast open spaces of Brooklyn was urgent. Ironically, however, it wasn't the horizontal--the length of the bridge--which stunned the witnesses to the construction. Instead they marvelled at the height of the towers and the height of the roadway over the East River. Not as ironic, however, were the people who didn't marvel at the bridge's beauty and the strength of its construction. They were too busy licking their lips, wringing their hands and wondering how much of the bridge's budget would make its way into their wallets. The elements of corruption, then as now, always lurked near a great public work in New York. McCullough covers this tainted side just as carefully as he reports on the glory of the growth of the bridge. Heroes (the Roeblings) and villains (Tweed & Co.) abound, while New York's most beautiful and efficient structure comes to life. I've been as honest as possible. I recommend this book highly to anyone with an interest in engineering, New York history, or just a good story with great characters.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 30, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted July 29, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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