Heroes and crooks, artists and gentlemen, dancers from the Moulin Rouge and visionary engineers—high society and the demi-monde, both historical and imagined, rub shoulders in this bustling portrait of the effervescent era that would see the construction of what is now one of the world’s most instantly recognizable monuments—one without which Paris would not be Paris.
Meet the spirited Thérèse, artists’ model by day, dancer by night in the risqué can-can. Witness her brief romance with Edouard Barbier, a heel and a hack at The Voice of Paris, but a man of burning ambition. Follow Valentin Duval from his days as a Communard sentenced to prison, to a laborer on the tower, to a lieutenant on the eve of the Great War. Watch Gustave Eiffel, who conceived the iron scaffolding of New York’s own Lady Liberty, dream into being what was at first merely a centerpiece for the 1889 Exposition, then an indispensable radio tower.
The mystery at the heart of Lainé’s tale is how a structure as distinctive and unlikely as the Eiffel tower came into being. Lainé unreels with gusto all the turbulence of a time that left its mark on decades to come by having the courage, even the genius, of its folly.