Say something about yourself!
I love/hate Umberto Eco. "Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself..." There are very few authors as complex and knowledgeable; there are even fewer that can challenge and inspire as Umberto Eco. I have re-read, cross referenced, and researched, as much while reading his books as when writing my dissertation--but isn't that what great writers do for us? They expand us. And, while I always feel a bit obtuse reading Eco, I always come away enlightened. His mind is an encyclopedia, all-encompassing, his wit is delightful and at the same time biting and hilarious.
Prague Cemetery's plot is intricate to say the least--19th century European espionage, conspiracy theories, Freemasons, Jesuits, Illuminati, Hitler, Dumas, Hugo, "Froide", Satanists, the New World Order and the Elders of Zion. All the more fascinating because of Eco's background in Semiotics, and the VERY interesting "A Note From the Author" wherein Eco personally explains the characters actually existed! [*see Amazon.com site to read this letter to the 'Dear Amazon Readers']. The story is told by a vitriolic schizo character with "a soul so dark as to cast a shadow in hell'; he could easily be a monster straight out of Eco's On Ugliness. Within 30 min. the mystery narrator ("pleased to meet you, hope you guess my name, woo woo.") offends, criticizes, disgusts, and outrages every race, nationality, ethnicity, sex, and religion--his only complimentary words used to describe the gourmet dishes he savors. Perhaps my only complaint: with such powerful elements and such an engrossing storyline, I'd have appreciated less venom--but I hope Eco never conforms to my personal predilections! (And wouldn't a recipe companion be too fabulous!)
Undeniably a difficult read (for me at least), and not meant for people that tend to be easily personally insulted. It's meant to be disturbing, it's meant to agitate some brain cells. Kirkus review probably summed it up best with this one word: HUMDINGER. While The Name of the Rose remains my favorite Eco novel, I found Prague Cemetery absolutely fascinating and will enjoy the personal prerequisite second, possible third, listen. George Guidall does a lovely job of narrating the translation, as if you are reading beautiful Italian with your English brain.
Persevere; I think of my mother saying to me, "Sit down and practice that piano! One day you'll thank me!" Read Eco and you'll thank yourself.
Like voices from the grave, devastatingly profound, and haunting. A review would be inappropriate, but my experience with this book was probably similar to other readers that were very young teens during the height of the Viet Nam war. Though I wore one of those MIA bracelets, sent neighbors and friend's older brothers off, went to Country Joe and the Fish concerts and yelled out the FISH cheer, I was young, distant, and naïve, and could only marginally intellectualize the atrocities and the nightly tally of deaths. Listening to Cranston narrate these stories gives faces to the words; the soldiers become flesh and blood -- not just characters and chapters. Their candid stories and Cranston's seriously brilliant interpretations were so achingly real that I could not listen long without pausing, or just stopping my device for a breather. (It took me 2 weeks to get through this.) This would be a much easier read, but hardly better; Cranston is able to convey the emotion, every chuckle, every hope, every pain, every horror. It's not always the obvious that is difficult to hear; the slaughter of the water buffalo wasn't half as savage as the fundamental experience that nurtured the attack... it's listening to the innocence and promise in these young soldiers as it ebbs away. It's looking back through the all-seeing eyes of retrospection and time, and probably also adding *mother* to the list of sister, daughter, girlfriend, neighbor. A vivid reminder of the fragility of life and the true cost of war. Like others have mentioned, there are several books concerning wars that give you that *boots-on-the-ground* feel, but this one, especially as it is performed here, is the emotional experience--to the degree that it can be shared.
The Chaperone simultaneously depicts the changing social culture during the 1920's, as well as the feminist self-awakening of small town Wichitan, Cora Carlisle. The author uses actual historical events, places, and people to shuffle us through this momentous era - almost Forest Gump style - with recognizable period icons gliding along in Cora's backdrop like pictures in a scrapbook of her life, (flapper girls, bathtub gin, the Jazz age, racism and the KKK, women's suffrage, birth control, etc.). These fascinating images embellish Cora's recollections; they are recognizable, relatable, and immediately draw in the listener. The most exciting vehicle in Cora's transforming journey is the famous silent film star Louise Brooks, who is used more as a catalyst for the stoic Cora's introspection, and a representative image (and result) of rebellion, than a co-star in the book.
This book is immediately enchanting and breezy with nicely shaped characters, that coincidentally represent different personal pathways in this changing time (almost allegorical); sometimes appearing a little too convenient, a little too token--but understandably necessary to carry this story in its evolution. The pacing was a little bothersome...initially, I enjoyed being able, while I listened, to compare where we are now with our social mores, how we are still struggling with some of the same issues and restrictions; later, the story seemed to jump ahead, speed up, step back, and skip over important details. Moriarty so skillfully lays out the images and feelings of the era, the vivid streets of New York, the tumultuous social clashes, and I would have liked for her to use that talent to tell us more about the war, the depression, the Dust Bowl (which would have made a book double the size - but would have been all right with me; call me selfish).
I can't end without mentioning one of the most important underlying issues; the sexual abuse of Louise. I haven't read Louise's own account of her childhood, or testimonies to the 15 yr. old's psychological maturity, but, I know that being routinely sexually abused from the age of 9 yrs. old would not create a 15 yr. old girl that is cool, savvy, and spunky--as Louise was portrayed. The author hints at the self-destruction, and the reader follows the logic that she was a self-driven, uncannily beautiful woman, at ease with her sexuality and ahead of her times, when in reality, a background of such extreme abuse would sadly play itself out throughout a victimized person's life--and that was what was so heartbreaking about, and destructive to, Louise.
A touching and entertaining read I highly recommend. Elizabeth McGovern does a beautiful job, giving each character the emotional depth and individuality needed to do justice to such a huge story. You can't go wrong picking this one; a classic in the making.
Librarian, Avid Reader, Audiobook Addict!
I did end up listening to this book on audio because I had a hard time getting into the print version. The Narrator Simon Slater was excellent and his mastery with all the different voices helped keep all the characters straight. If I were rating just the audio quality it would be a 4 - 41/2.Will be seeking out what else Simon Slater has narrated.
As for the Book -I did enjoy this book although it is rather confusing because so many people had the same names. I also think if you have no prior Tudor knowledge this book may not be for you. You need to know some of the players and history for this book to make sense. If you are a huge fan of the Tudors and would like some background into one of the minor players (With the Royals being the major ones) then this is for you. It was very well written but not a book I would read twice. the book itself 3 1/2 Stars