So hooked by audio that I have to read books aloud. *If my reviews help, please let me know.
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.
Can't be fairly compared to the horror novels of today, and that could go both ways. If you can sit down and shut out the world, slow down your own thoughts, and listen to the words, you will feel the anxiety building in layers, with even nature contributing to the ultimate madness and horror. The centuries old family castle is itself a creature conspiring to hold its inhabitants in a dark limbo. A short story with hardly a plot -- but simply, horribly, brilliant. Listening to Poe is like watching a great painter build his canvas stroke by stroke into a masterpiece.
This title appeared in Howard Polskin's (CEO & Editor in Chief of Thin Reads) 2013 Best Summer Reads. The criteria for selections were: the stories had to be published within the last year, short--between 100-200 pages, something light, engaging--quote: "easy to finish, sort of like a cold Amstel beer on Main Beach in the Hamptons." If I could spend the summer on any beach in the Hamptons (or for that matter any beach anywhere)...the warm slobber-infused water left in my bulldog's bowl would be easy to finish, but what has that got to do with books...
I would toss into that equation: well-written, thought provoking, enjoyable. $1.95/George Saunders/ 37 minutes, you can't go wrong. I found this funny, charming, then alarming and sad (as is always the case when animals go head to head with *Yumans*), but always crisp and entertaining, and for any audience. Use your cash, save your credit, and if for some reason you don't like it...close your eyes and pretend you're on Main Beach--you'll still have $$ left for a cold brewski. *Highly recommend.
As one of the apparently rare few who wasn't blown away by Half of a Yellow Sun, I took a gamble on Adichie's short story collection, The Thing Around Your Neck--and I'm very glad that I did. These twelve stories all feature Nigerian protagonists, but the settings, time periods, and situations shift from the 1967 Biafran war, to immigrants in the contemporary United States, back to a time when white missionaries were still a rare sight in Nigeria. Many of the stories deal with women struggling to balance between the old ways and the new, but Adichie also focuses on Nigeria's brutal politics, history of violence, divisive class system, and exploitation by the west. But behind those messages are real characters--real people--working hard at relationships and trying to make tomorrow just a little better than today. Adichie's writing itself is engaging and compelling, and the stories have encouraged me to seek out her other novels. Perhaps even to give Half of a Yellow Sun another try.
The reader does wonderful characterizations of both male and female characters. If I have one criticism of this audiobook, it's the transitions between stories--or, rather, the lack of any. Most of the stories don't end with a bang; they come to a gentle, even subtle conclusion, and the recording doesn't leave much of a pause between them. Often I was several minutes into a story before I realized that it was a new one with entirely different characters. Readers are justified in expecting at least a five-second pause to indicate a shift in time, place, and characters, and to let a conclusion settle in.