I chose this book because of a stellar review I heard on NPR. Maybe my expectations were too high, but I was so disappointed when I listened to it. I thought the story just didn't have much description. My imagination didn't "run wild" painting pictures of the scenarios and the characters. I know that if I found myself in the same predicament, my emotions would have been intense. As I listened, I found my thoughts drifting because the reactions of the characters didn't seem genuine or even logical for that matter. I may have felt differently if the narration hadn't been so distracting. In general, I don't mind the "voice" or gender of the narrator being different than the main character, but I had a very difficult time picturing the main character actually speaking. It also felt like every sentence read by the narrator was an unfinished thought. It drove me crazy! I thought that if I just survived to the end, there would be a huge payoff and I would look back and everything would make sense. It didn't, not for me at least.
I simply cannot figure why I listened to this book. I kept listening despite several impulses to turn the damn thing off! The author's idea of a world gone blind was so different, so intriguing....that I plugged on past the stiff, formal and just weirdly inappropriate narrative voice to finally be rewarded by an inevitable world of blind humans being treated and treating others badly. Inevitable also were allusions to various and sundry meanings of "blind". Oh yes and in this world gone blind nobody listens to music and folks defecate everywhere. I might go see the movie just out of curiosity.
My interests run to psychology, popular science, history, world literature, and occasionally something fun like Jasper Fforde. It seems like the only free time I have for reading these days is when I'm in the car so I am extremely grateful for audio books. I started off reading just the contemporary stuff that I was determined not to clutter up my already stuffed bookcases with. And now audio is probably 90% of my "reading" matter.
I have no issue with the premise. In fact, that and the reputation of the author were what drew me to this book in the first place. And I wouldn't be doing the book justice if I didn't acknowledge that there are a number of observations about people that ring true. Certain ways people continue to behave despite circumstances, or perhaps indulge in because of circumstances. But overall, the flatness of the characters, the lack of individual reactions, the paucity of human interactions, ended up leaving me cold. Perhaps I need to be more familiar with the rest of Saramago's work. Perhaps I need to be more well read in this particular literary genre. Whatever it was I was supposed to appreciate about this particular thought experiment, I didn't. I like thought experiments in general, but if you're going to spin them out to book length, you'd better have a pretty good story to tell. I will say this in its defense: it's not a book I'm ever going to forget.
I like Jack Reacher style characters regardless of setting. Put them in outer space, in modern America, in a military setting, on an alien planet... no worries. Book has non moralistic vigilante-justice? Sign me up! (oh, I read urban fantasy, soft and hard sci-fi, trashy vampire and zombie novels too)
I read the reviews but they said nothing about the content, narration or story resolution, so I bought it thinking it would be better than the reviews said - assuming others were offended because it showed blind people in a bad light. That was not the case.
The reader, while not bad, takes a bit of getting used to - he seems a bit too "breathy".
There is excessive/rapid/unbelievable character personality development - i.e. the "car thief" went from car thief (and we are told specifically that he only stole cars) to wannabe rapist in about 3 scenes. Is this supposed to be thief = rapist or blind = rapist? Either way, it is ridiculous.
There are several tangents - i.e. each person tells what they saw before they went blind - one guy goes on and on about art pieces he saw - who cares? What does this artistic tangent have to do with progressing the story? Nothing. But I suspect it makes the author look intelligent.
There is a scene around winding a watch - not only do we not wind watches, how could anyone who has had nothing to do for 3 days forget to wind her watch? What else was she doing that distracted her from this? - oh, right, the blind spent their days pooping in their beds. Yes, we are expected to believe that the blind defecate in their own beds because, well... I am not sure the author's point. I read scifi a lot and am very used to suspending disbelief - I can accept that a post-apocalyptic world would be "strongest survive", or martial rule where infractions mean death. But human kind, sighted or not, will not defecate in their own beds. Period.
I do understand that this is not meant to be a book about real people and real blindness anymore than Stephen King's books are about real happenings but - even keeping in mind that I really wanted to like this story - ultimately it tries WAY too hard to be "artsy"/moralistic. I don't need to be thumped on the head to "get it".
After 13 hours of listening to Jose Saramago "Blindness" I came to the following conclusion:
How fortunate was I, so that for so many years I have been reading and listening to mostly good books with largely prevailingly stories...
Unfortunately, Blindness is not a good story. And I'm sure of my firm opinion. The totally fictional novel of an epidemic that causes total blindness of the population of some unnamed country.
Well, as for the initial setting it was quite interesting - it could be a ground to serious deliberations on human nature - particularly under severe conditions. At some moments, I had the feeling that Jose Saramago was close to great prose and deep analysis of what can happen to man under an ill fortune and severe calamities. Some remote recollections of stories from death camps resonated in parts of the book ...
However, everything there was too far from the really deep thoughts and considerations, to deserve an appraisal. The moral notion of so many scenes is unconvincing. The considerations of some sexually oriented behaviour of blind people - quite offensive, to say the least.
The book ends with totally naive sudden recovery of all people from the blindness - almost like a happy end, with one shadow of unknown fate of one main character.
Unfortunately, I also found there too many tedious and flat passages - was this the result of poor translation? That I do not know. Maybe, in its original language, the book written, despite everything, by a Nobel price laureate, could defend its merits... Maybe....
I regret to write such review, but - I had no choice - this what my heart dictates...
The author interrupts a fairly decent plot line with overblown hyperbole and moralizing. Read this one in print instead, you can skip the continuous editorial comments.