I enjoyed the story (I have a daughter from China) and the descriptive way it was written. However, I was very unhappy with the narrator...she sounded like she had a mouth full of saliva and her swallowing was audible (no pun) and distracting.
I loved this book. The color and tenor was rich. I can't wait for the next book to come to audible. I have always enjoyed stories from this period in Chinese, Japanese and European history and this was beautifully done.
While I love, love, love the story, this is honestly the worst narrated book I have ever heard. She sounds like she has a bad case of cotton mouth. You can here the smacking noises she makes all through the book. And As I would just get caught up in the story, the narrator would swallow and gulp. Please find someone else to do the reading!
(My title means GREAT! in Chinese.) This story was a very interesting and well written story and the narrator didn't butcher the native language too badly. Her voice is a bit odd - slow and she pauses at odd places and you can hear her swallowing and her mouth is VERY moist or something! But if you can get past this, you will really enjoy the book. I gave it 5 stars b/c I could clearly understand her reading and I felt that she was an appropriate narrator. As for the plot, it was believeable and I felt that it was well researched in terms of dress and food and decorum of the times. Also, I believe that her actions and manner of speaking were believeable, too.
Fantasy and Romance Author
I enjoyed this perspective on the early career of China's last empress, and found Anchee Min's descriptions and details fascinating. The story grabbed me from the opening scene, when the aged Empress recalls her initial journey to Peking at the age of 17, walking behind her father's coffin, footsore and penniless, trailed by the scent of decay and thousands of flies.
Sadly, however, Alexandra O'Karma's performance was rather monotone--a disappointment, since she is a long-time narrator for Recorded Books, and usually does a terrific job.
I don't know why everybody was whining about the narrators swallowing, it's hardly noticeable. Great story, after listening I had to rent the Last Emperor so I could see the forbidden city.
Yes, the swallowing was very annoying but the book was so good that to me it was worth putting up with. It is intersting that some things that are so degrading to one culture can be an honor to those of another culture. I can't wait to see the movie.
I learned much from this book on the Chinese culture. The story held me through the strange modes of thought (as compared to our culture). The narration was very appropriate for this story. Others have stated how distracting her voice and mannerisms were, but I felt they were appropriate in this setting. If she were narrating a John Grisham book, they would not have been helpful. This book is not something I would die for, but a worthwhile investment of both time and money.
I enjoyed this audio book. It exposed me to a time and place that I did know about. Like some of the other reviewers I found the narator a little anoying at first. Sometimes she read very slowly with long pauses in between sentances. It was like she was reading a sentance, then going out for lunch, coming back and then recording another couple of sentances before taking a nap. I bet she couldn't tell you a thing about the book after she was done recording it. She didn't even have a Chinese accent. However, I got used to the narrator and in the end it didn't distract me from the facinating story.
This book would be well-enjoyed by the student of Chinese history. The first five hours are full of intricate detail that might be fascinating to the history lover but in many cases, does nothing to further the plot. The main character is bored, the narrator sounds bored (acting the part or tired of the endless nothing) and I was bored. BUT - the second five hours are so riveting, that I was sorry when it was over.
As the other reviewers state, the narrator leaves much to be desired. Even when the main character is experiencing life and death situations, she couldn?t sound more tranquil. Lots of pauses, not the dramatic kind.