The plot of this novel is certainly riveting--you are carried along with the story, always interested to know what comes next. And yet I found it ultimately distancing, perhaps because Hannah never really felt authentic to me. She seemed to be a symbol or a caricature rather than a real woman. The story is most successful at showing the effects of American imperialism on a small country in Africa that was, in some ways, doomed from the start. And Banks does a very good job at weaving the real history of Liberia and its monstrous leaders into the fate of his fictional characters. And yet--it just never gelled for me. The narrator did a good job of capturing Hannah's passivity and preternatural calm, but in a way this just heightened my sense of Hannah's one-dimensionality.
Although a large part of this story takes place in a country very far removed from my reality, I still found myself walking around the house locking doors while listening. What an outstanding job of melding the idealism of the 60s in the U.S. with the ideals of rebellion in Liberia and the ideals of an American woman. There is so much to this story: feminism, radicalism, African politics, animal, and human, rights all beautifully narrated. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Thank you audible.com for the recommendation.
An excellent listen. Banks writes beautifully, though his plot circles over ground he has already covered a few times. It was fascinating listening to a book discussing the life and travails of a character I thoroughly disliked. Hannah/Dawn is cold, cold, cold, really disconnected from other human beings and even from the animals she claims to adore. Yet the book grabs hold and does not let go. Listening brought back memories of our recent American past, especially the Vietnam era, and also enlightened me greatly about Liberian history. Beware -- the book is also graphic and it is very hard to shake the dreadful bloody images it conjures up.
Aside from seeing the movie version of The Sweet Hereafter, this was my first experience with Russell Banks. What a gifted, compassionate writer. His sense of place is so pronounced and his characters, while often deeply flawed, stayed with me a long time.
Mary Beth Hurt gave a wonderful reading.
Lover of history, travel, and MP3 players (to distract me from things I'd really rather not have to do)!
I can always count on Russell Banks to carry me completely into an experience I never would have expected to want in the first place! His imagination for characters and the twists and turns of their lives is unique and compelling. This book is a perfect example - who knew that Liberian history could come in such a package? The character of Hannah Musgrave is unlike anyone I've ever 'met' in literature, and this account of her attempt to come to terms with her dramatic, traumatic past had me enthralled. Banks also has great talent for evoking mood with his words, such that the feelings he creates can stay with you long after the story has ended.
My only complaint in this case is with the narration. The dry, jaded voice Ms. Hurt has created for Hannah, laced on occasion with appropriate shame, self-loathing and regret, is on the one hand the perfect vehicle for such a story. On the other hand, it often became very weighty and difficult to listen to, and sometimes I longed to hear flashes of the impulsive energy that Hannah must have once had to get into this situation in the first place...
Nevertheless, it was a wonderful listening experience that I highly recommend!
A voracious reader with little time to read actual print books, I adore Audible and have been listening to audiobooks regularly for years.
No. I found the writing style to be boring, drawn out, and hard to enjoy. The narration was monotonous and boring as well.
She was monotonous and made me dislike the main character. I feel that with a better narrator, I could have had some sympathy for the main character.
Anger, mostly. I felt that the main character was contemptible and I couldn't find any single place where I empathized with her. She was racist is a backwards way, terrible as a wife and mother, and although she acknowledge these traits, she whined and made it seem like there was some huge government conspiracy out to get her all the time. Everything was about HER, and her whole attitude sickened and repulsed me.
Despite hating the main character, I did feel that I learned something from the book. I learned about Liberia, its history, etc. That was the only redeeming quality in a book that I feel was a waste of time.
This is a moving story wonderfully written. And, for audible members, take note: the reader is tops. Mary Beth Hurt's style and tone is perfect portraying the protagonist, a hard-core, unsentimental realist. Lots of novels tend not to stay with me for long, but I'll remember Hannah Musgrave.
I only listened to the first hour and a half of The Darling. That's how long it took for me to realize that although Mary Beth Hurt's narration was superb and Russell Banks' story promised to be just as riveting a political and historical thriller as I had been led to believe, I would not be able to enjoy the story because of the desperately sad central thread of the chimpanzees, the creatures Hannah calls the "dreamers." It turns out that earlier in her life, during the time she was in Africa, Hannah has started a sanctuary for these animals. As she begins to reveal the details about this and the chimpanzees' ultimate fate, it becomes clear that the story will take the reader places I did not want to go. I wouldn't normally presume to review something I'd barely begun, but I thought it might be useful to share my thoughts in case there's anyone else out there who might have a similar response.
A protagonist that you understood. Nothing about her life explained her utter lack of feeling for anything or anyone. Even the supposed commitment she had to her Dreamers -- the chimpanzees she cared for in Liberia -- were described and never felt. The only upside was learning a bit of 20th century Liberian history although nothing could undo the unexplainably pathological leading protagonist whose actions suited the novelist and the history he wanted to impart but whose actions never grew organically from the character he described.
No, his inability to get inside of this woman is a downfall. His endless distractions which keep you, as a reader, from moving forward are equally frustrating rather than enlightening.
A warmer reader might have mitigated the coldness of Hannah Musgrave.
I would have cut everything in America except what she fled from and then would have concentrated, from her earliest days in Liberia, on the chimps and what she endured, and they endured, during her time there.
He should never, never think for a moment that he understands a woman although no man comes alive in this book, either. Everyone is playing a role in servitude of his version (probably correct) of this period in Liberia.