NEVER -- what producer thought it was a good idea to have this author narrate the book? Why are there so many voices (and weird music)? Will not bother finishing this book.
This was an interesting quasi-history book. I say "quasi" because it is not a dry, objective history, but more of a narrative of the author's experience learning the history of some presidential assassinations. She infuses a lot of her personality into the history, which is generally interesting, funny, and mostly witty, but gets a little annoying toward the end. She also has a really annoying voice, and despite the "full cast" badge, she narrates 99.9% of it personally with a tiny smattering of the other credited narrators here and there.
This audio book gets a 5 on content and a 1 on narration style, which is a la Allyson Hannigan in American Pie. Seriously, the author needs to reign in her habit of ending every phrase with a question mark, which may be fine for a 10 minute NPR Commentary, but in a full-on book is just grating. As for content, I really loved it. The book is consistently hilarious with moments of brilliance. Recommended
I loved this funny in depth look at famous deaths and as for Bush bashing it really isn't like that at all. One needs to keep an open mind and go a little deeper. For content I would have given this book 5 stars but the narrator's voice is a bit annoying.
Silicon Valley Dad, Lawyer and Tech Geek
Vowell's book is about her unusual obsession with trivia regarding the assasinations of Lincoln, Garfield and McKinley. She ironically self-depricates about how she has trouble finding an audience for her unusual trivia and how she is self-conscious in groups about her fascination with these historical events, alluding to a taboo about them. The irony is that the trivia is fascinating and the reader begins to understand her unusual obsession.
She does complain about our "current president" as she calls him, but it is limited and her criticism is light and funny. Only a true partisan would be offended by her witty criticisms. She makes an extended and interesting analogy between the current Iraq war and the Spanish American war, in which McKinley was involved.
I found most interesting Vowell's discussions of the unusual utopian "free-love" Onieda community, of which Garfield's assasin was a member. Many of her other annecdotes were just as entertaining.
I learned more about Lincoln, Garfield (who?) and McKinley than I ever imagined. The stories of the assassins themselves and their motives, backgrounds and post-shooting history was a step back into an Americana that possesses many surprising similarities to today's America.
Unfortunately, listening to the narrator's voice was so painful for me. I slugged through it with only one break to hear what was coming next because I was on a plane; if I had several breaks, I would've been tempted at any time to not continue, just to avoid that voice! Lisa Simpson-esque, full of awkward starts and stops and pauses -- DEFINITELY listen to the sample first (I didn't).
Both my husband and I listened to this book, as did our children when they were forced to in the car. Agreed, her delivery is a bit odd, and her voice takes a bit of getting used to, but I learned more US history (which says a lot, since that was my minor in university) from the 5 hours of this book than I learned in an entire university course. The depth of her knowledge on this topic is extensive, and her patriotism -- being defined as a true love for her country, not the flag-waving, blind devotion to AMERICA that the Right seems to define as the only "true" patriotism -- is undeniable. Her quirky humour kept me laughing, and the historical trivia kept me riveted through four or five straight days of commuting. I would recommend this to anyone who wants a different perspective on American history -- should be a hit with fans of Jon Stewart!
...and a bit strange, which is expected from Ms. Vowel. However, the book is disjointed in an unpleasant way, yet reads like a travelogue, which it is. I felt a little like I was the roadster from monopoly being driven all over a map in a crazy zigzag pattern and in the process ripping the map up a little. I love Ms. Vowell's humor but this was a difficult listening. While her voice is engaging in most circumstances, it was annoying here.
This book is a compelling account of Vowell's personal relationship with American history, of course mixed with info on the assassinations and the events surrounding them. Vowell's writing style of personal and historical tangents might put some people off, but this isn't a conventional history tome and shouldn't be treated as such. Vowell has a very cute voice too, so listening to her (and the dozen other readers thrown in) is quite enjoyable. This is a great audiobook for history-lovers and average readers alike.
Ms. Vowell's narrative voice isn't for everyone but if you give it a chance you'll think that no one else should be narrating this very funny, clever and thorough history of presidential assassinations. She has traveled to every place that has any connection with her subject and her observations of the sites, information and above all, human nature, are wonderful. This is the second time I've listened to it and I could listen again, not only for the learning aspect, but because Ms. Vowell is such good fun to listen to. If you think you know all you've ever need to know about presidential assassinations, think again. Here is the ultimate source, told in a very personal and entertaining manner. Ms. Vowell never takes herself seriously, either. Though the title seems grim and macabre, the book is anything but.
Go along for the ride. You'll be glad you did.