At first, I found the author's voice a bit distracting, but over time, I came to enjoy her voice, especially when she was doing dead pan irony. What became painful as the book progressed were the celeb readings of a sentence to a paragraph. There would be a lead up to a quote, a lengthy pause and then a quote read by a celeb. Sometimes the pause seemed to go on and on with a tiny section (7 words or so) read by the celeb. These became so distracting, and were often times difficult to hear due to difference in volume, that I just tuned them out. The use of celebs to read quotes seemed to be too gimmicky.
All in all, I enjoyed the book and the author's voice. I have stopped listening to a small number of books because of painful narration. The negative reviews seem too harsh especially the ones that complain of "America is always the bad guy." Looking back at this period through modern perspective makes it hard to justify our prior actions. One just needs to accept the difference in perspectives and move on.
I started this book with high expectations, as multiple people had recommended it to me. I was disappointed to find that it is sporadic, confusing and surprisingly dull for such an interesting period of history. The author didn't even touch on Princess Ka'iulani, who I was most interested in.In the end, the author sums up her own book as "a story of how people like us ruined this place." Although there is much to criticize among the actions of Americans in the history of Hawai'i, the author's tone throughout is one of dry sarcasm, which simply becomes tiresome.
No. I was already familiar with Sarah Vowell's voice through This American Life and thought I was fine with it. But while listening to this audiobook I found that I couldn't listen to her dry, ironic, sarcastic monotone for more than an hour at a time. The celebrity cameos, rather than breaking up the monotony, were abrupt and confusing, as they were mostly brief sentences scattered throughout the book rather than extended readings.
Sarah Vowell's never fails to make me fall in love with her all over again!
Unfamiliar Fishes is the story of the Americanization of Hawaii, and Vowell uses her storytelling - complete with historical facts, stories and personal anecdotes of her travels - to make the tale interesting and memorable. I can't imagine hearing this story read by anyone other than the author - her unique voice, along with the interjections from other celebs, makes a great book a truly spectacular listen.
I'm a big fan of SF/F/Horror (all the better if they're mashed up together, my dears!), and enjoy other literature as well.
From the arrival of Captain Cook, to the missionaries, to the businessmen and politicians who orchestrate the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy, Vowell's book is a fascinating and upsetting in-depth look at the Americanization (and eventual annexation) of Hawaii. This is not your typical tourist fare.
I knew what to expect from Vowell's reading, and don't have any issues with her voice (if you're not familiar with Vowell, definitely check out the sample to see if it'll be too much for you).
The supporting cast is generally fine, but Keanu Reeves is shocking great as David Malo. I think I could listen to him read Malo's Hawaiian Antiquities and be content.
Definitely worth checking out if you're at all interested in the history of Hawaii.
For those familiar with, and accepting of, Vowell's voice, the book will be time well spent. However, the idiosyncratic tone can be grating. What I've seen called deadpan irony comes across as self-congratulatory cleverness that would have been muted if the editor used a more professional voice. Too many of her sentences seem to end with an implied rim shot. Moreover, the book's use of celebrity narrators was distracting, though it is a remarkable cast for a mediocre book.By the middle, I lost interest in the narrative itself, with fault to be ascribed equally between the voice, the writing, the subject and my own attention span. I have listened to Vowell's Assasination Vacation, which was more enjoyable, probably because the work covered more familiar and varied ground.
Sarah Vowell will eventually be listed among this generations finest historians. Because she is a fine historian. This book is deeply researched. Ms. Vowell understands the times and places she writes about so well that she is able to weave a compelling tale making the historical characters fully realized. I consumed this book over a weekend.
Ms. Vowell's voice is an acquired taste. I've been listening to Sarah Vowell since her days on NPR and This American Life. If your politics are right of center, or if you believe that the US is always right in all it does, you will not enjoy this book. But you cannot fault the accuracy of the research Ms. Vowell has done to create this masterful story.
Sarah Vowell hits the mark with this audiobook that blends history with personal reaction and historigraphy. I have enjoyed all of her books and this one is great too. . . it isnt the masterpiece Assasination Vacation was, and this audiobook is not as entertaining as that one was, but it is also more colorful and less wordy than the Wordy Shipmates. For those who sneer at the narration, half the joy of these books is listening to Vowell's dry wit and human vocality. She is not pronouncing things incorrectly, and her expression adds to the whole audiobook experience. These people would probably dislike Angela's Ashes because "they should have got a narrator without such a thick Irish accent." Sarah Vowell's naration is wonderful.
Book blogger at Bookwi.se
Sarah Vowell is a unique historian. She may be the only historian known as much for her unique speaking voice as she is for her writing. She has been a regular on This American Life, the voice of the daughter on the movie The Increadibles and is the author of six books.
So it is her voice (both actually and literary) that will lead you to love or hate her. To get an idea of her actual voice you can watch the book trailer below. But that will really only matter if you want to listen to the audiobook (which I did.)
The literary voice is another matter. Vowell is a historian for the ADD world. She is thorough, but the book is littered with bunny trails. She writes as much about the process and people she meets while doing research as she does about the topic. So we will hear about the guides on tours and people she meets in libraries. Her nephew Owen pops up frequently in her books because she seems to frequently travel with her sister and nephew. These comments bring a grounding to her work and let the reader really understand her as an author. But if you are more interested in the actual subject than the author, you might not like Sarah Vowell’s books.
In some ways, Unfamiliar Fishes is a sequel her last book. Wordy Shipmates explored the founding of New England and the Pilgrims. Unfamiliar Fishes looks at Hawaii, from its early history to its introduction to the US as a territory. (I actually would have liked to know more about how it became a state.) Much of the colonizing effort in Hawaii was the result of American Missionaries from New England, the children and grandchildren of the subjects of Wordy Shipmates. Vowell has a unique relationship to American Christianity. She is the grandchild of a pastor and while not a practicing Christian, she is fluent in and has great respect for the motivation of Christian and these New Englanders’ in particular. That does not mean she really agrees with them as she will tell you frequently.
If you love Hawaii and "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart," here's your book. I didn't know much about Hawaii's history, and Vowell combines her wonderful research with a modern twist. Fun experiment having other voices read the quotes, which enlivens the book.
Entertaining up to a point, but too intertwined with the writer and her own agenda to pass for history. Readers who want to know about the story of Hawaii will be disappointed. Readers who are anxious to learn what Sarah Vowell thinks about lots of things will be satisfied.