Pate au Choux
One of my favorites, smart, funny, engaging. I love Sarah Vowell on This American Life so her reading of her book was extra great, with losts of special guests.
This humor and the history, and it's relevance right now in history.
Her quirky sense of delivery. She can deliver her stories the way she writes them, with quick wit and charm. * some people find her voice grating after a while, I can agree to a certain extent, but I love her delivery that I can't imagine anyone else reading it.
The historical accuracy made me feel smart and funny at the same time. I wish my textbooks in History were all written by her.
Buy it, listen, be smarter.
This was a well-researched, well-written piece of history on the Hawaiian Islands that details its slow and laborious conquest by white Europeans and Americans. There is a lot in here that is pretty shameful and saddening to hear, but it is important to know and be aware of America's history as colonizers.
Adding in extra narrators to read the historical quotes from the actual players in this tale was a nice touch. It helps you keep track of who is who and connect the person's voice from chapter to chapter.
If you like history with a little snark and sarcasm you should listen to Sara Vowell.
This is not her best book. With that said...if you are a fan of Sara Vowell you will like this look.
If you are new to Sara Vowell, start with Assassination Vacation.
I enjoyed this less than I wanted to. I wanted to love it like I loved her other books. I've listened to them multiple times. This was good. It was an obscure bit of American history that I've never heard before - namely Hawaiian history. I only knew the basics. There is much more to the story. I am sorry to say that I didn't finish it. I'm not sure why. I think that at some point - 3/4 of the way through - I just didn't feel compelled to keep listening. Her other books are brilliant. I'll give this one another try.
Wow. That's quite a list of narrators! Sarah has done this in her other books as well. The guest narrators don't do extensive pieces, but they each take on a few of the "characters" and read their direct quotes. I will admit, knowing the list was extensive, with fun people I like, I did spend some time thinking "Is this Bill Hader? Who was that?" I think John Slattery had the most distinctive and easy-to-pick-out voice. I like this technique, although it might sound distracting, as sometimes knowing when something is a quote and isn't on an audio, can be difficult as people don't say "quote... close quote" when reading quotations. There's often an opening such as "Theodore Roosevelt then said..." but there's seldom any way to figure out when a quote ends. I also like it, as it's an add-on for us audiobook listeners, who often get shafted and don't get to see funny drawings (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night), or photo inserts (any serious biography) unless the book is the very awesome Bossypants.
Anyway, on to Unfamiliar Fishes. Sarah Vowell is an unconventional historian, probably most similar to Tony Horwitz. She doesn't at all try to remove herself from the story (although it isn't a memoir per se). She talks about her sister and her nephew joining her on her research trips to Hawaii and relates what she learns to herself personally. Most notably in her comparison of the treatment of the Hawaiian native to the Native Americans, as she is part Cherokee, which is an apt comparison. She's funny, a little kooky, loves a random bit of trivia (my favorite!), and tries to both understand the thinking of the people back then and also from our modern-day perspective.
Favorite trivia: Morse, inventor of the telegraph and Morse code, was a painter. Not like he painted on the side or it was a hobby, that was his regular job, day-in and day-out, and he was respected and paid well. But while he was painting some semi-famous guy in New York, his wife became deathly ill back in Connecticut. By the time he found out and was able to race home, she had already died. He invented the telegraph out of frustration with the poor communication of the times. I had always thought he was one of those inventor-guys like Edison and Franklin who probably invented a bunch of other things, but nope.
I know some people find Ms. Vowell's voice abrasive or grating, but I find it very endearing. To me she sounds a lot like a little kid. But several hours of it would be a bit much if it was grating to you, so I recommend her books on audio with the caveat that you should check out her voice first with a quick This American Life story or a Daily Show clip. But if you like her, this book won't disappoint. And I promise, you'll learn some unusual history not covered in class. Aloha.
I have not disliked a narrator and book as much as I did this one in a long time. The author/narrator's voice grated on my nerves the second she started speaking. Her sarcastic negative comments were not amusing. This book did not flow smoothly nor did it hold my interest and I finally gave up about half way through. Waste of time when there are so many more interesting good books out there. Wish I could get my credit back. Possibly having a really great narrator might have saved this book to some degree, but that being said, don't waste your time.
As a singing teacher I was originally horrified that someone with Sarah Vowell's voice quality would be put on the radio, but now I can't live without her. She's made me a convert to vocal diversity on the radio. I adore her narration and her pithy scholarship. This is editorial history at it's finest. Thank you for this book.
Sarah Vowel reads her own books, a plus for many, a negative for a few. I love her distinctive voice and wouldn't have it any other way. She knows when the words are intended to be ironic, facetious, sarcastic, etc. and I think that influences her inflection. I can't imagine actually reading one of her print books if it's available here. Her approach to history is entertaining, informative and eclectic.
I really liked the book and the "guest" narrators with famous names and good voices. I am sure the author liked reading her creation, but her voice is not her best asset. Not to sound harsh, but a professional narrator would enhance the experience. The author sounds like a very young woman and hard to take seriously