Unexpected. Fresh. Fun.
I can't believe that after years and years of listening to audio book mysteries, I procrastinated on picking up a Mrs. Pollifax. Really. What was I thinking? Well, I am glad I finally did as it perked me up and out of a gloomy mood.
She's witty and delightful. A confection of whipped sugar and spice. You have to love a character that gets up and goes out and joins the CIA in her twilight years and then handles it using a life time of experience as a wife and mom. And she's just genuinely nice.
Gilman had a way of describing the landscape that I felt very much like I was "vacationing" along with Mrs. P.
Well, when you know Barbara Rosenblat is reading a book, you know the performance is going to be fantastic. After years upon years of listening to her...it's like putting on your favorite comfortable cashmere cardigan. She's part of the reason I thought to give it a try.
Yes it was! I finished it in two.
Can't imagine why I bought this -- I don't care for 'spy' stories, and of late, I've been staying away from anything narrated by Barbara Rosenblat. But buy it I did -- and yesterday was the day when I couldn't skip it anymore on my iPod list, so I listened. And you know what? I liked it!
It's not a real traditional "spy" story -- that helped. You don't need to remember the names of legions of foreign assassins or try to figure out who's a double agent and who isn't. To my delight, Mrs. Pollifax didn't know where they keep Albania anymore than I did, and it didn't bother either of us one little bit.
Instead, this is sort of a simple -- albeit absurd -- tale of Mrs. Pollifax, a "elderly widow" (careful there! She's said to be in her mid-60's) who is finding life among the garden clubs and tea parties somewhat boring, so she decides to volunteer to help the CIA wherever they might need her. Through a mistake -- of course -- she's hired to be a low-key courier, which is supposed to involve a relaxed trip to Mexico, where on a specified day, she will go to a particular bookstore and ask for a particular book, then bring home the packet she will be given.
It doesn't, of course, work out that way. Instead, she is captured, drugged and flown off to foreign parts, having been identified early on. Kept under lock and key in a dungeon sort of place with a couple of other much more experienced foreign agents, she's losing hope of ever surviving this adventure. Until she simply decides that she will survive it -- and so she does. (Not a spoiler -- there are 13 more books that follow.)
But at that point, the book takes a turn into what can only be described as utter fantasy -- for us baby boomers, anyway. In order to escape this remote prison in Albania, Mrs. Pollifax and her companions engage in a series of physical escapades that few Iron Man Triathlon participants could conquer. They scale sheer rock walls, clinging to out-hanging roots and handholds, she crawls 3-4 miles on her hands and knees, pretending to be part of a flock of sheep, she rides donkeys, they sail across a major body of water, raft down other parts on a fallen log -- on and on, feats of endless physical derring-do, all without benefit of sleep, food or water. Or training. For days on end.
It's a little much -- but it is endlessly entertaining. It's well done, even though it leaves one feeling seriously outclassed in the physicality department.
And as for the narrator, this was recorded in 2011, so it must have been before Barbara Rosenblat became.. well, before she became Barbara Rosenblat, that annoying narrator who feels the need to act out each and every part, to the extreme, and to munch on something all the way through each narration, which drives me completely bonkers. In other words, it's Barbara Rosenblat back when she was just about the best female narrator around -- which makes listening to her a pleasure all by itself.
Good book! I may not go for any more of them, but at least this one wasn't a mistake.
The middle was not as good.
It was mostly scene after scene of oh my this bad thing is happening, what will we do, oh, quick do that, gee, we barely made it. I’m not sure why I didn’t enjoy this part. Maybe I would have liked more personality interaction instead of a series of bad things being thrown at them.
THE BEGINNING AND END:
I loved it. I was laughing. Here’s this little old lady walking into the CIA offices and saying “I want to be a spy.” The guy is slack jawed and speechless. And in the end, people saying “you did what?” amazed at what she did. That was funny and good. Also she changed the way she treated someone at the end, which was neat.
This is book #1 in the series.
I BOUGHT THIS BECAUSE OF THE AUDIOBOOK NARRATOR:
I wanted to buy more books narrated by Barbara Rosenblat, and this was on her list. She was very good, but I have two complaints. This was recorded in 1989. The recording equipment picks up her breaths and some swallowing which was distracting. Second: I did not like her fragile little old lady voice for Mrs. Pollifax. She made her sound like she was in her 90s. Most women in their 60s don’t sound like that.
Genre: spy suspense
Say something about yourself! I love to read and to share that with my severely dyslexic teen I have audible!
I have recommended this to several who really enjoyed it.
Love the unexpected way Mrs. Polifax becomes a spy, the humor, the danger is real but it is not grisly or rated R.
My daughter loved listening to Mrs. Polifax and immediately wanted the rest of them.
We were so happy to find Mrs. Pollifax on audiobooks. She kept our family enthralled on road trips for many years when our children were young. Now we can share them with our granddaughter.
Barbara Rosenbladt does a wonderful job of bringing each character to life.
Say something about yourself!
I loved this book! Mrs. Pollifax is adorable and funny not to mention one tough cookie! I was curious as to how they were going to pull off a little old lady becoming a spy just because, but it worked. I will definitely continue the series.
Barbara Rosenblat performance makes this great book a superb listening experience. The best reader of any audio book I've ever listened to.