I decided to buy this title because it was selected by Neil Gaiman, and I am so glad that I did. I love the fact that even though the main character is flawed, he is still likeable, and draws the reader deeper into the story. I love the twists that the plot takes, many totally unexpected. Thank you again, Neil Gaiman, for introducing me to this author.
I am a 65-year-old psychologist, married for 25 years, with two sons who are 25 and 22. I love reviewing the books and the feedback I get.
This book begins well enough. It is the story of a teacher and writer named Thomas Abbey and his girlfriend Saxony. Tom takes a sabbatical year in which he decides to write a biography of his favorite author, a man named Marshall France. For the first half or so, the book is a well-written story, narrated by the always wonderful Edoardo Ballerini, which makes it a delightful experience just for that. However...(isn't there always a however?)... our heroes drive to the town of Galen, Missouri, and this is where the story escalates into a fable of delusional proportions. If you knew that this was going to be some variety of science fictionish work, that would be one thing. But, not having known that, the book becomes pretty preposterous. I can't help revealing the spoiler here, as it takes up almost half the book, and is, I suppose, the grand idea of Mr. Carroll's. The conceit here is that Marshall France has written a magnum opus in which he has created the entire town: all the people who live in it, precisely what they do, when they die, etc. He (France) also has the superpowers available to himself that he can make people die at his whim, or turn into dogs, etc. At first Tom and Saxony do not believe the tale, but they are fiercely sold on it by Anna, the author's daughter. Soon Tom is sleeping with Anna as well as Saxony. Since science fiction requires us to suspend our usual assumptions about life, the only way to enjoy this experience, I think, is to just not try to think too carefully about the entire conceit, as it will fall down like a house of cards on the briefest examination. France becomes a version of God. He apparently has written so voluminously into the past and the future of Galen that ordinary mortals would have taken lifetimes to do this alone, not to speak of writing work that will be marketed and sold to the public. (France's writing about Galen is a Big Secret.) Some of it has a Wizard of Oz quality: children might be mystified, but the outfits are made of cardboard, and pay no attention to that man...
I love Edoardo Ballerini as I love no other narrator. He does the absolute maximum with this material that he can. However, nothing can protect Tom from being the wimpy, passive academic that he is. He bounces from Saxony to Anna, begging each of them to make the decisions in his life that he is too paralyzed by OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) to make. By the end, you really are considering the possibility that it all really WAS a dream, a thing which worked in literature about 100 years ago.
I would only cautiously recommend this book, primarily for fellow lovers of Ballerini. His skills are so marvelous that they can elevate a lot of writing way above where it actually "deserves" to be. What a guy.
I love reading and listening to books, especially fantasy, science fiction, children's, historical, and classics.
Thomas Abbey is a burnt out prep-school English teacher (who's heard one too many vapid book reports about ???The Fall of the House of Usher???) with an extensive collection of well-oiled masks but no lover. And don???t ask him about his deceased movie star father! Since childhood, the one thing that he has unreservedly loved is the work of Marshall France, a mysterious author of popular children???s fantasy books, of which Thomas??? favorite is The Land of Laughs. As Jonathan Carroll???s novel opens, Thomas has decided to go on a leave of absence, during which he plans to write the first biography of France. Will he succeed? Will Saxony Gardner, a young woman who also loves the books of France, be able to help him? Will France???s eccentric daughter Anna hinder them? How did France create such real characters and wonderful stories? Why do the people of Galen, Missouri remind one of The Wicker Man and Inkheart?
I chucklingly enjoyed the first third of the novel! It is quirky and funny, and I care a great deal about Thomas and Saxony and their biographical quest. But by the last third it becomes disturbing and by the ending disappointing, perhaps because Carroll abandons the attraction of children???s fantasy books for the creepiness of creation, and because the d??nouement is abrupt and unpleasant. Though The Land of Laughs is largely about the life and work of an author of children???s books, Carroll???s novel is not for children.
The reading by Edoardo Ballerini is well paced and varied for the different characters and situations (though a few times I confused his Saxony and Anna) and balances emotion and restraint.
Carroll???s novel is about many things: America (popular culture, gothic, small towns, big cities, etc.), writing, reading, biography, fame, fans, love, family, fantasy, reality, and the relationships between them. Is it a horror novel? An urban fantasy? A metafiction? A romance? A father and son novel? It???s a little of all of those. It is surely unpredictable and memorable.
The best books, both fiction and non-fiction, create a world in the mind of the reader that is as real as the world in which the reader actually lives. If that is the case for the reader, it can only be more so for the author who has become totally immersed in the world he/she is creating.
Neil Gaiman is a connoisseur of literature that skirts along the edge separating the world of the mind and the world around us. While I haven't been thrilled with every NGP selection, this one does not disappoint, as it follows the career of a young aspiring writer, Tom Abbey, who wants to write a biography of the author whose books created an imaginary world into which Abbey retreated as a child. That author's adopted home town turns out to be a very strange place, indeed, a place existing on the border between reality and fiction. A story that is both fun and thought-provoking.
Land of Laughs was mystical and surprising story and there are lot's of things going beneath. Now, when I know the story and how it ends I certainly gonna listen it again, maybe there are more surprises..
It reminded me a little bit of Ray Bradbury stories. Nothing is like it seems.
I loved his female characters, but the Italian undertaker was my favorite. Overall Edoardo Ballerini was my one of my favorite narrators and I surely gonna find is there more books narrated by him.
Shorten it by half! Make at least one of the characters likeable.
Pruning. It went on and on even when it was obvious where the whole thing was headed something like having one's head beaten against a brick wall. The central idea was good but was hideously overworked until it died of sheer exhaustion.
He made a great job of some very tedious material, no complaints there.
What is it about American writers which makes them feel they have to bludgeon their readers senseless in order to get their message accross? Is the American reading public slow or something?I bought this book mainly on the recommendation of Neil Gaiman, for whom I have great respect, but I will be looking at his opinions on other writers much more critically in future. What were you thinking Neil?
There was a horrible twist at the end, and then it just trails off without any resolution.
No, just made me more wary of Neil's list. I love Neil Gaiman's work, but I'm now questioning his list.
I'm not entirely sure that this book warrants a 4 star review, but if I rate it any lower, I'm afraid you'll pass it over. If you like stories where you know from the beginning that there is something that we're not being told, this is for you. Someone put this in the category of the "unreliable narrator" story, but I'm not sure that even quite describes it. I finished this book weeks ago, and i cant get it out of my head. Definitely worth the credit!
The author chose a challenging concept
He could have endowed his characters with a generosity of spirit.
Mr. Ballerini's presentation was excellent. I have not heard anything else by this performer.
This book is long on a sense of the inadequacy of the central characters and short on magic. However, some people might enjoy the underlying aura of malevolence.
This is a very entertaining mix of the mystery and fantasy genres, and translates well to audio format.
The most memorable moment comes when the protagonist, Thomas Abbey, realizes that the small town of Galen, Missouri, is not as it appears. The plot, which had been developing in an apparently predictable course, as Abbey struggles to write his first book, the biography of his favorite childhood author, suddenly takes on unexpected
This is the first of Edoardo Ballerini's performances I have heard. I was deeply impressed. None of his characters are annoying, they are all clearly identified as he read his way along. It reminded me of an old radio play more than listening to someone read a book out loud.