Not a writer, a writer wannabe, editor, lit maj, or pretend literary critic. Just an avid reader/listener. My ratings are opinion only.
to think this was a little too dramatic (wink). Don't get me wrong I enjoyed it, but following the reviews I was expecting life changing literature.
I apologize to anyone offended by this review but it felt a little too much like Hollywood book to movie for me. A good movie probably, but not what I was expecting.
Drudging through the first half of this book was like reading elementary college creative writing papers. I wish I could remember all the things I wanted to "note" that really drove me nuts. For one thing, there was overstatement. The author would make a nice, subtle, point. THEN HE WOULD EXPLAIN IT, as if we were such immature readers that we couldn't get the inference. The book jumps between 1963 italy to "present day" hollywood and includes a "movie pitch" in more detail than we need (again ignoring any sophistication on the reader's part) about the Donner party (mid 1800's). All this is loosely tied together via weakly portrayed characters. Everything we are supposed to feel is dictated to us .. the writing is so inferior that even if we can "feel" anything, before we have a chance to ingest it, the author explains it to us. I think when I finally gave up is when we are told that a physician has told an actress that she has "the same symptoms as stomach cancer" in order to keep her from knowing that she is pregnant by her boyfriend/producer.
The reader is another issue: he is drawing out every word sooo slowly that when I ran it at 2x I could hardly tell it was speeded up. He sounds like he's listened to too many Scott Brick narrations and he's trying to achieve the same sardonic tone.
Overall I am disappointed because the book had some very good reviews
It was an okay story. I purchased this based on reviews, but it did not hold up to the hype. Anyone who liked this would try an Ann River Siddons novel.
63 y/o psychologist with two sons, living in SF Bay Area. I absolutely love all the feedback I've been getting for my reviews. It's very gratifying. Thanks to all of you.
This is one of the most beautiful and entertaining works I have read in a very long time. I had never heard of Jess Walter, but I sure will watch for him now. I had heard the voice(s) of Edoardo Balerini, reading Lou Berney's Gutshot Straight, and I loved the narration. Balerini's Italian is magical. The language just flows off his tongue with such gorgeous melodies and passages that you just want to visit Italy right now. The story itself is very complex (Braided is the author's word for the structure, and, duh, it is the perfect word.) The book follows the lives of a few Italians who live in a tiny village called Porto Vergogna, a place so small that it can only be reached by fishing boat. The other characters are Americans. Deborah Moore is a tall, beautiful actress who is sent to the town for spurious reasons. Rome is lit up by the filming of Cleopatra, and the world is lit up by the romance of Liz Taylor and Richard Burton. Many other characters come into and out of the lives of the protagonists, and the book spans the time between 1962 and the present. The writing is extremely skillful. Several chapters are written in different voices, and Walter manages this feat beautifully. I loved this book without qualification. It is full of life, hope, sadness, genuine redemption and most of all, love. I cannot imagine an Audible reader not loving this book.
This is another instance where I've purchased a book because of the great reviews. I agree with Kathy's review, except I thought the narrator was OK. I didn't feel any character was well developed and really disliked the back and forth between the character stories. At first I thought I didn't "bond" with the book because I wasn't traveling very much and therefore was only able to listen in short spurts. When it was over, I was glad. I also felt there was too much time spent on the son, who was not integral to the story in my opinion. The other characters could have used all that story line time.
Added Audible to my 2 hour commute, consuming books at rapid pace, and rating books based on keeping me engaged and making time fly!
The performance by Edoardo Ballerini really brought each character into focus and his voices captured not just their personalities and traits but the essence of each character. Pasquale is an excellent character - his journey and transformation and education is the most compelling. At times, a few of the chapters unnecessarily "recapped" what we already knew without adding much, but this is the only point where the story dragged. Perhaps a couple spots of predictability, but mostly in hindsight, making the overall experience of listening to Ballerini's performance enjoyable and something to look forward to when setting off on a long commute.
I hear voices. But maybe that's because there's always an Audible book in my ear.
Let me say from the top that the narration of this book has got to be one of the best ever. The voices of the characters are perfect. It deserves something more than 5 stars. Then again, there was a lot to work with. Love and loss, dreams, reality, responsibility, family ... it's all here. It's impossible not to relate to just a little bit of most of the characters - all of whom are deep and flawed and very real. Terrific book club book. Lots to talk about after.
The story is OK - a bit American, moralistic and repetitive with the themes, but it works OK. The narrator is brilliant! - he does all the accents (without overdoing them), and makes you want to hear more (despite the reserves you may have about the storyline).
All up, worth buying.
At first I was completely turned way off by the - what I would consider to be - trite Italian, lusting after a Hollywood starlet. And what moniker does the author dream up? "Dee"? then "Dee Moray"? What a pedestrian run-of-the-name-generator! I would have thought Jess Walter could have done something a little more baroque than "Deborah Moore" to "Dee Moray". And then...her son is named "Pat". Pat is what you do to a dog.
So, from there, I went on to dislike the un-original and overdone paper doll characters, and especially the sincere spirit with which this book seems to have been written. Where is the guy who wrote the dark and ironic "The FInancial Lives of the Poets"? Perhaps this book is an earlier work and from a less cynical period in the author's life and mind.
But, I eventually came to appreciate the message, or one of them, anyway. I am attracted by the various personae we all inhabit as time passes, and we may think someone is 25 inside when she is actually a 60-something cancer sufferer, and the inner 25-yr-old is of no interest. The casing falls apart and I lament the death of the inner spirit that attracts others just when the outer shell, the body, becomes a barrier and a hindrance. I know, this isn't one of the primary themes but it touched me anyway. It's sad that when we are in the prime of our youth, people are interested in knowing our "inner selves" but only because the outer self beckons. Once we have no outer signs advertising our abilities to connect physically and emotionally, the social environment falls away.
The book is masterfully crafted, no doubts about that. But I'm only giving it a "4" because the female point of view is explored so infrequently. Despite its wide scope, this book is about the "big playahs" doing the "big" things.
The play at the end is a brilliant touch, and actually manages to tie together many of the emotional tangents. I actually found myself crying at the play's end, and on a lighter note - I want a designer do-over like the after-party apartment in Sand Point, Idaho.
This read is well worth a credit, but it's not nearly as interesting as "The Brave" by Nicholas Evans, which deals with a similar emotional and physical geography, the Hollywood scene, and the connections that may or may not happen along the way.