This is a great character book, that allows you to hear the story from all perspectives. The story moves along at a good pace, so that you never get bored. I would recommend this book to any listener, whether or not you like the Harry Potter series, as this book goes in a totally different direction than Rowling's other works.
I had low expectations for this book for a number of reasons. As a fan of JKR's Potter books, I knew that anything not-Potter would inevitably feel like something of a letdown. For example, any time poor Patricia Cornwell writes any non-Scarpetta book, she gets roasted by her Scarpetta fans. Also, the reviews for this book were generally poor. Although my taste differs significantly from that of professional book snobs, um, *reviewers*, I find the aggregate user reviews on Goodreads and Audible to be generally in the ballpark. Finally, the reviews I read generally indicated that this book was dark and grim, with a downer of an ending. Had I not enjoyed the Potter world JKR built so much, I probably wouldn't have read this book at all.
Curiously, I had just been listening to Peyton Place on audio, and couldn't help but mentally compare the two. They are similar in theme - both are about the sordid realities hiding behind a small town's pretty facade, including the sort of small-town class politics and power struggles where the successful and unsympathetic fight with the successful and sympathetic over the town's civic responsibility to their "undeserving poor", as Alfred P Doolittle would say. I had the same difficulties at the start of the story, too. So many characters are introduced so rapidly that I simply couldn’t keep track of them all. This is a uniquely audio problem, because in a paper format, I’d be able to flip back and forth to remind myself what each character had been up to previously, until all the dots start connecting and the individual storylines come together.
I suppose the comparison to the Potter books is inevitable, but JKR is successful in repeating and improving on one of the things I loved about those books. The huge cast of characters is wonderfully drawn. Each character is unique, and each character is flawed in some way, and stays true to itself throughout the story arc. What she has improved upon in this adult book is that there is no clear division between the “good” characters and the “bad” characters. Even her most unlikeable characters have some positive qualities (or at least sympathetic ones, given their eventually revealed histories and situations), and we understand how those positive and negative qualities drive their actions. The characters come from all walks of life and all situations, from the congenitally wealthy to middle class to children of heroin addicts. Had the children’s books been written this way, I wouldn’t have wondered where the inhabitants of Knockturn Alley went to school, because they obviously weren’t at Hogwarts.
Many reviewers complained that the ending was too grim, but I have to disagree. There is tragedy at the end, but many characters have learned and grown from their experiences to varying degrees, and there is genuine hope for some at the end.
This is very much a character-driven story, to the degree that there seems to be very little plot at all. Halfway through the book, though I was enjoying the characters, I wondered if there was a point to the story. At the end, I can see the point. But anyone who prefers a story with some action driving toward a particular end will not be happy with this story. It’s really just about people and how they behave and think and interact with one another. It’s about how attitudes and prejudices create the kind of society we live in.
Tom Hollander did a fantastic job. Although he doesn’t attempt to create a unique voice for each character – that would have been nearly impossible with the number of characters – he read with feeling and I was easily able to distinguish one character’s speech from another. I enjoyed this very much, and may even possibly listen to it again sometime.
Yes, would recommend for sure. The narrator is very talented, and really draws you in. The story is very adult. No kid themes here, which I think people may not expect from JK Rowling.
The character development was superb.
His accents were amazing. He switched between all the various British accents, male & female with ease. He really drew me into the story.
Sukvindah's issue was very troubling, as well as the end for Krystle.
It's not action packed like Hogwarts, but this is definitely for an adult reader who enjoys character development and an unfolding story. Well done JK!
Characters are well defined. They seemed real. I could visualize this place very easily.
Definitely an indictment of the social environment.
No one in particular.
No! It is too rough a story to listen to for any length of time.
Audible is always great. Rowling is great. Rowling needs a middle ground story now.
The different accents of the characters made it very interesting to listen to it in audio.
All charters were interesting and one doesn't stand out for me.
I was skeptical at first but JK Rowling proved me wrong. Great story, believable characters, completely different than Harry Potter.
After I became familiar with the characters, I couldn't wait to see their lives unfold. She makes you feel as if you almost know them.
Wish I knew of another similar to it!
I already miss this story.
Conditionally. It is well written and engaging but the characters are not very attractive--it is hard to find one to root for
Absolutely. She is a great writer
depth of the characters
Guya, she has potential to be more.
Whis the book was longer.
I did not purchase the book and can only imagine that the reader enhanced Ms Rowlings words and made it more unable to put down until it was over....and then wanting more.
He was so believable...I wonder if I would have been so moved without his voice.
Small Town Everwhere
I hope we dont have to wait so long for J.K. Rowlimgs next book.
Also, she portrayed so well the life of the abused and how when children are abused the entire rest of their lives can be destroyed, as well as everyone they come in contact with. I always knew I couldnt handle the life of a social worker( being a nurse was hard enough).