The original title of the book was "the saddest story," and it is. It is a classic of early 20th century English literature, ahead of its time in its shifting back and forth in time and in the use of what is known as an "unreliable narrator" as the story is told in the first person by someone who only gradually realizes that most of what he had believed about his life is false. It lends itself very well to be read, as the narrator says he will write this as if he is telling it to someone else, and this narrator was, I thought, excellent. It is a bleak look at personal relationships that, on the surface, appear normal but are not at all what they seem.
This was the first audio book I haven't finished. I should have paid attention to the reviews I read, which said it was dated. It was also dull, a series of magazine columns written for a British audience, full of mock outrage about such horrors as the vapidity of US TV. There was a sweet column about how no one in New Hampshire locks their cars or houses (I wonder if that is still the case), but most of it was just tedious. I started skipping segments and finally just gave up on it.
I had loved Possession, so I had high hopes for this one but was disappointed.
This is the story of deep conflict between two sisters, but neither was a sympathetic character, and the story dragged. I did listen to all of it, but almost gave up half-way through. It is one of her earlier works, and undoubtedly reflects the well-known conflict between Byatt and her sister, Margaret Drabble.
Interesting that this book generates such divergent reactions. I was one of the people who enjoyed it and found the characters and their day-to-day lives realistic and, in the end, touching. I recognize that, at times, it was a bit trite, but the struggle to fit in to a strange culture and to make real friendships with people across cultural lines was, for me, quite convincing. I also thought the narrator did an excellent job, including the names and words in Persian (not that I could judge their accuracy).
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