I haven't finished the book and hardly think that I will. Am writing this to let others know to be careful in choosing this audiobook.
The narrator is a little better than adequate for a professional narrator - there is often very little difference in voices of characters. However, that is not why my mind wandered so often while listening. It is so extremely verbose without much action going on in the story. Characters talk endlessly at each other, in a way, that I would describe as genteely and politely argumentative, on and on and on. Most of the characters are set up quickly and early in the story and then it's just their mundane long winded conversations of little or no consequance. Take into account that I've not finished the book, but there is nothing that I've listened to or know about the overall story that makes me think the remainder of the book will be much less tiresome than what I've listened to so far.
I can understand that some people would like this novel, but it did not appeal to me. It wasn't overall bad - it stated out well and at times, a tear fell, but overall, too slow and far too much narrative over action/events. And far too sugary sweet. I listened to Chasing Fireflies (on sale when I bought it), then bought this one even before I was done with that one because I liked it, but this is such a completely different book. I think if you like Nicholas Sparks books, you would like this.
I don't like to write many reviews - usually only to help other listeners find gems or avoid books that I think are just overall bad (but not because they just don't meet my taste in books). This the latter. Fortunately, I got it when was a low price, so that didn't hurt so much.
I was maybe a third into the book when I wanted to immediately call Carol Joyce Oats and let her know that some untalented teenager was using her name on a book titled We Were The Mulvaneys.
This is a very character driven book, but they are amazingly one dimensional. In the book synopsis, these excerpts: "… Judd looks back through his memories to tell the secrets that eventually ripped apart the fabric of his storybook family." and "….Oates’ novel tells a tale that could be tragic, but is, instead, a ringing affirmation." OK, so going in we know that there will be some event or events that are bad and hidden and that things turn out alright in some way. And that is what we get, but it's like seeing it on TV, except with little drama and no humor.
There is absolutely no introspection of either the writer (Judd) or any of the other characters for why people are doing what they are doing. We just see them do it. This could have been about how the family members and others felt about what happened, their perceptions and perspective on events and why they made the good or poor choices in their lives. The Judd character is just writing an article where other members of the family have apparently told him the events but not why they did anything they did or what they thought to themselves. And the affirmation ending is just as one dimensional as the rest of the book. There is no catharsis or reflection by any of the characters. We just see them going about their lives. To me, this is a very flimsy story. I expected more from this author.
Oh, and to add to the poor experience, the reader is quite bad on this book. Believe I have listened to him another time and liked his performance, but not on this book. Too often, it's clear he's reading a book he's not that familiar with, pausing in inappropriate places, like he thought that was the end of the sentence, but oh wait, here it continues on the next page.
I got so much out of this book that I really wanted to write a review for people who might be considering it. But there is so much in this book, where to start? After I listened to the book (twice), I came across a review in Huff Post that I think hits the book nail on the head. It's by Darya Pino. Don't know if Audible will let me post a link here but it's easy to search for it and she says it so much better than I could.
I don't think that anyone (except maybe inside his own family) would agree with or advocate all of his ideas in the book, but that didn't diminish one bit, my overall enjoyment of it. While I'm not a libertarian, I was interested in his views on everything he wrote about - it seems obvious to me that he came by his views honestly after much consideration.
We listeners generally agree that authors shouldn't narrate their own books, but in this case, no one else could have done even half as well. His energy gives more power to his words and ideas. Why four stars after this stellar review? Well, it would be 5 stars or more if compared to any other non-fiction and certainly any books about the food industry. And so happy to realize that I'll be able to visit his farm during my summer trip to that area (Polyface is a short trip off route 81, exit 220, in Virginia).
I thought that I was weaning myself off agri-business with my new vegetable garden and buying from Whole Foods, but now I see that there is so much more I could be doing.
I read a number of professional reviews of this book (not on this site) before buying and now that I've listened to it, I feel like I read a different book from them. This book is so very dissimilar from Sea of Poppies - that book introduced a variety of characters and we followed them on their complex interesting journey that brought them together and beyond. What I found in this book was soooo much description of the time in place (ie: Canton and the pearl river delta area). It didn't seem very much happened. Diti's story opened the book, but then disappeared. Included in this story is Ah Fatt, Neal and Paulette as well as some new characters.
While short on storyline, the book is full of descriptive details that seem very authentic and vivid. But for much of the book, you'll need to be content with that and anticipating a third book that may bring more action, since the author is leading up to the Opium wars. I feel like this book should be part 1 of the next book. But as I say, my take on this book is different than others, so you may feel differently.
I wish that this book had been narrated by the narrator of SOP. This narrator is good except his very over-the-top rendition of Robin. Yes, we get he's gay. That's not the problem, it's that he often sounds like a Saturday Night Live spoof of a flaming gay man. He sounds so modern. We get most of the description of Canton in letters Robin writes to Paulette, so we hear a LOT of that character. And I think that is why so much of description was annoying to me - a little of the Robin voice as they chose to do it goes a long way. Ghosh added some light-hearted humor with Robin (ie: his unlimited pet names for Paulette), but the humor was lost to me in the extreme performance of Robin. I would not recommend this book other than it continues the trilogy and probably will be needed to get the full experience of the third part when it comes out.
Excelllent nuanced narration + historical epic event + a moving story + immersion into a very different culture + gifted writing = a great listen.
Should not be missed by anyone who values historical fiction.
I agree with Rick and jesse's reviews. I didn't know what to expect but I took a bit of chance because: a) author has been so reliable; and b) outline of book.
The story is not a linear unfolding of a person's life as in 'John Adams'. It is a somewhat linear story (although the timeline is not always straight*) of some noteworthy Americans (some readily known and some more obscure) and how their journey's to Paris impacted first, their lives and ultimately their impact on art, medicine, innovation and on a growing America.
At that time, the knowledge and experience of the arts and medicine in Paris was vastly more than in the US. The people profiled in these pages mostly traveled there, in difficult circumstances, to gain knowledge and expertise. But it isn't only about how Paris affected some Americans. Many of these people also made their own impact on Paris and the arts. The particularly heartwarming story of Elihu Washburne illustrates how an American affected so many lives compassionately in a time of war.
I was very glad I chose this book and looked forward to listening to it every day. The stories of the struggling and ultimately acclaimed American artists will prod me to investigate them more and see some of their artworks.
*Often, Mr McCullough will unfold the actions of a main character when he/she is an adult at the time of traveling to or being in Paris. Then, later, he will tell the back-story of that person. It was easy to get used to.
I hesitated so long whether to get this book.. It had relatively few reviews despite being out for 2 years and the cover artwork and publisher's summary are bland. I eventually took the plunge and glad I did! I highly recommend it.
There are 2 main characters that contribute to telling the story. A man about 30 in early 1970's is hired to find out what happened to a man who was an English Cabinet Minister (at about 1930, if I remember correctly). That sounds kind of boring, but there is quite a robust plot with a couple of unexpected revelations and some duplicitous characters. Even though there are 2 stories with a fair amt of characters, the book is not overly complex to be thoroughly entertaining. Narrator was good, not great, but I would listen to other books narrated by him. I will look for more from this author.
An intertwined story of love lost, family relationships (painful and rewarding) and police detectives doing their work set in Ireland in current day with flashback scenes to 1980s. I found it very character driven, intelligent and very entertaining. Looked forward to listening to it everyday! I think others agree since there are so many positive reviews for this book. I have two additional comments to pass along.
Listening to this book proved again, to me, that even good fiction can be made more entertaining with a great narrator's performance. Especially in this case with the Irish accent and the peculiar way (to Americans) they say some words at end of sentences, like sure,yeah. Loved this narrator!
Secondly, I have to say that I was greatly disappointed with the ending - that is why 4 stars. I don't want to give anything away, but I was expecting much more. Maybe it was to set up a sequel, but to me, the ending did not measure up to the rest of the book. But even with the ending, I'm glad I used a credit on this book.
I don't like the term "Chick Lit", but surely this book can fall only into this category I'm not going to give away the ending, but you'll quickly realize that one character is going to be tried to be brought down big-time. To get to this penultimate scene, we have to:
-Accept as normal southern behavior of an alcoholic degree of hard drinking as the almost everyday norm;
-Endure almost non-sensical metaphors,
-Accept a story line that is inexplicable in some areas (Now, I know we all don't do rational things all the time, but some of the actions or inactions of these characters are obviously only included to set up the big scene near the end). And,
-Characters that are not very likeable.
The narrator tries hard, and is OK, - sometimes I was impressed with her characters and sometimes I noticed how stilted her delivery was. She's not the best, but not a reason not to listen.
Most of us like light reading now and then, but I suggest finding something that is entertaining. Two stars because 1 star has to be reserved for the worst.
I don't know what I was thinking when I chose this book, because many reviews are bad and boy are they right, now that I look at them more closely after my bad experience starting this book. I am only 1 hour into this and know that I will never pick it up again. Even Simon Vance can't make this an enjoyable listen. Dull, set in a time and place that is not identified and the author writes in a way that seems meant to obfiscate for no good reason. And did I mention dull? Do yourself a favor and look elsewhere.
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