This is a powerful book. Though fiction, the absolute sincerity of a writing based on the life of the author comes through with stark clarity, and the message he conveys is remarkable in its scope. This is a man who has lived life at both ends of the continuum and has proven that you can rise as deep as you can sink.
Some critics have complained of the author's constant philosophizing and preaching. I found none of this text out of place or proportion for what was taking place in the story. The lessons learned are those acquired by the author with his own body and soul and thus have far more credibility than other stock sermonizing. I imagine it likely that some of the philosophical statements he repeats often were like mantras when he was enduring the many hardships and beatings he encountered.
All that said, to me the most powerful message taken from this novel is India herself portrayed as a vibrant, exotic culture which is now for me, thanks to the remarkable and authentic characterizations by the author, made up of unique individuals, cities, towns and classes. Within only a couple of pages you are fully drawn into the lives of the characters that Lin meets in Bombay, as he travels to Afghanistan, and ultimately in the warring mafia factions in Bombay. Each character is drawn with authenticity and humanity and for me this is the best evidence that this fiction was created from reality.
The final powerful element of this novel is the narrator, who does an absolutely superb job of interpreting multiple accents and all the characters each in a sensitive and unique voice. He deserves major kudos for meeting a difficult challenge with such great success.
I highly, highly recommend this book -- it is supremely honest, tells a fantastic story, and ultimately touches your very soul. Reading/listening doesn't get better than this.
I was a non-believer in the magic of mystery until I discovered this series. Bowen enchanted me with her well-crafted characters and the unpredictable plots she places them in. At first blush, Georgianna seems a character hard to identify with--a young royal, 34th in line for the British crown, educated at a finishing school in Switzerland, whose social crowd is the royalty of Europe. But it's 1932, nearly everyone, including her family, has lost nearly all their money. Georgie is penniless, and struggling like all the common folk to find a job, get a stable home, and hopefully find someone to love. It's not much help that she is a regular guest to tea with the Queen who wishes to arrange a marriage for her or send her off to the country to be lady-in-waiting to an aging princess, and has no compunction about asking her to spy and do other illegal things on her behalf.
The strength of this book (and the four that follow in this series) is the fine crafting that Bowen has used to create her characters. Georgie is human, basically good to the core and lovable, and we can all identify with her struggles to make it on her own in the world. She also has a penchant for finding dead bodies strewn in her path and a remarkably good head for solving mysteries. Bowen has also provided a charming rogue to bring the tease of romance into the stories, which makes each one the equivalent of a page-turner. And a Cockney grandfather you want to hug.
The best part, however, is the narration. Kellgren is outstanding with not only her accents, which abound in these books, but also with bringing the characters to life with richness and authenticity. She is a master with her interpretation and gives a tour de force performance.
All in all, a great read and one that will make me search out other mysteries. However, I doubt I'll find any that will rise to the level of Bowen's.
Stunning in its breadth and detail, this book conveys the history of one of the world's most important cities in an intensely personal manner. It will be impossible to visit New York now without sensing the influence of the Indians, the Dutch, the British through their occupation during the Revolution, and all the immigrant cultures that followed.
Rutherford weaves a story based substantially on commerce and banking in a human manner that brings to life all the issues and challenges that New York faced, as it grew into the metropolis of today, through the stories of individual families. Much to his credit, he maintains a solid character development of entire families through many generations, from the 1600's to 2009. Bramhall's narration is outstanding, conveying young girls, ancient grandmothers, and a multitude of ethnic accents with great skill and authenticity.
I marvel most at the construction of the story. It takes great skill to tackle such a large history and convey it with enough human interest to keep a reader spell-bound for 36 hours. I could have listened for many more. All in all, a great book and fine performance that I highly recommend listening to.
What could easily be a recipe for confusion--a storyline that spans a century with chapters that jump back and forth decades at a time, interspersed with the timelessness of fairy tales woven throughout--results instead in a remarkable blending of the lives of multiple families across four generations to tell a story of love, treachery, an ultimately a celebration of the will to survive. Every main character is portrayed with multiple levels, being slowly fleshed out as the story discloses the reasons behind their actions. (That said, I felt the relationship between Rose and Eliza was never drawn clearly enough to justify the decisions they both made.)
The narrator was outstanding--sensitive, clear, carrying off an assortment of accents with great competency. I will search her out for other readings. And the scope of the story, as grand as it was, encompassing a century and half the globe, was pared down to the essentials enough so that the reader has a good sense of the various eras. A part of me feels that perhaps the story could be told with fewer words, but it would be hard to sacrifice some of the lush descriptions and lovely language.
It's rare that I can't finish a book, but I knew it was time to quit when I found myself cringing at the thought of picking it up again. So I'm bailing at 75%. I just don't care what happens at the end. And I don't care about these characters either, after hoping all that time for the authors to build them into people you want to know better and understand. For the past few chapters I've continued to listen to try to figure out why, as I'm a writer too and want to know how not to make this mistake. But I've lost patience with that process as well as the book.
Part of the problem is the narrator who has a strange understanding of Southern accents, which seem to heighten and disappear like passing clouds. Even his main character is difficult to identify at times because his accent is constantly changing. And, yes, it's a story about teenagers and teenage love, and I get that it's YA, but teenagers these days have far more depth than any of the characters the authors have created. High school is so much more than petty spats between warring cliques, and I believe the authors passed up some fine opportunities in the HS setting to add meaning to the story and to the characters.
The other challenge to this story is the artifical construct of the "caster" world the authors try to create. While I know the book has been praised for placing a story in the present time in a place any one of us could recognize, supposedly making it that much scarier, it felt more contrived to me than the fantasy world created in the Harry Potter books. And even though I haven't finished it, I know this book is too long for the story it's trying to tell.
All in all, a big disappointment, and one I regret spending a credit on.
Spousal abuse is a challenging, difficult topic to both write and read about. I put off reading this book for some time, despite having read several other gems in Quindlen's repertoire and knowing the quality of her work. And though it was still a hard book to take in, the skill with which she developed every character in this book made it well worth the effort. Spousal abuse doesn't happen in a vacuum between a husband and wife; children and families are equally victimized and scarred for life, and Quindlen uses every bit of her remarkable writing expertise to make this point. As well, Quindlen used those skills most effectively to show the birth and evolution of an inherently flawed relationship.
Phimister's verbal portrayal of every character was equally well-done. She captured well the painful suffering and confusion of the main character as well as her moments of joy, but easily slipped into the voice of a Bronx cop, an aged holocaust survivor, an eleven-year old boy and a Southern belle. Her reading was thoughtful and sometimes pensive, totally fitting a story wherein the main character is struggling to understand what happened to her life.
There are some stories in life where there can be no happy ending. This is certainly one of them, but it still ends on a note of realistic hope for the future, and I thank the author for that. I highly recommend this book.
I too looked forward to this book's coming with full expectation of another entertaining story. For the first time, I was disappointed in SEP. Lucy was a multi-dimensional character in First Lady, with so many unusual facets that could have been explored. In this volume, she's primarily petulant, irritating and wishy-washy. Somewhere between the two volumes, we missed a major part of her character development when she became an obedient over-achiever unable to know her own mind.
The story drags, made worse by a poor narration by Shannon Cochran. I know Anna Fields is a hard act to follow, but Cochran's range of emotions is limited, with angry petulance and inappropriate excitement being the primary colors she draws with. The end result is that none of the characters feel "real." The story also suffers from several flaws: Panda's problem is well-hidden until nearly the end of the book, and yet it dictates so much of his behavior. Lucy's inability to understand her own behavior is hard to believe when she is supposed to be so intelligent. Both characters' unwillingness to accept their own feelings gets old quickly. This is a story that could be easily told in half the words.
Although I love Audible books, my recommendation is to read this one; it's a book that merits skimming. And without being limited by Cochran's narrowed abilities to portray characters, the story will likely have more life to it when you depend on your own imagination.
Three characters dominate this story, and they are exquisitely developed through the course of a couple of years by the brilliant writing of Eugenides. Each is flawed or challenged, some more so than others, and each spends the novel's time overcoming those challenges or learning to live with those flaws. That said, I kept waiting and hoping that at some point for any of these characters to become truly likable. It never happened.
There are many literary references throughout this book that would probably add another dimension if you researched them all further. But the basic story line of "the marriage plot" is one that has been told many times over. This was a new opportunity to breathe some life into it, writing about it from a more contemporary perspective. However, Madeleine never really springs to life. The men still seem to be living far more interested lives, and she's reacting to them more than creating her own. Perhaps the point of the story might have come off better written by a woman?
The narration was excellent, and the narrator created with skill a believable woman in Madeleine and the critical differences between Leonard and Mitchell.
I chose this book because I've read Middlesex and was impressed with what Eugenides could do with such a unique and challenging topic as hermaphroditism. In this book, he's tackled a more universal problem, taken fewer words to accomplish his goal, and made a good attempt to turn out an excellent novel. I simply wish that by the end I had cared more about what happened to the characters.
I applaud the author for tackling this topic, and for bringing a fresh view to this story that we should "never forget." However, the vehicle used--the counterpoint of the stories of two women sixty years apart--is contrived from the beginning, and after that the remarkable coincidences add to one another to create an unbelievable whole. Sarah's story is truer; Julia's begs for more clarification of the motives behind many of the actions and the events that take place in her life.
The narrator is adequate, and her accent is outstanding, but her interpretation of some of the text felt bland at times.
All that said, I'm glad I listened to it and now know the story, and I recommend it to others interested in this era. We always learn more when history like this is conveyed through personal experience of the author or characters, and in that vein, the author has succeeded very well.
I never realized before how important the narrator is to interpreting the book. The story is a fascinating insight into the life of Hemingway not presented before, and the author has clearly done her research well. The writing is good although too many of the conversations feel false or too pat. However the narrator's reading of the conversations comes across as a naive first reading of the script. Some the dialogue ends with a period that feels like she's just wrapped a bright bow on a package and given it an approving pat.Hemingway is so large a character, I am certain he would be difficult for anyone to try to capture his voice, but this narrator is clearly not up to it.
While I'm heavily committed to and invested in Audible, I agree with some of the others that this is a book that is probably best read.
The descriptive passages of New York City alone make this book worth reading. To that, add a story where things are never what they appear to be, where friendships arise in unexpected places and others end in unexpected ways. The introduction hints that all ends well, but the trip along the way leaves you questioning up to the epilogue.
Skillfully crafted, this book is a jewel. And the narrator does well with all the different voices, capturing the nuances of class, ethnicities and the various degrees of chutzpah necessary for making it in New York in a wide assortment of social strata. While I agree her voice does sound contemporary, it captures youthful ambition, wistfulness, and many shades of loss so well that it works very well with this volume.
I look forward to reading more from this author who has found a unique niche in this era that has long been the property of the authors of that time.
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