I'm a great admirer of Ivory's historicals - smart, closely observed, interesting characters, strong love stories. This one is one of my favorites, and Rosenblat is the perfect narrator for it. She handles the accents beautifully.
The novel itself is okay; nothing unusual or particularly engaging, but it is chock full of cliches, to an incredible degree. There are also some pretty big jumps in terms of characterization. All that I could live with if I were reading this novel -- I would skim for plot, and then forget the whole within a week or so. But the narrator. The narrator turns bland into something that reminds me of fingernails on a blackboard. She reads in a way that is both sing-song and monotone, drawing out every cliche with relish. There's a saccharine quality to the reading which drove me crazy. I forced myself to keep listening in the hope that it would improve, but by the last fourth, I had given up. Please note: I love well done audio of romance novels. This is not about the genre; it's about the mediocre quality of the book, dragged down into darker depths by the narrator.
This is a beautifully written, carefully constructed novel that I won't soon forget. An exceptional addition to the body of work about the second world war, not only for its characters but also because this is a topic that's been overlooked. How Italians and Italian Jews in northern Italy came together to resist everything the German Reich could throw at them, and how many of them died, but more survived.
But the recording. It's a real pity, but here's the problem: somebody (the producer? the reader?) decided that a character's dialogue (but not the internal monologue or narrative) should be read in English with the accent of that language. As we are dealing here with characters from Belgium, France, Germany, the Ukraine, Austria, Poland, and a whole range of Italian dialects, this is extremely distracting, especially as the reader really doesn't do well with the German accents. And the task is really too much: A grandmother who is a native speaker of Ukrainian speaking German -- try reading dialogue in that accent. I'm not saying the reader is bad at languages, just the opposite. She reads the occasional Italian or French phrase very well -- just that this was a strategic decision was a big mistake. Especially as the author did not write the dialogue with any indication of accent.
these men are going to make you uncomfortable, because they explore topics we as a nation have deemed too distressing to think about. But if you listen closely and with an open mind, you may come to see that most of us -- probably you too -- have been drawn into the process whereby consent is manufactured, and power is kept for the few.
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