I read this book because my wife suggested it. She was right to do so. The book provides a murder mystery and, more importantly, a view of Peking in 1937 when the world was crumbling about the city as the Japanese invader moved increasingly closer and more influential. It is also a story of corruption, government interference (but not the Chinese government), and of relentless pursuit of information by a relative of the victim. Is the murder mystery solved? That is up the reader to decide. What makes this book most compelling is that is based on an actual set of events in 1937. The reader is very good and the story is skillfully told.
This book (essay) is not for everyone, but for those who are enthralled and amazed by the music of Beethoven, it is a must. I was a bit afraid at first that the author was going to be promoting his recording cycle of the sonatas. Although he does reference it from time to time, it is always in the context of a deeper insight into the effect that Beethoven has on performers and listeners. Although the discussion of individual pieces/movements is focused primarily on the sonatas, he deftly uses the string quartets to make points. I was particularly stuck with his comments on the Grosse Fugue, which has baffled, amazed, and elevated my spirits for decades and never grows "old hat". Jeff Woodman is an excellent narrator and I felt as though the author himself was talking to me.
The comments on pianists who influenced Mr. Biss (Fleischer, Schnabel, Serkin) are excellent in that they provide insight into the nature of performance rather than as value judgements of "the best performers" - a fruitless judgement anyway.
This is a short book. I did not want it to end!
This book is almost a disaster and the reader is an unqualified disaster. I am used to thrillers being a bit far-fetched and accept that, but this plot not only goes over the top, but begins to slide down the other side. Conspiracy plots are a bit tricky to write well and Stephen Frey botched this one. I had read 4 other books by Frey and they were OK if not great; this one does not make that grade. Bad enough that the plot and writing are poor, the listener is forced to hear a very poor performance. The readier has nice voice timbre but he exaggerates words and syllables so often that it is very off-putting. There are multiple characters in the story who play an important role, but the reader uses the same "voice" for several of them. In the last third of the book, the two main characters, who turn out to be half brothers. I guess the reader figured he should use the same voice for each since they share some genes. The only way the listener is able to distinguish the two is by the author use of "Troy said" or "said Jack". I probably should have said "plot spoiler" two sentences ago, but as the plot is so bad, I hope you won't read the book
This is a classic of English literature for good reason. Sure, it is written in mid-19th C language, but it you pay attention you will be richly rewarded. Profound insights into the themes of marriage and vocation permeate the story. Each major character, and there are many, is well developed and, almost without fail, never stereotyped. The performer, Nadia May, once again is able to convey the personality and nature of the characters by the tone, inflection, and pacing of her voice.
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