I thought it was a little over the top for the New York Times to make that claim in the first half of January 2013, but having read Tenth of December I'm inclined to agree (even though it is still only February). I don't usually care for short stories because I like the slow reveal and the long involvement of a novel, but this collection is extraordinary. Saunders captures unique narrator voices that spring these unexpected characters to life in just the few pages allowed them. Pithy, relevant, economical, dark, and in the end fiercely hopeful. I won't say anything more. These stories are short and part of their glory is their punch, undiluted by even the faintest spoiler. Just do it.
This historical novel doesn't deliver much either as history or as novel. It doesn't delve into political, economic or social details of the time, except for the broad strokes necessary to give the novel a setting. That might be okay if the novel itself were worth the candle, but it is not. The story of Robert Merivel is pointless from beginning to end, a story that never really gets going and peters out at the end. This was particularly disappointing after hearing Rose Tremain's intricately plotted and deliciously satisfying "Trespass." I would suggest you listen to that instead.
That said, I did very much enjoy John Franklyn-Robbins narration and his skill with the voices and dialects of the characters.
This book was a disappointment to me after Night Soldiers and Dark Star. The story, set in WWII is told in episodes, a series of stories that start and are cut off. No relationship endures; people appear and they disappear. The title, which presents the protagonist as a nameless functionary, reflects the sense of dislocation that this episodic structure creates. I suppose this is Furst's intention, to demonstrate for the reader the isolating effect of war, with constant upheaval and violence destroying every relationship and every harbor just as it materializes. I didn't really enjoy listening to it. But then, I do not think I would enjoy war, either.
David Rackoff (in Don't Get Too Comfortable) said people are "great sloshing superating bags of wet, prone to rupture, mortal messes just waiting to happen... and who wants to be reminded of that?" Well, Colson Whitehead is reminding us.
What differentiates human beings from other things? From, for instance, the oozing gut-splashing flesh-devouring walking dead? Is it our selfishness, our flashes of empathy, our betrayals, our moments of courage, or maybe our ceaseless craving for the familiar to deaden what we can of ourselves while we’re still alive? This book doesn’t answer any of those questions, but it raises them. If you read only one zombie book this lifetime, I recommend this one. But not while you’re eating.
This is an exciting investigation into the life of someone you might have thought was just one more petty bad guy in the snakepit court of Henry VIII. But Thomas Cromwell emerges as uniquely fascinating: intelligent ruthless and yet ethical-in-an-odd-16th-century-way, operating in a very dangerous landscape. Mantel uses a minimalist touch to sketch the intense political maneuverings and treacheries and tragedies that made up daily life at the close of the middle ages. You have to pay attention and work a little, but the reward is that the world of her novel grows up around you, pulling you utterly in.
But, alas, Simon Slater's reading is not equal to the material. His voice carries the same sarcastic bite in every situation and for every character, whether they???re discussing cutlery or murder. The book is a little hard to follow and can be confusing, and although Slater does try to distinguish characters by changing his voice, unfortunately his tone - which I think is actually more important - never changes. The characters all sound like they have exactly the same personality: cynical and ironic, with a nasty little drawl. I gave up listening to it with my husband and I???m reading it aloud to him myself. I'm not a great reader but I can be straightforward and simple, which is a better choice for this marvelous book.
Bonus tip: two paintings mentioned in the book, the portraits of Cromwell and Thomas More by Hans Holbein are hanging facing each other in the Frick Collection in New York. After you've read Wolf Hall, it's a great treat to go see them.
Luminous prose, a story that is never formulaic and yet somehow achieves exquisite symmetry, three dimensional characters, a bit of time on the sun drenched Cinque Terre coast, an occasional delicious phrase in Italian, and a walk-on by Richard Burton. It's just wonderful.
I found this book to be completely engaging. I was nervous about listening to a book that I knew had abuse at its center, but it was short-listed for the Man Booker in 2010, so I decided to try it. Indeed, the story at times was so disturbing and suspenseful that I had to put my iPod aside to take a break. For me it was a page turner on steroids.
At least that was my experience - I see other reviewers rated it "tedious" or"grating." Perhaps it tried the patience of some listeners to see the world through a child's eyes, which is admittedly a constricted viewpoint. But I find it a gratifying mental exercise to build a story out of the understatements of a child observer and I found the voice of 5 year old Jack believable and charming, both as written by Emma Donoghue and as read by Michal Friedman on the audio book. I thought it worked great. I recommend this book.
This is Trollope at his best. The personalities are multidimensional and clearly drawn, the story is acerbic and engaging, and no self-destructive heroines annoy us by interminable pining or by punishing themselves past the endurance of their families and their readers. (For an example of unbearable self-flagellation ad nauseum see The Prime Minister). I like Timothy West's reading very much. He has a handsome, deep voice that seems to relish Trollope's wit. He uses subtle changes of accent for some of his characters and he reads the women's voices in a natural tone.
I am a middle class white lady with a most ordinary middle class white life behind me, and yet I found myself utterly landed in the experience of this young Bengaladeshi woman uprooted to an American marriage in Rochester New York. Almost nothing that happens in this book has ever happened to me, and yet it all seemed startlingly recognizable. I have not read Nell Freudenberger before but now I will seek out more of her books.
I liked the reading by Mozhan Marno: she kept it straightforward and simple and slipped easily into the gentle lilt of Bengaladeshi accents when called for.
Many of my friends recommended this book and by rights I should have liked it: geology, some American history, a family saga.... but I found the author's effort to mix history with fiction tedious and forced. He had an annoying tendency to drop genuine historical figures and letters liberally into his tale I suppose that was meant to lend credibility but it all felt like cheating to me. I gave it about 4 hours and finally abandoned the effort. Also, I don't care for Mark Bramhall's narration. He reads too many of the lines as if they are meant to be sarcastic or bitter. It was hard to listen to that for even 4 hours, never mind trying the whole book.
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