I haven’t written a book review in awhile but felt compelled to write this one. I enjoyed Mary Beth Keane’s the Walking People and once I heard the subject matter for this book, I was sold. A historic trial? A medical mystery? I couldn’t have picked a novel I more wanted to read.
I hope that is not a spoiler to note that Mary Mallon was the first well known ‘healthy’ carrier of Typhoid Fever. She was asymptomatic and since little was known about how sickness spread, it was hard for people to recognize the health risk she posed. She was a cook and though out breaks of Typhoid seemed to follow her wherever she was employed; she refused to believe she could be the source of the fever. Even after she was confronted with the possibility that she was spreading the fever. She refused to cooperate. She continued to cook until she was arrested and deatined. She wasn’t released for two years and only after agreeing not to cook. Despite all this, she cooks again. Changes her name and continues to cook until she is recaptured.
Enter Keane to deliver an entirely unexpected novelization of her life. The tendency to sort of side with Mary and vilify her treatment and compare it with others (non-working class males who may have received much better treatment) and conclude Mary was treated unfairly. Or try and convince readers that Mary’s recklessness led to unnecessary deaths even after the danger she posed to others was explained to her. Keane does something else. She seems to take both sides-- rallying a little for Mary and then highlighting her unsafe obstinacy. So the reader is both frustrated with and sympathetic towards, Mary.
Keane once again plays with time beginning somewhere in the middle of Mary’s story and then hopping all around throughout her life similar to her The Walking People narrative. Maybe more successfully this time, but I am still unsure why authors belabor this technique when a simple straightforward arc would serve.
What is known about Mary seems to all be spot on, but Keane adds a lot too. For instance additional deaths, a fabricated alcoholic live in lover, and a backstory are all provided. I’m torn too to what this all adds. A historical novelization works best for me when it holds as closely to the truth as possible. However these additive also provide period detail to further set Mary’s drama.
I am beginning to realize it sounds as if I am conflicted about the book which I am not. I highly recommend it for any historical fiction fans. Mary’s story horrified me, disgusted me, and baffled me in turns. I was genuinely engaged in Mary’s story from the very first through the last page.
And though the narrator slips in and out of an Irish accent inexplicably, she otherwise does a good job.
While under her mother's supervision, three year old Emma disappears. Two years later Emma is still gone. Her Mother, Megan, hasn't been able to recover. She spends her time putting together "stranger danger" seminars for schools and organizing supervision for children who walk home. She also mistakes other little girls for Emma. Her husband, Peter, shames Megan for "seeing" Emma in other children. He wants Megan to focus on the present and their two other children. The novel quickly shifts and then alternates to the story of an elderly couple struggles to raise their granddaughter, Emme amongst the grandmother's declining health.
I am afraid I am in the minority on this one. I thought this book was only OK. I was expecting more of a mystery. Any mystery Holmes had, she gives away pretty quickly on in the story. There isn't really a plot other than waiting for the characters to uncover the "secret" that the reader already guessed. Holmes replaces suspense with repeated heart wrenching scenes illustrating the damage that Emma's kidnapping has afflicted on Megan's family. The story of a kidnapped child is pretty relatable for any parent, so the dozens of scenes underscoring the repercussions of this tragedy are unnecessary. I felt beat over the head with sad scenes. The marital tension seemed contrived and never fully fleshed out. A typical argument:
Peter: You need to move on from Emma's kidnapping!
Megan: I will never give up on Emma! (bursts into tears).
Ok, maybe that's a facile transcription of an argument. But they had multiple arguments to this effect and that's how they began to feel. I wanted to say: Megan, honey, if your husband's idea of being supportive is to encourage you to move past your daughter's tragic kidnapping while flirting with his attractive business partner, you may want to move past your marriage. I mean it's only been two years. But do try and acknowledge your other kids, just once and a while. He has a small point there.
Another thing that bothered me was several sub-plots that never went anywhere. I kept reading hoping they would go somewhere, but they didn't. I now see that maybe they will be picked up in the author's companion novella or the sequel. Inexplicably, I am tempted to purchase both of these? Maybe I am still hoping to uncover the novel I intended to read. AS of today, I have not purchased either.
Another note: I got a deal on the audio version via Whisphersync. The narrator baby talks Emma's lines. While I have no problem with a narrator who performs characters, I have never heard an adult do a good rendition of a small child's voice. This is a pet peeve of mine, and is so grating, if Emma had more lines, I would not have been able to listen to the audio version.
Story and premise is imaginative and definitely held my interest. Consider purchasing a paper or ebook. However, I found myself wincing at the over acted narration. The narrator feels the need to use a different voice for every character however the narrator can't do other voices, so they come off like bad impressions. A lone southern accent in an massive underground bunker hundreds of years in the future? A weasel like voice for the villain? It's too much. The pacing and enunciation are off. Bizarre giggles sporadically and then she breaks into baby talk into Part 4. It's not just distracting, it’s awful. I will be avoiding Minnie Goode in the future.
Rebecca is one of the few books that is worth the second (and third) listen. As good today as the first time I read it. Anna Massey brings new depth to this classic moody mystery. Plan to listen to again when I need to escape into an evocative novel.
The narrators overly sweet voice distracted from the tragic but gripping material. Some background on Cambodian history leading up to the revolution might have also better set the story's events.
For this fan of Fall of Giants there was nothing better than hearing John Lee pick up where my favorite players in Europe, Russia and America left off. Winter of the World covers the period leading up to and the resolution of WWII. It is not necessary to read the series launch, Fall of Giants (I do highly recommend that book on its own merit).
This was maybe even more enjoyable then the first book as I had a better grasp of the history shaping the lives of the characters. Once again Follet spoils his reader with fascinating historical detail and context. My only complaint is how Follet contrives to interweave these families and puts someone at almost every import event in the time period. 31 hours wouldn’t suffer from a new character or two.
Historical fiction fans should not miss this one.
John Lee is perfection. His heavily accented reads are a treat for the ears.
I know that Isabella is a complicated figure. Both acclaimed and condemned for her legacy and contributions to history. CW Gortner of Confessions of Catherine de Medici tackles her in his latest novel, The Queen’s Vow. The scope of the novel is ambitious and attempts to cover Queen Isabella’s childhood, power struggles with her half-brother, her romance with Ferdinand, the Crusades, her meeting with Christopher Columbus and on and on. The effect is a little unfocused, but allows for a varied depiction of the monarch instead of a more singular betrayal (ie, religious fanatic). The aspects of Isabella’s life that are unflattering like igniting the Spanish inquisition are depicted but breezed over. Gortner allows Isabella to pretty heavily justify her positions. Much of that was hard to read knowing the consequences of Isabella’s choices.
Some things I would have enjoyed reading more about her children particularly Catherine of Aragaon are so briefly skimmed it was disappointing. Juana however is thoroughly explored in Gortner’s novel The Last Queen is given a bigger depiction. However, the book did include a lot of romance and though Isabella and Ferdinand appear to be a rare love match, I still felt Gortner’s treatment was heavy handed.
There is no lacking in drama as Isabella led an sensational life in a tumultuous time. And though I enjoyed much of the novel, and found Gortner’s Isabella interesting though complicated, a pre-existing interest in Isabella or the time helps. Because despite Gortner’s kind treatment Isabella is still a thorny subject and some of her actions are unjustifiably horrific and are irredeemable to modern readers.
If you don’t mind the occasional inconsistent Spanish lisping accent, the narrator, Rosalyn Landor brought really depth to Isabella’s story.
While those who have read Faithful Place were introduced to Frank “Skorcher” Kennedy, we obviously didn’t scratch the surface. He starts Broken Harbor in about the same place French last left him spouting cop jargon and bragging about solve rates. Though the events from the Faithful Place novel have left his reputation a little tarnished. In a bid for redemption, Frank takes a case involving the attack on a family after which only the mom survived. He’s also showing a relative newbie the murder squad ropes, the uncannily perceptive Ritchie. He’s also dealing with a mentally ill sister who has shown up just in time to upend his life. When the case ends up more complicated than he could have imagined, Frank’s path to the killer requires him to question everything he was certain he knew.
First, I’m a fan of the entire Dublin Murder squad series. I find that Tana French ups her skill with every subsequent book. Broken Harbor has officially replaced Faithful Place as my favorite. Second, everything I love about the series is here: complex mysteries with genuine surprises, a fascinating and layered view of modern Dublin, and some of the best interrogation scenes I have ever read. French also tackles another “partner” relationship which she hasn’t touched much since Rob and Cassie in her debut, In the Woods. One of the things that stand out the most in Harbor is French’s vivid portrayal of the victim’s marriage and family life. Through some clever plot situations we get layered depictions of this family which makes their story fascinating. Frank’s character development is also entirely honest which by the end of the book makes the reader a genuine fan. Broken Harbor is a gift for mystery fans. And while each book in the series stands alone, once you read one, you will want to read all four. I for one cannot wait for the next installment.
I listened to the audio version performed by Stephen Hogan. About 90% of Steven Hogan’s reading is wonderful. However, he does a really screechy impression of Frank’s sister which unfortunately puts the listener off.
In the young New Netherlands colony, orphans are disappearing. The evidence recovered suggests some may have even been partially eaten. The leading theory is a Native American beast who consumes children. Terrifying an entire community, but irrevocably changing the town’s Orphanmaster, a she-merchant and an English spy hunting fugitives.
For such a dark story, I was surprised at how well it was researched. In fact some of the chapters open with headlines. You get a good sense of the politics, social protocol and economic feel of the time period. You can’t help but come away with a better understanding of the origins of Manhattan.
-The story is gruesome throughout
-The story’s romance is contrived. It feels sort of forced amongst the rest of the subject matter.
- There are also many narrators telling the story. They are all pretty roughly sketched (but eerily memorable). The collective tells the story of the colony and it’s time more than any one character. The timeline isn’t fluid either. At times this ensures the reader is lost, and that the author may even be employing the confusion.
So it’s not for everyone. But if you keep to it, the novel really picks up momentum towards the end of the story and even becomes focused.
The novel’s narrator George Guidall was perfect. He reads the entire novel as if he’s voicing over a movie trailer. I will definitely be on the lookout for more performances from him.
There's not much I can say about this book without spoiling some of the fun. It begins abruptly. Housewife Amy disappears on her five year wedding anniversary. The story is told alternately from the point of view of her husband, Nick, beginning the day of her disappearance and then passages from Amy's diary which starts at the beginning of their relationship. Readers are torn by the dubious Nick--can we trust anything he says? And we are treated to a conversation depiction of a strained marriage.
There was a lot of hype behind this book, so I did purchase the day it came out. I wasn't disappointed. I spent every waking hour listening to this one--so beware. I truly enjoyed this one.
Kirby who reads Nick is decent, but Julia who reads Amy is awesome. She is perfect.
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