Trollope is a master
There was a blurry section towards the end that was not due to my equipment, and really made it hard to listen to the book.
The reader, Juliet Stevenson is superb, and gives this only medium-level book the touch of class it needs. It is not ART, but a decent story and made my commute go far better! The author has provided excellent period detail and the story moves slowly through the budding lesbian relationship of a love-starved, increasingly impoverished and depressed post-War woman and her beautiful newly-married tenant ("Paying Guest"). At each turn of the narrative, the work felt predictable (except for the toss-up over how the ending would go, and even that was only a choice of two possible endings), yet the voice of Stevenson made the book really more interesting than I would have found it as a paper-book, because she has the variations of lower and educated British accents down cold, adding enormously to the pathos of the book's main character's (Frances) fall into poverty from gentility. Not entirely "believable"--but who cares about that in fiction? I was glad I stuck with it and would recommend this book as a long, slow read--not a page-turner. But an entrance into a world created by the author that one is glad to have had a chance to inhabit, yet you are equally glad that you do not have to live in the grim no-win situation of the main characters, or any of the other characters, for that matter. The choices Frances makes for love, however, are not far from those impulses we all have, that we later find out may have far-reaching consequences.
Martin's success in the world of comedy and show business is marked by his unrelenting perfectionism and practice, practice, practice. While this slice of his autobiography is revealing of his hard work and of his decency, one does not hear too much of his private life now (which is perfectly OK). He seems a real intellectual, artist, and person who's curious about life, which is what makes him interesting. What makes him funny we've all seen. This book goes a long way to showing what makes him tick. Liked it a lot.
While Leary's story is compelling and interesting, Mary Beth Hurt is simply divine in her narration. Her rough voice accurately characterizes the older alcoholic Hildy Good perfectly. Leary's setting and characters well-drawn, and the portrait of the alcoholic in denial seems true-to-life (although in fiction, I don't require THAT). Unreliable narrators are wonderful, and Hildy really absorbs your sympathy, only to re-tell the events another way to reveal that you should not feel so badly for her in her dangerous choices and blurred understanding of others. Great read, perfect narrator.
This exquisitely-written book gets the narrator it deserves in Colin Firth. I confess I sometimes stopped the car and listened just to be alone with Colin! But Greene's prose is so compelling on its own that Firth's stellar narration truly puts this book at the head of the class among ALL the dozens (maybe hundreds) of recorded books I have "read". One could not wish for a better listening experience. I may listen to it again for the sheer pleasure of the Greene-Firth combo. It's hard to enumerate the ways this performance and this novel is head and shoulders above the rest.
Lots of characters and tangled plotlines, well-performed by the narrator, but a story without charm. Also a little unbelievable that Richard Burton would not have investigated just what happened to the woman pregnant with his child. And that the woman would not tell the child of his heritage when he was such a loser and might have benefited with some "self-esteem" from having a famous father. While I read it to the end, to see how it turned out, it felt flat. The author says he fell in love with the Cinqueterre, but this version of the area feels impoverished and less ravishingly beautiful than that place is today. Surely even tho' the era depicted was the war and the 60's, the place still is smashingly gorgeous, and that gets downplayed. The "Hotel Adequate View" that is the scene of much of the action kind of says it all about this book: adequate, but limited view, and I did not like any of the characters very much. Some wise and lyrical passages here and there. Narrator did the Italian accents very well.
Sorry to say I had to abandon this book after 4 chapters. Excruciatingly dull male characters that I cared not a whit for, although actually wished something would happen to change my mind. But no. Chabon has a decent writing style and some memorable turns of phrase. Just not my taste at all, and life is too short to keep reading/listening to something so deeply dull. Perhaps I was hoping for a more Armistead Maupin tale of San Francisco? The narrator's kind of upbeat jazzy voice was ok. Maybe I'll hear him read something more literary and interesting, so I can judge him more fairly.
My 3 hour commute (each way) went whizzing by as I listened to this chilling tale. Flynn got me hooked, and never let me go. Stayed up until 1:30am listening to the last chapters one nite. The readers really inhabited their roles as Nick and Amy, alternately having me root for them or be weirded-out by them, as surely the author intended. A winner from beginning to end.
Masterly written story of the decline of Sicilian prince in the late 1800's. Gripping, even though very little actually happens except a marriage of a penniless and dashing male relative to the gorgeous daughter of a wealthy parvenu. But it's not a romance. Somehow, though, you care about the characters. Kind of an Italian Trollope, with the landscape and weather of Sicily playing an interesting and crucial role. Well-performed by the reader, too.
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