Jonathan Harr has written a story within a story, but not just the usual kind. This is a biography within a true story, a window on history glimpsed from the world of art historians. He has crafted a tale that is both suspenseful and full of human drama. The listener comes to care about the real people who populate this book, whether they are our contemporaries or lived 400 years ago in Rome.
I hated for the story to end. There is an interesting interview with Mr. Harr at the end of the book. His style is truly unique, a contemporay historian/journalist who writes non-fiction with the feel of a novel. He is writing shorter pieces now, but I hope that he will begin another full length work soon.
I chose this book after hearing Christopher Hitchens sing its praises during his interview on CSPAN's "In Depth". Simon Prebble gives a tour de force performance. This is really a one-man dramatization. You will find yourself laughing out loud. Bear in mind that the book is a bit dated. The author, P.G. Wodehouse, is mocking the British aristocracy on the eve of the second world war, their veniality, the triviality of their interests, the parochial circle in which they live. But this is a lively social satire and the humor is still as fun and fresh as ever, even when the antics become a bit exasperating.
If it weren't for the fact that I lived and worked in Cambridge during the time in which this novel is set, I would have only given the book two stars. For me, the story's locale brought back many personal memories, and so for that reason, I enjoyed the book more than I would have otherwise. At times it seemed that I was listening to a story being read in the children's room at the public library. The reader often seems to drop syllables from certain words, but that is really just a minor defect. My main criticism of the story is the forced way in which the protagonist's name is used. It seems a device, a distraction, and has really very little to do with the tale being told, as if Ms. Lahiri was writing for a topic assigned in a creative writing class. Perhaps, with a bit of editing, she could have removed the intrusion of Nikolai Gogol into her story completely.
The author relates the biographies and immigrant experiences of four main characters, centering for the most part on Gogol Ganguli, born at Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, the son of Ashima and Ashoke Ganguli recent Bengali immigrants from Calcutta, and one other second generation Indian, Moushumi Mazoomdar. Her descriptions are vivid, almost mathematically precise. She succeeds in conveying the emotional lives of her characters. Since I very much enjoy novels by Indian authors of late, I felt I did gain some insight and perspective on their lives and culture. Nevertheless, the essentially quotidian nature of the story is not enough to make this great literature. It barely rises to the level of good soap opera.
Shantaram is a preposterous tale of male, machismo bonding, masochistic violence, absurd and unbelievable characters, clich? laden similes and metaphors, condescension to Indians, and long winded runs at "deep" philosophical discussions.
I prefer long books when they are well written or engaging. I also have a compulsion to finish what I start. These predilections doomed me to my fate once I followed the advice of several other listener reviews and downloaded Gregory David Roberts interminable melodrama, Shantaram. At last I am finished!
The main message of the book is that the end justifies the means. The author is a megalomaniac cum Robin Hood, a self effacing hero who would have us believe his derring-do exploits were solely the result of his altruism rather than because he was a violent criminal seeking wealth and power and found his way into the criminal underworld in Bombay. Apparently Roberts eventually completed his prison sentence in Australia. Hence the length of the book - he had a lot of time on his hands. One wishes the editor could wield a knife as well as the narrator, Lin!
His characters are cartoons, from the comic relief of Prabu, the Indian slum dweller who first befriends him in Bombay and soon signs on as Tonto to Lin's Lone Ranger, to the enigmatic Abdul Kader Khan, a sociopath who is able to gain the love and trust of psychologically compromised individuals and then exploits them for his own ends, to the femme fatale and love of Lin's life, Carla, a victim of rape and a murderer in her own right.
The book reads like a story board for a movie. There is no surprise here, given the supposed fling which Roberts had with Bollywood. Warner Bros. purchased the film rights but has already lost one director, Peter Weir. It is not due out until 2008 but perhaps this budget busting 935 page saga will give pause to the would be American producers.
Even the reader, whose accents are spot-on, cannot make Shantaram a worthwhile listen.
A marvelous, enchanting listen!
The study of magic represents the study of any subject which consumes its scholars. At once a sly take on many aspects of academia, the popular press, history and politics, and at the same time a robust revenge by the wives who must take second place to their husbands first love, their work. The writing is first rate; the reading is by far the best of any book I have listened to. Although the book is long, I was engaged throughout and sad to have it end!
This marvelous book kept me enthralled. The characters are fully developed - I felt as if I knew them, and I deeply cared about them. The narration is superb and adds greatly to the feeling of personal intimacy with each character. The historical sweep is grand, covering the period immediately before the first world war and continuing to well after, paralleling the rise of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, whose biography is interwined throughout. I am sorry that the story has come to an end. My only question: when will Audible offer another of Louis de Berniere's books to its listeners?
"Oracle Night" is a patchwork quilt of stories within stories within stories. Like one of his characters, Mr. Auster appears to have gone through some of his old notebooks and found some story ideas that do not work out and included them here. While there are some moments when deja vu and coincidence combine to produce a chilling, supernatural effect, for the most part, the story is rather silly. I did not care at all what happens to these self-absorbed, incomplete characters who seem to act in some kind of existential nightmare where nothing makes any sense. Mr. Auster is not a gifted reader and his pace is so slow that I often found my attention wandering. Since two of the main characters are writers, perhaps this is more of an insider's story. It seems that the author, in an attempt to make up something interesting in an otherwise mundane life, has gone too far and created an unbelievable world that leaves the reader wishing for the nonsense to end.
The reader was wonderful but the text was imperfect. Too many tedious sections on how the British ruling class deserves its position of power and wealth. This was Ms. Sayers fanatasy, that she would marry a Lord (Peter Wimsey) of the realm, and have a live free of care.
Tolerable but exasperating to the modern reader.
With the exception of the first story, this series is not worth the time and effort involved in downloading! The plots are absurd and silly. The best part are the musical segues between chapters and stories.
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