What exactly is the author trying to say with this book? Is he selling us existentialism through this novel? Perhaps. What is he saying about the central couple’s relationship, both with each and with their friends? This too is unclear. The two main protagonists are trying to reach out to each other, but do they succeed? This circles back to the author’s philosophical message. Perhaps it is enough that the book draws our attention to these questions. The answers are not clear.
What does the author want to say with the title? This too is unclear, but worth discussion.
The first half of the book is very different from the second half. I do not feel the two hold together. The first half focuses on philosophy. The first half has many parallels with Camus’ “The Stranger”. Both are set in Africa, one in Morocco and the other in Algeria. There is a streetcar in both. In neither is it the individuals that control their lives, but rather the other way around. Life just happens and you must submit. The second half has a completely different style of writing. You switch from philosophical analysis to a plot oriented, adventure story reminiscent of “One Thousand and One Nights”. Depending on your preferences you will like one or the other…..but not both.
The audiobook narration by Jennifer Connelly is very well done. She distinguishes between English and American characters. They do make you smile…. Maybe this is because I now live in Europe? French, English and Arabic languages are used; this is done adroitly. The languages are not translated. Although I don’t see this as a problem, I was happy that I easily understood the French. The slang chosen felt genuine; that is exactly how people would express themselves.
A central theme of the book is the difference between travelers and tourists. In fact this is why I chose the book, having myself lived in different countries. The main protagonists see themselves as travelers, but I felt they acted often as tourists. Rather than being curious about a new environment and culture they were d-i-s-g-u-s-t-e-d and apathetic. They couldn’t possibly have thought that the difficulties that arose and the filth they saw were anything but to be expected! They seemed to be looking for a clean problem free journey. This seems terribly illogical. Part of this IS explained by the difference between the man and the women, and it is interesting to consider which one of them really was the “traveler”.
There are loose ends in this novel, characters thrown in that one cannot fully understand. What happens to them is left completely unresolved. Nope this was not well done.
There is quite a bit that can be discussed in this book, but I can only give it two stars. It was not terrible, but just OK.
This is a book that can and should read by everyone, at least all with the slightest interest in world history. I feel this so adamantly since what it tells us does away with serious misconceptions about the Mongol Empire. It explains in a clear and comprehensible manner how the world we live in today has been improved by Mongol practices. It is stated that the book is revisionary, but I believe wholeheartedly in what we are told. It is clear and thoroughly documented. What we are told just plain makes sense! The author is a cultural anthropologist and historian.
The book begins with a discussion about the life of Genghis Khan (1162-1227), follows his successors, offering detailed information both about Kublai Khan and powerful women of the clan, discussing the formation of the Mongol nation in 1206, the squabbling that arose between the successive leaders and concludes with a convincing analysis of how the Mongol Empire has influenced today’s world.
We all think of the Mongols as barbarians that wrought havoc on the world. Few of us are aware of how they opened the world to commerce. They opened new trade routes, not only of physical goods but for the transmission of ideas and cultures. I am daunted because I cannot adequately express how this book has so changed how I view world history. I used to praise the new ideas espoused during the Enlightenment, but did you know that Voltaire drew a picture of the savage, blood-thirsty Mongols that served their own purposes and created a one-sided view that hid the truth. Chaucer praised Genghis Kahn and Marco Polo did the same for Kublai Kahn; When Christopher Columbus sailed west it was to look for Cathay, to reconnect with the fantastic trade routes established by the Mongols. I could go on and on showing how what we have been told about these so-called barbarians just doesn’t quite add up! What is explained here in this book makes sense and it changes how we understand today’s modern world.
Did you know that Genghis Kahn made the capital of his Chinese Empire present day Beijing in 1266 and that that the Forbidden City was a huge park filled with wild animals where the Mongol leaders lived in ghers/yurts? Here in this enclosed area the Mongol leaders lived according to their own Mongol traditions. They ate their traditional foods, ate with knives, which the Chinese found abhorrent, drank fermented mare’s milk and practiced their own sports and games, so foreign to the Chinese culture around them. Did you know that “hooray” is based on a Mongol expression of exuberance? Did you know that Columbus called the red-skinned natives he encountered when he landed on the islands off the American mainland Indians because he thought he had met up with the Mongols living south of the Chinese Mongols, the Mongols of India? That is why Native Americans originally were called Indians. There is so much in this book that makes sense, it is like putting together all the pieces of a puzzle and everything fits!
Kublai Kahn supported universal education with classes held in the colloquial language. Paper money was invented by the Chinese, but he saw its practicality and radically expanded its usage. Under his rule China attained its Golden Age of Drama. Medical knowledge, textile production, printing techniques, basically all areas of knowledge that were practical and useful were supported and transported to new areas around the world. Under the Mongol rule there was religious freedom. In the 1200s, think of that!
I listened to the audiobook narrated by Jonathan Davis. His pronunciation of Mongol terms is clear. The pacing is perfect. This is essential in a book of non-fiction. Along with the download one is given pdf files of maps and diagrams. One difficulty that I had, when I searched on the net for further information, was that often more than one name was used for the same person. It is also difficult to recognize Mongol names. This is easier if you can both see and hear them.
It is time that we begin to acknowledge the good things Genghis Kahn and Kublai Kahn have given us. Read this book and you will stop using the word “Mongolian” as a word of slander.
Dysfunctional Families Australian Style
Those words are the best I can come up with to depict this book. There are two families living in one house on Cloudstreet near Perth, Australia. This house and these families become the center attraction of the entire neighborhood. Both families are of the working class; in fact they are lucky if they even have a job. The time period is 1944-1964, so the end of the war and the hard times that followed determine the setting. Life is hard; it is a struggle. Booze, gambling, promiscuity, adultery, child abuse, anorexia and children with mental retardation - all play a central role in this novel. It sounds pretty depressing, doesn’t it? Sometimes, too, the language is downright crude. Nevertheless, by the end of the novel you care for the characters. Maybe they are total losers, but some of them are trying their best. Even the losers have some good qualities. There is moreover another theme to the book – the strength of families. So the book isn’t depressing, and there is humor, albeit sad humor.
I am glad I read this book. For me a three star book is one I liked; it is one I am glad I read! This book is considered an Australian classic. It is definitely a total immersion course in Australian life, at least those of the working class after WW2. It is so, so, so Australian - full of colloquialisms and expressions foreign to me. For this reason I must wholeheartedly recommend the audiobook narrated by Peter Hosking. Through his clever intonations you can more easily guess the meaning of expressions and words foreign to those of us who are not Australian. I LOVED how Oriel Lamb spoke. Yeah, she was also kind of my hero all through the story. There are lots of dialogs, and the characters are reinforced by the narrator’s ability to distinguish between each.
The conflict between the Aboriginal people and other Australians is portrayed to a lesser extent, but it is hinted at. The inherent wisdom of Aboriginal beliefs comes to the fore through spooky premonitions. I found this kind of corny, but I guess it had to be drawn into a book about Australian life. It sort of belongs.
What this book imparts is a quintessential view of American agrarian working class people. It is set in Colorado and speaks of small town life, I would guess in the 1970s or 80s. (One family has a microwave.) It is not plot oriented, so if you want lots to happen, look elsewhere. The picture it draws is astoundingly perceptive. The characters have very ordinary lives, but it is the perfection with which they are drawn that is so fantastic.
I cannot think of another book that delivers such astoundingly perfect dialogs. The sentences are short. What these characters say to each other is what ordinary people DO say to each other. The sentences are often composed of one or two words, or just a phrase. The dialogs are varied – between two elderly brothers, between the husband and wife of a family on welfare, a social worker and those she is trying to help, between children, between friends and enemies, the rants of a child abuser. Absolutely all of these dialogs are pitch-perfect. Either Kent Haruf, the author, has a fantastic memory for conversations he has heard or he has used a tape recorder.
The narration by George Hearn, could simply not be better. He delivers the dialogs with perfect pacing. His pauses speak volumes.
This book is the second of a trilogy. The first one is "Plainsong". I read that years and years ago and gave it too four stars. "Benediction" follows “Eventide”, but I have not chosen to pick that up immediately. I want to explain why because I believe it says something about what you can expect from this book. I need a break; I can take only so much. While there is subdued humor in the lines, the book essentially shows the struggle of daily life for many, many ordinary people. Their lives do have moments of happiness. The nice things are rather mundane, but still very beautiful….but maybe you have to look hard to see them. Also, the audiobook format of “Benediction” has a different narrator, and I absolutely cannot imagine listening to a similarly told story with a less competent narrator. The three books are stand-alones; they do not have to be read together, so I will wait! This was so special I don’t want to lessen my appreciation of it with another.
Have I explained properly so you know what this book offers you? Great writing about ordinary people. Superb dialogs. You will come to love some of the characters. For me it was Raymond.
A gem that glistens. Beautiful. A contemporary rewriting of an ancient Maori legend. Its messages speak of the strength of women, but even more importantly of the oneness of the past and present, the rational and the irrational, what we understand and don’t understand and of all life on earth. This is young adult literature for adults.
The audiobook narration by Kiwian Jay Laga’aia was well done. There is music throughout the recording, but it is the same snippet repeated over and over again. When will we get audiobooks with varied music and numerous songs? Anybody listening out there?
Too often people assume that when a war ends the trouble stops, the problems are over. That is far from true. It took over a century to begin to fix the Civil Rights problem that was supposedly resolved with the conclusion of the Civil War in 1865! This book is an excellent study on what life was like for the blacks in the years following the Civil War. This book is all about how the Dixie Southerners continued to view the colored. Views did not change overnight. It is also about how the blacks viewed themselves. What is freedom when you have no money and no employment and no place to live? What is freedom when you don’t know where your mother, father, wife and children are or even if they are still alive? What is freedom after rape and murder and repetitive beatings? How do you reach emotional stability after living through such horror? Can you forgive?
This book draws a picture that I believe to be accurate and realistic. It cannot be an easy read or a comforting read, but it ends with hope and a promise for the future. Parts were hard for me to read, and that is because the author made me care for the characters. Some were clever, others despicable, but all of them felt real.
I appreciated that both sides, the slave owners and the slaves, were portrayed fairly. One was not all wrong and the other all right. Even the most despicable were occasionally, well, at least not all bad!
I also liked how the plot unrolled. The author created a fascinating story that you want to understand. You want to know what is going to happen and how the problems will be resolved. At the end you understand everything. There are no loose ends, and I very much like the ending, being both realistic and hopeful too.
At first I was uncomfortable with the narration by Sean Crisden, but by the end I loved it. What bothered me at first was when he spoke lines presented in the third person. He stops at the periods and commas, and I felt he was listening to himself with a tone of self-satisfaction. However as you listen further, and as you become aware of each character’s personality, there are more and more dialogs and these are just perfect. He captures the Southern dialect and the Yankee dialect, the whites and the blacks, women and men and children, all equally well.
I will close with a quote from the book:
“You gotta have hope. To hope is the whole point. Being scared all the time ain’t much different from bein dead.”
There are good lines to suck on! I liked this book very much, and I highly recommend the audio format.
If you could live your life over time and time again, would you/ could you ever get it right? That is the central question of this book. The next question posed is if this ability to relive your life would be a gift or a curse. This is a book of fantasy and historical fiction. It poses philosophical questions concerning how life should be lived.
Atkinson's writing is clever, both the questions she poses and her ironic, satirical, sarcastic and often sardonic humor. Don't expect good-natured laughs based on happiness. It is solely because of the writing that I have chosen three rather than only two stars.
The book is confusing. Not only does the reader jump back and forth in time but also into different versions of the same story, the point being that there is not just one story. The stories overlap at points only to later go off in different directions. The reader must continually figure out if they have been dropped into a different version or a different time period of an earlier version. In addition, many characters are not introduced. When they are first mentioned you have not the slightest idea who they are.
By the end everything is interwoven. Picture a twine of yarn that is split at several points, each strand going off in different directions. The reader hops back and forth to different segments. Is there one "correct" ending? Is there one preferable ending? Is it possible to choose the final destination? Most importantly, what is the message of the book? Was the message worth the confusion? In my view, the answer is no.
I thought the author magnificently described life in London both during the Blitz and after the war. I enjoyed the segment set in Obersalzberg, at Hitler's residence Berghof, near Berchtesgaden, Bavaria, Germany, meeting up with Eva Braun. This IS a book of historical fiction. Events of both WW1 and WW2 are covered.
The audiobook narration by Fenella Woolgar was exemplary. Irish, British, American and French accents are all perfectly executed. I believe the audio version further enhances how people of different cultures "think".
You must keep a paper and pen nearby to jot down the date of the episode you are listening to. In addition, I recommend you read this book quickly; if you read a little each day you are sure to get lost! Good Luck!
I listened to the unabridged audiobook, that means more than 54 hours, and I enjoyed every minute of it. Little content could have been removed. The narration by Nelson Runger was wonderful. I have complained about his slurping before, but the producers have removed the slurps. His steady clear pace perfectly matches the informative text. His intonation for Truman, was perfect, both the strength of his speeches in the presidency and his reflections, to-the-point remarks and sarcastic jokes of the elderly man. Our voice does change with age, and Runger has mastered this. (Some voices were, however, in my opinion, too low and ponderous.) At the end, and this is a book that covers all aspects of Truman’s life, from birth to death, i.e. 1884-1972, there were tears in my eyes. This is a book about a man dedicated to fighting for his beliefs, but he was a politician at heart. Keep in mind that I tend to instinctively distrust politicians. It is rather remarkable that I so loved this book. I will try to never again shy away from a book about politicians……well, at least such books written by John McCullough.
Why did I love this book? You learn about American life and values as they were when America was still a land of pioneers to what it had become by the middle of the 20th Century. What the political parties stood for has changed dramatically with time. On completion of this book you have a thorough understanding of the American party system. You travel from an agrarian Midwest value mindset through WW1, the Depression, the New Deal, WW2, the emergence of atomic weapons, the birth of the UN and NATO, the Berlin blockade and successful airlift, the Cold War and McCarthyism, the focus on civil rights, the Korean War all the way up to Kennedy’s presidency. You follow this time-period through the life of a man living through its events, and a man who as president shaped many of these events. McCullough gives you a thorough understanding of all these events and a thorough understanding of the man Truman.
It is an honest book that never shies away from the mistakes made. I wasn’t thrilled with Truman’s friendship and dependence upon Pendergast. I felt that Truman’s relationship with his wife was at first not adequately clarified. By the end I understood Truman, all of him. I believe I comprehend both his familial relationships and the value he put on friendships, which explain his relationship with Pendergast . You see both the good and the bad. I very much admire the strength and forthrightness of Truman who was at heart a marvelous politician. Yes, definitely a politician who fought for his party and made mistakes, but dam he tried his best. Always. He never shirked his responsibilities. He never ran away from a problem, but faced them head on. He was not infallible. I still don’t understand why they never had more children……
I was born in 1951. I understand now what my parents lived through and why they were who they were. I understand now what lead up to the world I was born into. I totally loved this book.
One of Steinbeck’s best, but too short! Again Steinbeck draws a picture of a time and place that will remain a vivid portrait. This time it is a derelict area in Monterey, California. Probably the 1920s, although it is not said. There are T-Fords, it is on this I am guessing. Steinbeck was from Salinas, California, so he is writing about what he knows best: a cannery, the sea, its smells pungent, acrid and salt, the octopi and starfish and rattlesnakes and the rats, the sound of the surf, the feel of the air, the quiet at dawn and the heat at the end of a hot summer day. The stickiness and the lilting breeze and the people - who live in a discarded boiler, a rusted tunnel, the lucky in a deserted warehouse. There is a brothel and a Chinese grocery. This book is about these people and it is about friendship and it is about parties. Think back on all the parties you have been at. The ones of your youth. How they start and how they end. The food, the drink, the music and dancing and the whole atmosphere. Reading this book will back to you the parties of your own past. They are made palpable. This book is a tribute to parties, parties with people you love.
The book is difficult. Words such as immoral sophistry and highbrow drivel come to mind.
The last part induced me to raise the rating from one two two stars. In this part Lawrence Durrell switches from excessive philosophizing to a resolution to the "characters" egotistical behavior. Things actually happen; we see what these people have brought down on themselves. In fact there ARE some wonderful descriptions.
There is no humor.
I fail to believe that Lawrence Durrell delivers a balanced view of Alexandria, the city itself, in the 1930s. It is one-sided.
Any positive attributes of Lawrence Durrell's book are completely destroyed by Jack Klaff's narration. Justine's voice sounds like a ghost: weak, feeble, about to disintegrate before our eyes. Balthazar's voice resembles that of an automaton. It is quite simply impossible to listen to this without either laughing or leaving the room. By the end, I wanted to continue with Balthazar, but I simply couldn't due to the terrible narration.
Hemingway uses special "literary techniques" in "For whom the Bell Tolls" that rather than enhancing the reading experience detract from it. Please see the list below. The ending is totally soppy. You learn nothing about the Spanish Civil War, and a better explanation for why Robert Jordan decided to fight with the Republicans should have been given. The scenes depicting physical attraction were bland and insipid. Some dislike the macho behavior of Hemingway's characters, but this doesn't bother me. I see it as typical of the times, and Pilar is the best character of this novel. She is a strong, intelligent, no-nonsense woman! What remains undeniably true though is that Hemingway can draw a scene so you see, hear, smell and feel it in your pores. It is interesting to see what goes through a soldier's mind, but there is so much wrong with this book I cannot justify a better rating.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with Scott Campbell's narration, except that a few bomb blasts fell flat. Even a good narrator cannot save a bad book.
May I suggest A Farewell to Arms instead?!
Through chapter 7:
This is what is bugging me:
1. The dialogs are NOT in the least believable. None of them.
2. Swear words are replaced with "unprintable word" or "obscenity". This is ridiculous and disrupts the prose! "F*/k you" will be written, "obscenity you", for example. Crazy! Hemingway wrote the book this way; it has not been censored later.
3. In the 30s people did not speak with the terms "thy", "thee", "thou art". This is driving me nuts. WHY has Hemingway done this?
(Answer: In Spanish there are different forms of pronouns that show the relationship between the people talking. Since the characters were speaking in Spanish, Hemingway wished to provide this information even in English.)
4. Robert Jordan is holier than "thou" (:0)), and it drives me crazy. SUCH a perfect soldier with SUCH motivation, and he is SO devoted to his job.
5. To top it all off the love between Maria and Robert Jordan jumps out of nowhere. The same day they meet they are in bed, no, actually a sleeping bag, and then she says in one of those above mentioned dialogs that she doesn't know how to kiss. Jeez! (OK, if one is a little patient an explanation is given.)
6. And what is this with calling Robert Jordan Robert Jordan?. Everyone else goes by one name, usually a nickname!
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