This is fiction, but based on the true life events of the famed Russian ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev (1938-1993). Through fiction the author attempts to show readers not only the external facts of Nureyev’s life but also how he perceived his own life. We are not so much told his inner thoughts, motivations and feelings, but we watch what he does and follow the crazed, hyped celebrity life and the frenzied gay-scene that lead to his death by AIDS. He defected Russia in 1961. We see how this impacted his own life and the lives of those left behind. In this book we are shown, not told. What is shown to us is NOT pleasant. I am sure you know of his promiscuous behavior. There is sex and drugs aplenty. This is not a comforting read, no fairy tale. If that is what you want, then look elsewhere. We see Rudi’ s life through the eyes of both those closest to him and those who only brushed shoulders with him, through famed entities such as Jacqueline Onassis, Andy Warhol, Truman Capote, Erik Buhn, Margot Fonteyn and through fictional characters too.
There is no author’s note stating explicitly what is fiction and what is fact, but I am convinced that Colum McCann has mirrored Nureyev’s world accurately. I did shore up the facts by reading Wikipedia. I learned much through the fictional characters. They gave depth to the story; some of them I grew to love (Odil and Tom and Anna, to name but three.) Having read this book, I feel I have lived next to Nureyev through his childhood, all the way to his death, ending with a final auction of his possessions. Each episode had a message, none were superfluous. I found neither the sex nor his final illness too explicit; I felt the electricity in the air, the dizzying pace, his fight for perfection in his dance and the sensuality of ballet. Don’t expect the life of a true artist to be anything but violent.
The audiobook has five different narrators, named below. In one chapter the reader hops form one character to another, without warning, but I was never confused. The audiobook’s narrators did not correspond to one specific character. You could not assume that if you heard one voice you knew which character was speaking sine there were many more characters than the five audiobook narrators. The only narrator I was not happy with was Jessica Almasy. Her voice was too sweet, too childish! All the others were great, and Suzanne Toren was f-a-n-t-a-s-t-i-c!!! Is she my favorite narrator? There is a brutal chapter filled with sex and drugs, read by one of the male narrators. That too, with its staccato pulse, perfectly created the world of Nureyev at that time. I believe that listening to the audiobook further enhances the reading experience. The tempo, the dialects, the intonations create an atmosphere that carries the reader beyond the written words.
I feel I know now what moved, motivated and pushed Rudolph Nureyev. I feel I understand him. I pity him and I admire him. Both. When I look at his life I look at it with disgust and admiration. I think the author has done a tremendous job. The way Colum McCann has mixed fact with fiction is really amazing. Five stars.
OK, dear friends, do you want the truth? Friends recommended this book to me, and I don't want to hurt any feelings, but this book did not work for me at all. By the end I absolutely hated it. For me to give it anything other than one star is a total lie.
Why it failed me is extremely simple. It is too damn cute for me.
It is about art, the art of Chagall and Pissarro and Cezanne and about the value/meaning of art. Art is personal and I do not want to be told how to think. The whole discussion of art was, for my taste, oversimplified. There is an Afterword that details how the author modified the known paintings to fit the novel.
This is primarily a book of fiction. Other than the three named artists, the characters were all fictional. The fictional story, what is that about? Romance and mystery. The time setting is WW2 and the mystery element is the disappearance of famed artwork. Were they stolen to be sold to the Germans? Who is a collaborator and who isn't? Maybe I have read too many non-fiction books on WW2 to be satisfied with this fictional presentation.
I did enjoy the author's depiction of both Roussillon, in Provence, and Paris. She captured the magnetism, the beauty and the unique atmosphere of both. I love both Roussillon and Paris; both are very special to me personally. I appreciated that the author acknowledged how one can come to love and feel at home in more than one place on this earth. Nevertheless, I cannot give an additional star because on concluding the book I felt I really disliked it.
I have zero complaints with the audiobook's narration by Kim Bubbs. Delightful French.
The book is written with excessive tension and in a frenetic tempo. Does this express the feeling of the high-wire artist himself, or is it to increase the suspense of the book? The high-wire artist himself wrote this book, 27 years, after the feat. And what was that feat? In August 1974 the twenty-four year old Frenchman, Philippe Petit, fixed a tight-rope between the Twin Towers in NYC then under construction. This was 1353 feet above ground, 110 floors up. Just to think of this makes me feel ill. Of course none of this was done with permission. Philippe traversed the rope not once, not twice, but eight times - at dawn, with thousands of spectators watching from below. He wanted the publicity.
I would recommend the book to those of you who like a book filled with tension. Exactly how the high-wire feat was executed is followed step by step. Planning is disorganized, so the telling is disorganized too. Arguments and betrayals. You learn about the six years from the initial inspiration to its execution, the execution itself, how the authorities behaved afterwards and what Philippe Petite came to do in the following years. How he came to write this book, his thoughts on the 9/11 and the rebuilding of the Towers - all of this is covered. The latter chapters, after the spectacle itself, are more calmly presented. This leads me to believe that the author chose to make the earlier writing exciting, and I personally did not like the frenzy of this. The narrator of the audiobook, Andrew Heyl, further increases the tension and frenzy through his narration.
Having completed the book, I know the full story, but I don't feel I understand the man. Asked why he did it, his reply was approximately, "I see three oranges and I have to juggle them; I see two towers and I must walk!"
There were terms used that were never explained, although you do end up understanding how it was done. I wanted to know what happened to Barry, who worked on the 82nd floor and helped them. Why isn't this told?
The book does tell you about the event, but how it was written was more to excite than to inform. What you are looking for should determine whether you want to read the book or not. I appreciated Colum McCann's Let the Great World Spin, on this very same feat, much, much more.
I have no doubt that extensive research lies behind this book. I do not doubt its accuracy. It is filled with details about the growth of antislavery organizations, but as the book clearly states the Underground Railroad was in reality an "umbrella association" of independent, sometimes competing groups which very much relied on the efforts of single individuals. It was not controlled from the top. The book focuses upon the antislavery proponents that lived in New York. This is partially explained by the fact that New York was home to the North's largest free black community, but New York plays such a prominent role that this should be indicated in the title. In addition the Underground Railroad was not hidden; everyone knew of it. The title is misleading, and it implies that you will be given a more exciting story than what is delivered.
The book description goes on to say that "...the city s underground-railroad agents helped more than 3,000 fugitive slaves reach freedom between 1830 and 1860. Until now, their stories have remained largely unknown..." The central focus of this book is not the plight of these fugitives. Their stories are primarily collected in one chapter, chapter seven, near the book's end. No, the main focus is instead a plethora of historical details of the growth of the movement, its weak organization, its factional divisions, its agents, funding and slavery’s ties with business. Relevant laws and to what extent they were actually enforced, court proceedings and supportive publications are covered in detail. The book is rather dry.
The book lacks structure. It would be easier to remember all the laws, fugitive cases, leaders and controversies if the text had been better organized into a more cohesive structure. The details become a jumble in my head. There are quotes that are of little importance and other superfluous information too. Better editing please.
So the Underground Railroad saved about 3 to 4000 fugitives, the numbers being extremely hard to verify, but the slave population was 4 million in the South. 0.1 % benefited. Of course it was still important, but it was weakly organized and depended to a very large extent on the efforts of private individuals. All of this is good to know.
The narration of the audiobook, by J. D. Jackson, was clear and easy to follow, as long as I didn't fall asleep.
This book is a collection of several volumes originally sold separately. Portions of these have been abridged and additional information has been added. All alterations were done by the author herself, in an effort to improve the content. Thus the book is split up into different sections, each having a specific theme. I liked some sections and disliked others.
The first part is about her childhood and familial relationships. This part was excellent. You see how Eleanor develops from an insecure and naive girl into a strong, independent woman. Watching this transformation is inspiring. You come to understand how and why she changes. You understand how she came to marry Franklin. You also understand the family she married into. This shaped her too.
Then you follow her years with Franklin. He establishes his career, becomes president and dies. How they influenced each other is covered, but historical events are skimmed over. This is not the book to pick if you want the details of Franklin’s political decisions or the war years. There are huge gaps in both historical events and personal relationships. This is an autobiography and clearly Eleanor is telling us what SHE wants said. There is no mention of either her own or her husband's extramarital relationships. It is not just the relationships that are lacking but also Eleanor’s support of Blacks and Jews is scarcely dealt with. I was disappointed that so very much was missing. I wanted to hear more about her efforts to coerce her husband into helping these groups. Oh, and it was strange how she spoke of her husband not as Franklin, but as “my husband”!
After the death of Franklin her role as a UN Delegate and Chairman of the Commission of Human Rights is meticulously covered, but here the writing sounded like a political speeches selling her views against the prevalent beliefs during the Cold War period. This section felt dated and extremely repetitive! I would mutter, "OK, here we go again.......another speech with the same message for the fifth, sixth time!" "Old truths" are proclaimed. This was the part of the book that was most thoroughly covered. She traveled all over the world speaking to political leaders. Much of this section reads as a travelogue recounting all the different places she visited. She worked as a columnist, a speaker and a radio correspondent. She never stopped working; the book follows her through her 75th year, as an activist and speaker of human rights. Her death, three years later, is not covered.
The audiobook is narrated by Tavia Gilbert. This narrator has a young voice, and it worked well for the young, naive Eleanor. As her self-assurance grows it felt more and more misplaced.
ETA:I always forget something!!! So, I am adding this. There is more humor than just that of the different opinions of Rodin's artwork, its sexuality, its cut morceaux and interchanged titles. In one of the studios Rodin had no doors on the apprentices' rooms. Pets were free to come and go. What about a Newfoundland sleeping next to you in your bed?! This was a huge surprise to one new apprentice. There is no way this book can be judged as a textbook, even if it is chock-full of details. These details are what make the book good. You see I am still thinking about this delightful and informative book.
I picked up this book because I wanted to understand the personality of the sculptor Auguste Rodin (1840-1917). I definitely got that from this book. I also got a comprehensive study of all his busts, monuments, drawings and sculptures. The book is filled with quotes, which are extensively noted. (In the audiobook these notes are read as they come up.) You hear both complimentary and negative views on the artist and his artwork. The story moves forward chronologically, thus you see how his personality changed with time. You see how his artwork changed and how the world around him changed. You learn what it was that made Rodin Rodin and which aspects of his personality never changed.
There is humor, particularly when you listen to the different views voiced. Night and day. Lovers and haters. The author rarely comments on what others say, but both positive and negative views are voiced.
I don't know where to start. It seems hopeless to say in a few words what makes Rodin Rodin. He was a man that saw the beauty of women and he appreciated their sexuality, though the word “appreciate” is just so lacking in passion! Rodin further convinces me that although artists are wonderful, they are impossible to live with. All his life he had affairs with numerous women, but he never left his first love Rose. He married her on his deathbed..... and within a year both were dead. He never acknowledged their son.
The techniques Rodin employed in producing his artwork is also discussed. When he drew his eyes never looked at the paper; they were glued to that being drawn. He added pieces of clay more often than extracting pieces. He constantly altered. He wouldn’t stop until he was satisfied. He loved nature and saw it in a finger, a hand, an arm, in movement and stillness; in shadow and sun. And the names of his artwork, he changed them over and over again. The name was not the essential.
This book is for me a clear four star book. I don't see it as a text book; it is too interesting and too amusing. Parts are scandalous, and the uproar that ensues is exciting! BUT, the book is extremely comprehensive and much is illustrated through copious quotes. The book not only teaches about Rodin but also the entire art world of the latter 19th Century and the first 17 years of the 20th. Very many artists and musicians and authors are covered - just about all the ones you can possibly think of and then add many, many more which you have never heard of! At times I got lost, when I didn't recognize enough of the names. As usual, the more you know before picking up a book, the more you will enjoy the details. You have something to fasten on to.
Now a word about the narration by the famed Simon Vance. I thought Vance could read anything. Here his narration was a total disappointment. In fact I was often extremely annoyed. His French just plain sucks. Sorry for being so darn blunt, but there is the truth. He mispronounces French words, and there are lots of them. I would have to try and guess what he could possibly be trying to say. Cities and known artists are almost unrecognizable. Maybe I would have recognized more of the artists if I had been given proper pronunciations. Reims sounds like "reams" rhyming with "seams". The correct pronunciation is closer to "ranse". I am just mentioning ONE example! Rodin spent seven years in Brussels. Vance's pronunciations are so incorrect it totally threw me. I know Brussels! I have lived there. He also uses different pronunciations for the very same word, so it is difficult to "translate" what he could possible mean. I absolutely hated the lousy narration. I will never listen to another book by Vance if he has to speak French words. Never. Do you hear how annoyed I am? IF you want to make an audiobook version of a written book that has many French words, then get someone who speaks French properly! Four stars is for the written book, not the audiobook narrated by Simon Vance.
Too complicated. Too unclear. It is pretty meaningless to say that life is totally subjective.
Narration by Roger May fine.
Let me explain my rating. This book was extremely hard for me - all the way through. I knew if I took a break with another book, I would never pick it up again. Nevertheless, the book IS informative and I AM glad I read it, but:
-Books of non-fiction do NOT have to be this hard to get through. It is non-fiction books like this that make people think the genre is difficult. I protest. It need not be so, and say this with my one star rating! (Later changed to two because I did learn about the city's history. It was not a total waste of time.)
-The book is extremely dense and portions should have been cut by the editor. One example: the very end, the “lyrical” ending of the epilog, which otherwise rapidly recounts all the historical events from the Six Days War to the present.
-There are numerous derogatory statements that are completely unnecessary. These sweeping judgments are not suitable. Just one example: Truman is introduced as the "mediocre senator" from Missouri.
-The author's personal relationship to characters of history should have been better clarified and irrelevant people with family connections to the author removed. I am not reading this book to learn about the author's family.
-History's violence is on the verge of being graphically depicted in the book.
-Even though this book is so extensive, it is best understood if you know a lot before you even open its covers.
A word about the audiobook's narration by John Lee. I have absolutely loved Lee's narration of other books, but his narration here was a huge disappointment. The pacing is wrong, and by that I mean that the words in a sentence are not correctly emphasized. It is easy to follow, yes, but it is almost sung! So strange and so inappropriate for a book of non-fiction. In that every single sentence holds so much information, it is a book hard to listen to. I didn't need the pictures or maps included in the paper book since such is easily found on the internet. You do need access to internet when listening to the audiobook.
It seems to me that the book's presentation of the three religions (Christianity, Judaism and Islam) is balanced. Perhaps I am not the best judge since I read this book to learn.
Yes, you have to be a martyr to get through the whole book. It is over. Thank God, which ever one you happen to choose. I personally adhere to no religion. Look at the problems they cause.
This book is d-e-p-r-e-s-s-i-n-g! Must it be SO depressing? It doesn't help that the end tries to close with a hopeful note.
The book is about death and illness and how some people demand so much of themselves that they are doomed to fail. It is also about the importance of stories, our stories. There lies the wisp of hope embedded in the book.
There are some beautiful lines, lines that perceptively reveal human relationships and some of descriptive beauty. I did feel the drumming of the rain on the skylight above Ruth's bed.
The book is written for bibliophiles....maybe. I love books, and I have read a large number of the many referred to, but still this book was not for me. The central character, Ruth, is a bedridden girl of 19. She has decided to read all her father's books, the point being to discover who her father really was. A person's books do say who you are, don't they? She refers to these books by their number in her father's library. Yep, they are all numbered, and they are in the thousands. Poetry and classics. Mythology and history. Dickens and Edith Wharton and Faulkner. Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy too, of course. I objected to how she refers to characters/events in theses famous books as quick explanations for events and characters in her story. (The book we are reading is Ruth's story.) But you can't do that. The situations are not the same; the details are not the same, and it is the details that make a story. It all becomes superficial and cursory. For me this was a disservice to the original literature. In addition, the numerous references to the books' titles, date and city of publication made the writing disjointed.
I didn't feel engaged in the lives of her father, her mother, her grandparents or great grandparents. All are quickly covered. There is too much in too few pages. Her relationship with her twin brother, yes, there the story came alive. Only here did I feel the love that bound these two.
There is humor. Maybe half of it made me laugh.
The setting is Clare, Ireland, after the bust, but the stories of her ancestors go back to the First World War.
The narration of the audiobook by Jennifer McGrath was lovely. Her Irish dialect is beautiful, lilting.
The gossip drove me crazy. A good book, but you have to be interested in all the gossip that always surrounded Bertie. The narration enhances the gossipy tone.
Don't make the mistake I did when choosing the book. There are two Berties. One was the great grandson of Queen Victoria, but this one is her son!
The basic problem for me was that the central character, an author in Christiania (Oslo), Norway, just didn't convince me he was really hungry. I guess he was, because his hair was falling out in clumps. At the same time he had such pride and this stopped him from accepting any help offered him. If you are really starving do you refuse food? One thing is clear. He was ether hallucinating, due to a lack of food, or he was quite simply crazy. I couldn't figure out which.
The author, the Norwegian Knut Hamsun, was one of the first to use stream of consciousness writing, but since the central character's thoughts are so delusional I wasn't interested in getting inside his head. His thoughts are confusing. I hardly even felt pity for this guy, who seemed more worried about what others would think of him than figuring out how to solve his problems. I am being harsh.... Virginia Woolf claims one needs a room of one's own to write. Well, first you need some food and a bed and a lamp to write by. A brain does not function without glucose! This book will appeal most to those who are interested in reading about the delusional. I simply wasn't convinced he was really starving.
You don't get a feel for Christiania either.
The narrator of the audiobook was Kevin Foley. I have no complaints with that. He does women’s voices remarkably well.
The ending annoyed me -he finally does something constructive. At least he was on the verge of doing something. My response was: “Why didn't you do that earlier!” Hamsun did not make me feel for this poor, starving author! THAT is the biggest problem of the book!
Report Inappropriate Content
If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.