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.
All descriptions of this book state that its themes are the Jim Crow South, the Harlem Renaissance writers and the civil rights movement. The book starts in 1910 and ends in the 60s.It follows one black woman, Easter, from her childhood in the South, her time up in Harlem, skims the intervening years and then ends up back in the South again. Yes, the book does cover those themes, but there is another central theme that is not mentioned. It must be mentioned – sex. If you are going to feel uncomfortable reading about various bizarre lesbian relationships, well then look elsewhere; this theme plays a very prominent role. I am fine with lesbian relationships that focus upon the loving relationship; it is a love like any other between two individuals. I think both the heterosexual and homosexual affairs are added to this story to pique the readers' interest, to shock, to add spice to the story. I checked internet to see if the sexual tidbits were in fact historical details that had to be there to portray the historical content correctly. No, pure fiction! From my point of view they detract from the story.
Too many parts of the fictional story were too bizarre and too revolting for my taste. I felt no empathy for any character. The book is short and covers the important events in Easter's life. You are not given her internal thoughts; you watch her actions.
The reader is given information about the writers of the Harlem Renaissance.
I think it all comes down to this: I didn't like how the author told her story.
One star means I do not like a book. IF I cannot bear to listen to it to the very end how can I even say it was even OK? I have listened to seven of thirty-six hours of the unabridged audiobook version translated by Tobias Smollett and narrated by the talented Robert Whitfield/Simon Vance. I cannot continue. I have given this enough of my time. My good friends know that I often will struggle through a book that is displeasing me. Why? To give it a fair chance; some books do turn around. My patience is tested to the limit with this book. In addition, let it me noted that even a superb narrator cannot save a book if you don't like how it is written. Robert Whitfield does a fantastic job.
I found the book tedious, extremely wordy and repetitive. It is a composite of many stories relating the escapades of the knight errant, Don Quixote, and his faithful squire, Sancho Panza. Don Quixote is always, in every story depicted, the idealist, a worthy knight bent on fighting for good and honor, fighting for women and men who are unfairly treated. He is fighting against all injustice, in whatever form it may be. That is all fine and dandy; but he is delusional and sees injustice, inequity and dishonor where it does not exist. He is an honorable man fighting against problems that in fact do not exist. In contrast, Sancho Panza offers us the realist's interpretation of events. (That they see the world differently does make their friendship all the more wonderful!) Each story/episode introduces the reader to new characters, new events, but there is a huge similarity in what is to be drawn from the separate stories. I do not enjoy short stories so I am not the ideal reader for this book! If you do enjoy short stories it may be enjoyable to listen to one, laugh at the humor depicted in the events and the naivety of Don Quixote and smile at the wonderful friendship one sees between the knight errant and his squire. Then put the book aside for a later time when you feel like listening to another story. However do keep in mind that the message imparted is to all extent and purposes the same in all the related stories.
The stories are cute, the lines are humorous and the book well depicts Spanish society and ways of thinking in the early 17th Century. It was published in two volumes, the first in 1605 and the second in 1615. To quote from Wiki: "Don Quixote is considered the most influential work of literature from the Spanish Golden Age and the entire Spanish literary canon. As a founding work of modern Western literature, and one of the earliest canonical novels, it regularly appears high on lists of the greatest works of fiction ever published."
But I personally have had enough. This is in fact the second time I have tried to read the book. My grandmother had a wonderful hardback with great illustrations. It attracted me, I tried to like it, but failed that time too. That was a good fifty years ago.
I am NOT judging the book. I am telling you merely how I personally react to this book. Yes, it can be seen as amazing, as a break-through piece of writing, but it is not with this criterion I rate books.
It is not good when you start a book and don't believe in the feasibility of the characters' first actions. These actions didn't fit the characters' personalities. Once this feeling was lodged in my head I could never throw it off. The characters, their relationships and their actions were not credible.
This is a book of historical fiction that depicts the first years after WW2 in Germany. The setting is Hamburg and the year is 1946. What saved me from giving the book only one star is the accurate and interesting description of the situation in Germany at this time. It was split into four zones, controlled by the English, the Americans, the French and the Russians respectively. The political tensions between the nations are emerging.
The dramatic ending is cinematic in tone. It was NOT to my taste. Talk about unbelievable! Talk about cute! Talk about tying up all the strings into a neat little bow! This book has in fact two titles: the second is The Picture Book, and that is the more appropriate!
I don't mind sex in a book, but every darn relationship was propelled by sex. This too was not believable. Did the author do this to attract contemporary readers?
I liked the historical but not the fictional content of this book.
(The narration by Leighton Pugh was fine.)
Oh my, I have heard so much praise for this book and this author. Well, it didn't work for me - not at all! First of all I tend to like Looooooong stories and this is short. Secondly, the writing is all over the place, one minute poetical and then down to earth, matter of fact and simplistic. Sometimes sentences were numbered! Why? I would listen to a line and think, "What IS the author trying to say with that sentence?! What is his message?" I had no idea. Some of his descriptions of light, how it can sparkle and refract on an early morning walk in the countryside, these passages enticed me, but they were all too few.
When the author focuses on relationship and interactions between people, if I was moved at all, I found his views depressing. The author chooses to depict horrible moments of strife, of failure, of inadequacies. Life is not made up of just those. The book is about father (priest), son (tinker) and grandson. The lives and the sons' interactions with their parents are depicted, not in a straightforward manner but delivered as memories and glimpses of past events, as personal reveries, in a rambling fashion without cohesion or engagement. The book is told as the grandson lies dying, surrounded by his family. But this meeting is just plain icky; it focuses solely upon illness and how decrepit we all become. A grandson has to shave his grandfather and it is not done with relish, not with love or kindness, not with the thought of helping a dear one about to pass away. Ugh, I didn't like this book at all. The book is depressing, inconsistent in writing style and the messages imparted are unclear.
I had a hard time enjoying the narration by Christian Rummel, given the content of the story and how it was written.
This is a book about the author of a book I loved: "Charlotte's Web". It is about how that book I loved came to be. It is not written with the charm nor the humor of that original book. Sims' book is interesting. It tells not only of E.B. White's career; he worked for many years at The New Yorker. The story is filled out with information about prominent children's authors and illustrators during the first half of the 20th Century. If that is what you are looking for you may appreciate this book more than I did. Parts are flat, boring and stuffed with irrelevant details. Neither did I love the narration by Nick Sullivan. The book doesn't pull you in, doesn't engage you or make you care in the slightest for any of the characters. It reads like a dry text book....but sure there are interesting facts.
I am in the middle of moving from one country to another, so I just do not have the time to write a decent review of this excellent, marvelous book! Please, if you are at all interested in either history or amazing people grab this book soon. On closing this book the reader truly understand the atmosphere that swallowed up America during the era of McCarthyism and the Cold War. The reader comes to understand Oppenheimer - his creativity, his imagination and his failings too. The list of the latter is long, but boy do I admire the guy! There is so much I could tell you about this man who I knew nothing about before I read this book, except his label as the the "Father of the Atomic Bomb".
I don't regret reading "Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World's Most Dangerous Weapon", but the two don't compare! You in no way need to read one to read the other. The first is about the bomb, the Manhattan project and spying, but this about Oppenheimer is about the person and his era.
I listened to the audiobook read by Jeff Cummings. I have no complaints with the narration. Read the book or listen to the book. You choose, which ever suits you best. Just don't add it to one of those never-ending lists of books that you don't get around to actually reading!
Yes, I liked it, but if you stop and analyze what happens you over and over find things that just do not make sense! That wouldn't happen! That is unbelievable! If I give you examples, I am going to wreck the book for you.
Contemporary authors seem to think readers today no longer want a book that runs in chronological order. They all have to flip back and forth in time. Here we start in 2003 and then flip back first to the 50s and then to time periods closer and closer to 2003 when Edward is in his 70s. We learn retrospectively why he has become who he is. This flipping is not difficult to follow, but tell me, what is gained by this manner of writing?! Nothing as far as I can see.
Did I care for the characters? No, but they felt real. Edward is self-centered, egotistical and detached.
Do you get much history? No, even if some well-recognizable people (Churchill, Nehru) flash by! That Edward saw the American destruction of Japan (specifically Tokyo, Nagasaki and Hiroshima) with unforgiving eyes is not ever explained. He writes a book about it, but why he felt so moved is left unexplored. More could have been done with this theme.
What the book does excellently is beautifully draw for the reader the ambiance of a place - NY, London and Japan (around Tokyo). Mostly the latter two. Edward is Scottish. The Japanese characters feel Japanese. The American characters too. All the dialogs are perfect. Over and over I thought, "Yeah, that is exactly how a Japanese would talk to a foreigner." I have been there. I have also been to the places where the story is set, outside Tokyo. Everybody that goes to Japan will visit Kamakura and Hakone. On a crowded train near Hakone we were given painted toothpicks by a Japanese man. Given, they were a present from someone I did not know. You feel that the description of the places is genuine. However, I am a little unsure if my own memories make the lines more enjoyable for me than for a reader who has not been there..... How much have my own experiences added to the author's lines?
Japanese value beauty. This is an important theme of the book, and this is spot-on.
If you are curious about Japan or have been there, I think you will enjoy the book. I did.
One word about the narration by Nick Cheales - excellent! He perfectly captures different accents, Scottish, Japanese and American.
On completion, all I will add to that written below is that I adored the ending. This IS my favorite book by Hemingway. Hemingway has illuminated friendship and love in a beautiful and also honest manner. Note, this is a love story, a wonderful love story that rings true. Nothing false here. If other authors could write love stories like this, romance would be my favorite genre.
Although fiction, the book is in fact written about real people and real events, and it has an autobiographical basis. Check out Wiki when you have completed the book; no peaking before! I found Jake very attractive. I will include just one quote from Wiki: "In the novel, Hemingway presents his notion that the "Lost Generation", considered to have been decadent, dissolute and irretrievably damaged by World War I, was resilient and strong." When you finish the book you have glimpsed French and Spanish life in the 20s. You feel you have yourself vacationed in both France and Spain. Need a vacation? Read this book. I absolutely loved it.
I am nearing the end, and I am absolutely loving this. Yes, even the bullfighting fiesta. It goes on for seven days - rockets and dancing and music and crowds. And yes of course drinking. To remove that would be absurd! Me,I am the one to faint in a crowd and have done so at a 4th of July parade, so this fiesta should not be my kind of thing, but here, in this book, you see why it is so loved by the Spanish people. You, the reader, are part of their festivities and understand and f-e-e-l their excitement. Back away two steps and your inhibitions rise up, but while reading Hemingway's lines you are there in the middle, and it is glorious and frightful all rolled together. Hemingway shows the horrors of it too, so the reader gets a rounded view. Not all Spaniards love bullfighting, even back then in the twenties.
And a word about how antisemitism is portrayed. Yes, one of the characters is a Jew, and yes he is disliked, but really it is not for his religious beliefs. It has nothing to do with that. This book is about friends and all the currents that lie underneath a friendship - jealously, competition, disgust, petty annoyances, sharing, camaraderie and caring. Be honest, friendship is NOT so simple. Much of the antisemitism is pure bluster.
William Hurt does a marvelous job with the narration, but it is not perfect. Tut, tut, tut, what do you mean, William? Shame on you! Not every line is perfect! (For clarity - I AM being sarcastic.) The French and American voices are perfect. I mean perfect! Dialogs between different friends succeed in that you know exactly who is speaking. Even if a female voice or the Scottish and German dialects could be improved, you still easily know who is who! And the pacing and strength of the lines describing scenery, the mountains, the fields, the color of the sky are wonderful too. Perfect narration? No. Good? Yes! And this book is not easy to narrate.
I have just begun, but I am sucking up the atmosphere of Paris in the 20s. All are plastered - that is, some Americans and French and Italians and Greeks. I am listening to a narration by the w-o-n-d-e-r-f-u-l William Hurt. There is no way I could imagine the lines spoken with all these different accents as well as Hurt narrates them. Sooo perfect, particularly the French and American, the others accents give an amusing contrast! The mood of that time and place, Paris and expatriates and booze and bars, 1924, is delightfully portrayed. I don't mind the macho lines at all. They make me laugh and giggle. Sooooooo Hemingway!!!! Good stuff.
And I am not a boozer, but this I enjoy. You can live vicariously through books ...... without yourself having a hangover the next day!
Please let my enjoyment continue.
I know this book contains misogyny, homophobia, and some antisemitism too, but a good author can handle difficult themes well. Oh yeah, yucky bullfighting too. We will see how I feel at the end.
I think this will be my favorite book by Hemingway!
Although the author expresses herself well, the book needs editing. Too many events are thrown in in an unclear fashion. The author’s family is large and I could not keep everyone straight, other than the author’s mother’s seven half-siblings, at least when they were identified with their given name. A “mother” is spoken of and you wonder is that the author’s mother or her mother’s mother or…..which mother?! There are wives and cousins and friends and enemies galore. Few had the same opinion about a given event. The whole story becomes confusing, and it is unclear what information is reliable. Squabbles and drinking influence everyone’s story. And yet, in any family, don’t we all have different versions of the given events?
Life in South Africa is also thrown in, with some brief sections on Nelson Mandela and a few other political figures, but what is the purpose of this book? Is it to relate how historical events affect families? No, I don’t think so. Is it the author’s attempt to understand her mother and her own family? She says that is why she is writing it, but then why does she say she will return but doesn’t?
Or is this simply someone writing a memoir about their family? Ahhhh, this will make an exciting book! I’ve got a story to tell. Everyone nowadays wants to write their own memoir. The basic story here is about a dysfunctional family, about alcoholism and sexual child abuse, and yes, the events are shocking. My guess is that the author needed to work through her own loss of her mother after her death. That IS reasonable, and it IS great to hear of her mother’s strength of character, but I see this as a personal story, not one that I can empathize with. Maybe that is my fault rather than the author’s, but that is how I reacted! Maybe the author through writing the book reached closure, but do you write a book and publish it when you are doing this for yourself? I, the reader, am left confused and without closure. This book will perhaps be more appreciated by one who has dealt with child abuse and alcoholism in their own family…… for them, this may be a helpful book.
In the audiobook the author reads her own book, and she does this very well. She has a British accent, since her Mom had her after she had immigrated to England. England was her home if never really her mother’s. It is interesting: kids should realize their parents have had a whole life before they ever arrived on the scene and often we know very little about that previous life. Do we ask and do our parents tell us?
I did like this book, but it should have been better organized, made less confusing and cleaned up a bit, so for me it ended up just being OK. Often, but not always, I did like how she strung together her words. How an author writes is important to me. Some authors have such a talent and others just don’t. I do think I would try another book by this author.
The only reason I originally gave this three rather than two stars was that:
1. it accurately describes the deplorable way we today deal with old age and sickness in MANY countries of the world, and
2. not all blame was heaped on the government. People are who they are and unfortunately we often fail in coping with sick and/or elderly in our own family.
The book was realistic. In its realism I found it terribly depressing.
All I can say is that this book made me miserable. I cannot deal with stories about dysfunctional families. I get frustrated and unhappy. When you read stories about how people have a hard time because they get caught in a war or a storm or genocide, you watch them fight to survive and you feel a bit of hope for mankind. These characters are strong and have fought for survival and at least some have succeeded. When you watch how normal people are mean to each other you only get filled with despair. I don’t know what to do with my unhappiness when I read such books, books like this one by Robinton Mistry.
The events described were very realistic, it is not that I am criticizing. I am in fact not criticizing the book in any way. It is about the importance of family. I mean look at that title! You learn about life in Bombay in the 90s. Corruption – there it is in one word. Life is a struggle for so many. Poor health care and no social network for the aged. This book is about not only the importance of family, but also about aging and how the young and old have so much to teach each other, but the message is clear that we rarely have the energy to stop and learn from each other. We are too busy just getting through life day by day.
Did I learn anything? Well maybe a bit about Parsi traditions and culture.
This book makes me thankful for living in countries that provide good health care and a relatively good social standard for ALL.
Martin Jarvis’ narration of the audiobook was excellent. Really excellent. Each character had their own intonation and you knew who was speaking just by the tone.
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