I thoroughly enjoyed this book from start to finish, from the first paragraph to the last. It never sagged. This is a story about a couple, Ella and John Robina. They have been married over fifty years. They are both in their eighties. Both are sick: John with Alzheimer’s and Ella with cancer. So they must decide what to do with their lives. Yes, Ella was sure! They needed a vacation. What could be better than to take Route 66 again, that route that they so often traveled when they were young and the family was four, before the kids left home? While they travel they haul out their projector and slides and look again at their lives. They have cocktails, grill their food, snooze, take little naps and drive all the way to Disneyland in California. She has her little blue pills.
Does that sound sad and depressing? Yes, I supposed it might, but think, they are both in their eighties and they have had good lives. It is not hard to believe that the book could prove to be thoughtful and down-to-earth and wise. But the author goes one step further and makes it very, very funny. I laughed on every page. I did. You laugh and you smile and you shed a melancholic tear occasionally. Mostly you laugh and maybe think a teeny bit about how you want to live your own life. The message is not all that astounding. What is astounding is the humor embedded in the story. Yes, I really did laugh out loud and exclaim as the events unfolded. You see the book is more about living and enjoying life than about its end. Ella and John and the characters they meet on their travels are very ordinary people. The conversations are so classically ordinary that you cannot help but smile. There is quite a bit of irony in the humor.
I listened to the audiobook. The narration, by Judith West, was superb. Ella’s voice was of a spunky old woman, and John had a crusty, solid baritone. When the narrator spoke for them it felt like I was overhearing a true conversation between two old geezers. When I think now of Ella, I know how she sounds and that is Ella. The same is true of John. Voice says a lot about a person. The narration gets five stars.
So why only four stars for the book? Well because the situation is in fact not extraordinary. It felt so real, such a perfect description of two old geezers. Does that means it is worth five stars? To perfectly capture this old couple, their lives and their dialogs, their sorrows and happiness and fear? It is all there. It is just a personal thing, I think; I would more readily give a book filled with real facts, that is also engagingly written, five stars. My head tells me this is all wrong. Maybe it is the author that builds a story from nothing, that creates with his words an imaginary world, that seems genuinely real that is the most talented? I did enjoy every minute listening to this audiobook. Heck I will give it five. Why not? It is not amazing, but I really did love it. I didn’t just like it a lot. It was better than that.
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!
OK, here is why I did not like this book:
This is touted as a book of fiction with strong autobiographical elements. So if Orwell is presenting a book of fiction I want characters who engage me. I want a bit of a story. I want good descriptive writing. This novel fails on these points. It reads as a report. It is instead the direct retelling of Orwell’s experiences when he was down and out trying to survive in the slums first of Paris and then later in London. Probably the 1920s.. He had no money – at times, not even a few centimes. No job, no home, no clothes, no sleep – only hunger and cold and bugs. I am telling you his situation was m-i-s-e-r-a-b-l-e! He delivers a minute by minute account of his days as a dishwasher and as a homeless bum when he didn’t even have dishwashing. I do sympathize with him and his comrades’ plight, but if Orwell wanted to present this as a novel then the characters should draw me in. This is not the nature of the book; it is a report of what he saw and experienced.
So, if this is a report then I must judge how that report is delivered. I disliked elements of this report:
-the author’s anti-Semitic views
-the concluding analysis of how the homeless’ situation should be improved
-and in a report one need not include numerous verbatim emotional outbursts filled with expletives.
I do believe Orwell’s experiences could have been turned into a novel about the life of people working in restaurants, cooks and waiters and yes the dishwashers too. The homeless and the foreign exiles. It could have made a marvelous novel, but what is delivered here is half novel and half memoir, neither one nor the other.
Jeremy Northam narrated the audiobook I listened to. Set in the slums of both London and Paris there are numerous foreign exiles and thus numerous dialects. The only dialects that felt genuine were the British ones. The Russian dialect was ridiculously fake. The French was off too, and half of the book is set in Paris!
Really, I did want to give this at least two stars because the plight of the lowest of low in the slums of Paris and London is clearly depicted, but my honest feeling toward this book is one of dislike. So one star it is.
Read Homage to Catalonia or Animal Farm instead. They are better.
No, I did not like this book. I disliked the intertwining of its two central themes, one being a criticism of French Bourbon society after the fall of Napoleon and the crazy, unbelievable love affairs. The writing becomes more and more absurd the further you progress into the novel. The language is old-fashioned, formal, complicated and wordy. I was bugged to no end by the excessive use of etcetera and etcetera over and over again. Perhaps that was a translation problem? I am not sure.
The book is extremely slow, even if it does pick speed as it nears the end only to fall again to turtle velocity at the conclusion.
This is a book of satire and by the end the author's "message" has been pounded into you. Events become absurdly ridiculous. I preferred the more subtle humor at the beginning. The question is - did I ever really laugh? No.
I must repeat my earlier statement found below: if this is a book that is supposed to offer a psychological study of characters, why are my feelings toward Julien, the main character, only lukewarm?
The famed actor Bill Homewood narrated the audiobook I listened to. The French pronunciation was fine but I disliked his added dramatics, even if perhaps he was merely exaggerating what the author intended to be exaggerated.
So I did not enjoy the humor, or the wordy writing, or the incredible romances. I will neither be listening to Homewood again nor reading more books by Stendhal.
Two-thirds through the audiobook:
This is v-e-r-y slow.
Be prepared for a multitude of pontificating old men.
The language is old-fashioned and formal; it was written in 1830 and is concerned with the upper-classes of French society after the defeat of Napoleon.
What is important above all else is your class. Will Julien Sorel be able to escape his class? He is intelligent. He is ambitious.
And then there are scandalous love affairs....involving not only Julien but an older woman who really ought to know better because she at least has the experience of age! More importantly, the author's lines do not make me feel either Julien's or her passion.
I do not empathize with any character. I do not dislike Julien, but I dislike what he is aspiring to. In addition, if this is a book that is supposed to offer a psychological study of characters why are my feelings toward Julien only lukewarm?
I am not done, and I will continue, but.....
Keep in mind when you look at the rating that MANY people close the book before completion and thus do not rate it.
After a bit more than four chapters:
I continue to have a hard time with this. I find it extremely depressing. There is humor, but it is not the kind I like. It is sarcastic, mean humor where you are supposed to laugh at the stupidity or crude behavior of people. I protest; I like to laugh with people in happiness, not at people for our weaknesses. There is a priest that is demented and he wants to hear confessionals so he can hear what is going on and then he tells others. Now I don't think that is nice. Sure it might happen in the real world but how often? There is Miles' alcoholic father who continually throws out cruel, snide criticisms of his son and others. Miles' mother has died of cancer and her death was painful and horrible for all. I find this depressing. I am not avoiding the reality of life, but what is the purpose of sinking myself into the worst of man's behavior.
Mid-life crises kind of bore me.
None of this is a spoiler since I have not gone far into the book.
Neither have I even mentioned the prologue which was utterly disgusting. I don't find it appetizing to read about a decomposing moose, even if it leads C.B. to make a foolish decision - BTW, here I am just guessing. Let me point out that I never shy away from gruesome events in history, but what is the point here in reading about how people behave so cruelly to one another? What does that teach me?
There is absolutely nothing exceptional about the writing; the author's ability to depict an emotion, a place or an event is just plain ordinary.
This received a Pulitzer. Would somebody who loves this book explain to me why I should continue reading. I just do not understand. SHOULD I continue? I need advice.
After 14 chapters (about half of the book):
So I continued; several said that Tick is a fabulous character. She plays a larger and larger role starting in Part Two. She cannot save this book for me. I find the humor not to my taste. I find the characters black or white - cardboard characters. It is simple to make two piles, the good ones and the bad ones. I cannot accept such characterization. People are complicated; they cannot be sorted in this manner. And the dialogs sound like those perfect for a popular weekly television series. Perfect sitcom dialogs.
In desperation I went and read spoiler reviews...... No, what is coming is not up my alley either. Enough is enough. I will be reading no more books by Richard Russo. This is my third and last try.
I listened to the audiobook narrated by Ron Mclarty. That was the only thing that was exceptional. Great narration. His intonation perfectly matched the lines. So if you want to read this book don't hesitate to choose the audio format and this narrator.
Peter Batchelor narrates my audiobook! There are at least ten or twelve characters that return over and over again. He narrates each of them with a different voice so you can hear who is speaking. However in places the recording isn't the best; here the words were difficult to decipher.
Dickens is disappointing AGAIN. I have recently tried Great Expectations and A Christmas Carol. I will give this a fair try, all through to the end, but I believe it will be my last Dickens.
Everyone gushes over Dickens so maybe an alternate view is good to hear occasionally too. I find it wordy, alternately cute or sentimental or downright drippy. The characters are simply not complex enough for my taste.
I can conclude that I liked this one better than the others I have read by Dickens. Why? Because by the end I had come to care for the characters. I knew who they were; I could guess how they would behave given a particular situation. Some I disliked immensely, with others I chuckled over their peculiarities and others I alternately ached with them and smiled with them. The variety of characters presented was wide; this was entertaining. I cannot deny that Dickens wove a story of a group of individuals that became a close knit group, and the reader comes to know all of them well. All are important for the story, and all are different.
You do see how life was for those of the lover classes in Victorian England. A struggle.
But the story is extremely predictable. When Agnes enters the story at the beginning of the book I knew immediately where she was going to end up at the end. And Uriah Heap! You know when he enters the scene what role he will play, not the specific details of course, but almost. He is so very slimy.
There is another serious problem with this book. David Copperfield is looking back and telling us of his life. So guess what, much of the action is told rather than shown. Isn't that a widely acknowledged no-no?!
If I had to pick one word to describe the book? It would be CUTE I think it reads like a fairy tale. You are alternately supposed to feel a wide gamut of emotions - anger, happiness, fear, satisfaction. And how must it end? Don't expect a story that will get you thinking.
By the book's end I was happy. So very cute. How can you not smile? Through much of it however I was alternately bored, wished there had been a better editor and was successfully predicting what would happen next. So I am afraid I can only give this two stars. It was OK. Sure, read it if you are in the mood for a cute story, a long cute story. I didn't waste my time. I know now clearly why I feel as I do about Dickens' writing.
This is partially autobiographical, but how accurate is the relationship with his wife?!
I definitely liked this book and it is definitely worth reading.
Its topic is the death of a loved one, seen particularly through the eyes of a young child. Monica, the author, speaks of her father's death when she was nine years old in 1963, the same year Kennedy was assassinated. How did that death impact her own life, her siblings', her mother's and her uncle’s? You follow first the days, then the seven months and finally the two years without Dad – the "Dad-less days". This is touching, but never maudlin. The author also makes you laugh.
I liked very much following this good, religious family of Catholics. Few books talk about GOOD, upright families with high morals. Definitely refreshing. That is not to say they were faultless. Some of the adults certainly pulled whoppers, but these were good if ordinary people.
This book will also take you back to "Memory Lane" - the 1960s, the death of Kennedy and life in a small, American town, in this case Mexico. Yes, this IS a small town in Maine near the border to Canada. I didn't realize how many in the area spoke and breathed French. This is the town of Oxford Paper, that shiny, smooth, glossy paper we all recognize from National Geographics. Do you remember the song Big Girls Don't Cry, the TV show Mr. Ed, the Talking Horse, the school game Red Rover, pedal-pushers and tootsie rolls and....it will all come back when you read this book. To at least some of us.
The author narrates her own book. She does it well. She delightfully sings the lyrics of those songs, the oldies we remember so well.
This book is true to life and serious and fun too. Pick it up. Read it.
So this was a Tolstoy...... Hmph, the story doesn't say much except to reiterate how difficult and painful death can be, both physically and emotionally. The story is way too short to establish empathy for Ivan Ilyich! He was a judge. A game of bridge was his favorite amusement. All his life he conformed to proper decorum, becoming with age aloof and irascible. What was the point of life - both he and the readers may ask?!
The narration by Walter Zimmerman was certainly not bad, but it didn't add anything.
Yes, a gem! Why I found it amazing and thus worth five stars is explained below in the partial review.
I will only add here a bit about the book's setting: Georgia, 1944-45. You see the world through the eyes of 12 year old Frankie, or F. Jasmine Addams. SHE, not I, will explain to you why she appropriated this name. Not only do you see the emotional turmoil of a preteen but you also get the racial tensions in the South and the tension created by the War. We know it is 1944 from the simple line that "Patton is driving the Germans out of France". One line and so much is said. No long discourses on history.
Do you remember when you were caught between being a child and an adult and belonging nowhere? Alone....and the world is a scary place.
The narration is fantastic; it is read slowly, with feeling, and it is easy to follow. Wonderful Southern dialect.
After part two of three OR after three fourths of a 6 hour audiobook:
Lend me your ear for a moment please. I consider myself pretty hard to please. For this reason I tend to prefer non-fiction because then I tell myself I will at least learn something if the writing disappoints, if the story fails. But the most stupendous books are those of fiction where the writers create a marvelous gem all from NOTHING. They create a tale from assorted words and how they string them together, their imagination and their ability to capture human emotions that we all share. So when I run into astoundingly beautiful writing, and by that I do not mean "pretty" but rather writing that speaks to us all, that has the ability to to pull us out of our own existence and allows us to share common experiences and emotions, now that is something else. THAT is what Carson McCullers does in this book. Fantastic writing.
Do you remember your preteens, when you didn't feel comfortable in your own skin, when the whole world changed over night and all was frightening? Physical changes and emotional changes that throw you off balance. Do you really remember that period in your life? Here it is again captured in writing.
Don't read this. Listen to it narrated by Susan Sarandon. Stunning performance.
Don't miss this audiobook.
Yep, I have listened to " The Heart is a Lonely Hunter". This is even better!
All readers must agree that the flipping back and forth between different time periods makes this book more confusing. I believe it must be said loudly and clearly that the current fascination with multiple threads and time shifts is only acceptable when they add something to the story, when employment of such improves the story. In this book they do not improve the story. Perhaps jumping from one scene to another can increase suspense, but must one also flip back and forth in time? In addition, more and more books are made for audios, and this is not helpful when you cannot flip back to see where you are. Finally, time switches unnecessarily lengthen the novel.
Secondly, be aware when you choose this book that the book is not only about WW2 but also a diamond that some of the characters, quite a few in fact, believe has magical powers. Those who possess the stone will not die, but people around that person will come to misfortune. This is all stated in one of the very first chapters; it is not a spoiler. This aspect of the book turns the story into a mystery novel. Where is the gem? Who has it? The result is that you have a heavy dose of fantasy woven into a book of historical fiction. I have trouble with both fantasy and mystery novels. Maybe you love them. (I would have preferred that the diamond was woven into the story as one of the objects stolen by the Nazis.)
Let's look at how the book portrays WW2. It is set primarily in Brittany, France, and Germany and a little bit in Russia and Vienna. Its primary focus is about what warfare does to people, not the leaders, but normal people. I liked that you saw into the heads and felt the emotions of both Germans and French. Some of the Germans are evil but you also come to understand how living in those times shaped you. To stand up against the Nazi regime was almost impossible. There are some who try. These events are gripping. You also get the feel of life in Brittany versus Paris. They are not the same. I enjoyed the feel of the air, the wind in my face and the salty tang on my lips in St. Malo. I do wonder to what extent my appreciation of Brittany as a place is more due to my own time there or the author's writing. Am I remembering my own experiences, or am I seeing it from the words of the author? I am unsure about this.
In any case, I was very disturbed by the blend of fantasy with gripping WW2 events.
The events of WW2 are those portrayed in every book. If you have read about WW2 in numerous other books of fiction or non-fiction you will not get much new. Rape by Russians felt like the author had to include this simply so it could be to be togged off his checklist. I do think the book moves the reader on an emotional level. You get terribly angry and shocked, and this is achieved through the author's writing, his excellent prose.
And this is what saves the book – its prose. The descriptions of things and places, the particular grip of a hand, movement of a body and what characters say. Very good writing. Beautiful writing. Sometimes you laugh, sometimes you feel that wind on your skin or the touch of a shell against your fingertips or smile at the oh so recognizable words of a child. Children often see far more than adults, but they also talk in a clear, simple manner. What they say is to the point - could that diamond be thrown away? Of course not. As remarked by one of the French children, "Who is going to chuck into the Seine a stone worth several Eiffel Towers?" Even if the gem has dangerous powers!
People love reading about kids and one of them here is blind. Who wouldn't be moved by such!
The narration by Zach Appelman didn't add much, but neither did it terribly detract from the story. I appreciated how he read some lines with a beat, a rhythm which matched the cadence of the author's words. Pauses were well placed. French pronunciation was lacking.
Oh my, once I got going I told you what I felt. I believe this book will be popular, and many will like it, but not me.
Just as the book description clarifies, through this book Hardy criticizes the three institutions - marriage, religion and education - during Victorian times. Although I agree with his criticism, he exaggerates; he finds example that go beyond a fair analysis. Some of the characters are good and some evil, as in all novels, but Hardy goes beyond this and throws in characters that are mentally instable. Their behavior cannot be seen as a just criticism of the inflexible morals, rules and beliefs. A better criticism would have been achieved through more stable characters.
I have nothing against depressing books, but this is excessively depressing and frustrating beyond words since the characters cannot make up their mind. Talk about vacillation! It was tiring to see how they make a decision and then changed their minds, not once, but over and over again. Yes, such rigid institutions can force people into craziness, but not to the extent portrayed here. These people would not even be happy in less restrictive times, and thus Hardy's message loses impact.
I listened to the audiobook narrated by Stephen Thorne. I was not pleased with the women's voices, and you could not tell who was speaking. The tone was disagreeable, but so were the characters.
I liked Jude, but felt such pity for him. It is hard to see a man so crushed by life, and his choice of women could not have been worse.
I might try another book by Hardy.
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