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!
This book/audiobook proves that in fact a very good book can be destroyed by a terrible narrator. Annie Wauters does the narration. The ups and downs of voice inflection should tell you when a question is being posed or when a sentence is over. Wauter’s intonation was consistently wrong. She stops in the middle of a sentence, and it sounds like the sentence is over. Surprise, surprise! It isn’t! She continues with the last half of the sentence. Time and time again I was confused. Such reading makes it almost impossible to follow what is being said. Her speed is sometimes too rapid and other times too slow. Words are mumbled. No, not all words, but too many. And for the majority of the reading her tone is f-l-a-t. She drones on. I never expected that I would have such trouble understanding text simply due to bad narration. When I started the audiobook I was forewarned that the narration was bad, but I wanted to read this book so I figured I could manage. Yes, I managed and some parts are better than others, but honestly she destroyed the book for me. Just following the lines was such a challenge that all reading enjoyment totally evaporated. Do NOT choose the audiobook.
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!
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