Member Since 2001
Black Swan Green is beautifully read and immediately captures the listener's attention by the skill of the writing as well. Told from the point of view of a thirteen year old boy we witness not only his coming of age story, but also the picture of a particular historical moment in Great Britain. The young boy's insight grows not only in relation to his own immediate world but also in terms of political consciousness and his relationship to his parents and family. The story was raw as it demonstrates the awful cruelty of the young, honestly told in the way few novels achieve, without bitterness or rancor...it's just the way things are in this world and learning to deal with that reality is the act of growth that transforms the narrator. The reader is so perfect for this book I can't imagine it being read better.
This story focuses on 'netsuke', tiny Japanese carvings which were fashionable in Paris during La Belle Epoque. The narrative wanders among the lives of the family who owned a particular collection of netsuke through Paris, Vienna and Tokyo with a few stops in other cities for background. Because the family was one of the wealthy Jewish banking families of the late 19th century and early 20th century, the story of the 'netsuke' illuminates some of the significant political, economic and cultural trends in which the family was involved,. In particular the role of the first Effrusi owner of the 'bibelots' in the high culture of Paris at the turn of the century is examined in letters and novels of the period. The story then travels to the transformation of Vienna from the capital of a splendid empire to the forefront of National Socialism, and makes a stop in the postwar period in Japan. The role of the objects we own and value is examined from multiple planes, much like through different sides of a prism.
I found the book very satisfying but found the performance frustrating at times. It was well read in terms of speed but the tone was at times overly dramatic. Also, the accent of the narrator was very pleasing and upper class (which matched the narrative) but he gets a bit carried away with the sound of his own voice and this sometimes distracted from the story. I have actually purchased a copy of the book because I would just like to read the story without the dramatic intonation. And despite sounding like he has an ear for languages, the narrator misprounounces a LOT of the foreign words, including 'netsuke'. If you listen to the podcast interview that follows the book, the pronunciation by the author and the interviewer makes it clear that it is mispronounced throughout the book. That was my only complaint with this recording. HIghly recommended book otherwise, especially for anyone interested in turn of the century culture and art.
I bought this book quite a while ago but was moved to listen by a great customer review. Colin Firth, one of my favorite actors is truly an outstanding reader. He made this book a real listening experience. I can't say enough about his excellent expression and ability to bring the narrator's character and his emotions to life. This is a difficult book, it is full of strong emotions and demanding questions and it could easily be misread. I was drawn into the book immediately and captured entirely by the narration. This is a terrific example of a good book enhanced even further by a great reading. The themes of love and hate, death and faith are so weighty yet so well served by such a thoughtful performance.
I really liked the first two essays read by the author and felt the book was read poorly by the reader that followed. This was not the case with Franzen's other books of essays which included essays read both by the author and a reader but where the combination was not so mismatched.
The second reader of FARTHER AWAY does not have a voice suited for a literary text. His voice sounds like Rod Serling or some cowboy story narrator, not like an author of serious reflective essays about literature. He sounds like the Marlboro Man. He reads too fast and without knowledge, including how to pronounce the names of other authors correctly. His words can be understood but the pace is so 'off' one essay sometimes ends and a new one is begun without him even pausing for a breath. You just suddenly realize the topic has changed.
That said, I enjoyed the essays themselves enough to purchase a hard copy of the book so that I could read it at my own pace and reread things that needed my own reflection. But I would not have needed to do that if the second reader had been more appropriately chosen.
This was a pleasure to hear, such an intelligent book. George Guidall's narration profits from the fact that he seems very comfortable and familiar with the text and its meaning as well as a generally pleasant voice.
I love Philip Roth's novels best of all American fiction, and this effort is a touching though short examination of the struggle with our common fate - to be one day full of life and loving life and the next day to die.
This particular struggle to understand his unavoidable fate concerns one man, very much from New Jersey, whose funeral opens the novella. His life and his work are seen through the prism of his relationships to those who attend his funeral. But the book seems (as so many of Roth's books do) as a personal cri de coeur, a struggle to understand illness in a man whose older brother has never been ill and to understand why he is so alone after so much love and passion in the first six decades of his life.
What I love so much about Roth's writing is the depth of his quest to understand how to live via an incredibly rational intelligence and a great feel for the absurd anchored in a time and American place. Not every book is perfect, but they are all better than most. Roth could only have written in America, not anywhere else in the world - his novels are those of immigrants and their succeeding generations and very anchored in the places and time in which he has lived. Perhaps that is what the Swedes say they don't like in Philip Roth's work - I recently read a comment that Americans don't get Nobel prizes because they are too 'narrow'.....but that is what I love about Roth's novels, how they illuminate what is unique about this time and place in America.
His later novels touch me at a level few authors can reach because they ask the most fundamental questions about life and love and fate while addressing our connection to time and place with an affection and an attention to detail that is unique. In 'American Pastoral' his discussion of Newark and the glove industry are like a paean to the artistry and craft of that time. In 'Everymen' he gives the same treatment to the jewelry trade in Elizabeth, New Jersey. He is able to represent the beauties of the world as it was when he grew up without suggesting that the past was better than the present. He pays tribute to the virtues of the past without worshiping it as better than today. He gives a sense for the nature of generations as they recede from the generations of immigrants who came here.
Roth writes of the landscape of his life with such detail and love, it always makes me emotional to talk about why I love his books so much.
I so much enjoyed THE BEAK OF THE FINCH, Jonathan Weiner's book on the studies done on the Galapagos Islands of Darwin's finches that I did not hesitate to try this examination of a brother's struggle to find a cure for Amytrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or ALS also commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease. It is a subject of particular interest to me as my own mother died of ALS when she was only 52. The story examines not only the tragedy of neuro degenerative diseases, but the ethical struggles that accompany this brother's search for funding and a cure for his sibling's illness. There is also running through the book Weiner's own mother's discovery of and death from a neuro-degenerative disease.
The book was well narrated and held my interest, but didn't have the same impact of Weiner's first book, perhaps because the work in the book is not as successful or heroic as the Beak of the Finch. That said I did find the story worthwhile. particularly from the perspective of the ethical dilemmas presented and I do think it would be of interest even to those without a personal connection to these diseases. I would recommend the book to non-fiction readers who find the progress (and sometimes the setbacks) of medical science of interest as it is very well written and the reader does an excellent job.
I already knew that Laura Hillenbrand was an excellent non-fiction writer, having so much enjoyed "Seabiscuit" many years ago. However, I hadn't heard an Edward Herrmann recording in several years and I will definitely be looking to see what else he has recently recorded. The narration was excellent, easy to follow, pleasant to hear and easy to understand. Really, I don't think you can ask for more from a narrator than what Hermann delivers in this audio. Without any funny accents or disturbing vocalizations it was very clear who was speaking at all times and the tone was always appropriate to the action. What I liked best about the reading was how little I actually thought about the narrator until I was almost finished with the book when I realized how excellent a narrator has to be to disappear into a story!
Hillenbrand achieves amazing storytelling for a non-fiction writer. From the opening of the book she grabs you and keeps a tight hold on you in a way that is very rare. I actually ended up listening to the audio with every free moment I had for two or three days. I went out to get lunch at work, bought some soup, paid for it, walked back to work and had to go back to the deli to retrieve my lunch because I didn't notice for four blocks that I had nothing in my hands and only my ipod in my pocket! And I was glad for the extra time of the walk back....
This is not a long book and the narration by the author is strong enough to pass muster with a listener who usually prefers professional narrators. The book conveys a moment in time when the economy is doing badly and people's lives and things are being held together tenously by strained relationships. It is a somewhat depressing book weighted down by disillustion and disappointment, much of which seems constructed to feel unavoidable. The characters are interesting and well portrayed, but though the book is satisfactory from a literary perspective, very well written and tied together neatly, it leaves an unsatisfied malaise that results from an ending with no return to any sort of harmonious state. You leave without any feeling of hope.
HIghly recommend this for anyone who likes talking about books. I bought this book on sale because I really do like to know how people choose to read the books they read and what they think about them. However, I hated the title so much I hesitated for a long time because it sounded so morbid. Also, I thought it sounded like the author was marketing his book on the basis of his mother's cancer. In fact the book is a beautiful tribute to his mother and the discussions are exactly the kinds of things I like to know about other readers and what they read. But the title was quite a put-off.
I also wasn't wild about the narration because the narrator's voice did not seem to suit either of the main characters, Will Schwalbe or his mother, although his pace and pronunciation were very clear and would otherwise have been fine. He just sounded like a professional narrator rather than someone emotionally involved in either the books he read or the relationship with his mother. Also the narrator used a vocalization for a woman's voice to signal the mother's words that was unpleasant and priggish. I admit it's difficult to portray a 75 year old woman and her son in the same voice, but I think if a vocalization had to be used it could have been done in a less irritating manner.
That said, I had no trouble listening to the entire book which discusses many books I have read or planned to read, and some books I will try because I enjoyed the discussion of them in this book. The discussions were exceptionally interesting and on target and even the mother's illness which originally made me hesitant about reading this book ultimately gave the book meaning. However the title still seems like something written by a marketing person. But this is a very good book I highly recommend to enthusiastic readers.
Still highly recommended book for anyone who enjoys discussing books.
This is a book I have known well for many years, one of my favorites, a collection of food essays by Laurie Colwin. Therefore the quality of the narration was very important to me. The good news is that the narrator really did a great job of translating Laurie Colwin's wit and elegance of language. The bad news is that the recording is very badly edited and at least six or seven times there are odd words inserted or strange splices that obviously do not occur in the book. If you are like me, this will bother you a little bit, but you will get over it as you wallow in the pleasure of such a wonderfully written and narrated audiobook.
Better known as the author of short stories and several novels, Laurie Colwin also developed quite a following among an earlier generation of people who like to cook and like to eat - I think it was before the word 'foodie' was coined. These essays were collected in 1988 and many were already several years old at the time, so they are not up to date with food channels on TV and famous chefs. They are nostalgic and very redolent of Colwin's childhood memories many of which will are associated with reading British children's books, the most familiar nursery books of that era.
Tragically, Laurie Colwin died in 1992 at a relatively young 48. Therefore her fans have a finite body of work to read and re-read. These essays are written less about food preparation and more about the role of food in uniting and delighting people and giving comfort and love. They are so amazingly well written and thus call back to be read again and again. Only a few of Laurie Colwin's stories are available recorded on audio. Which is why the appearance of this audiobook should make Laurie Colwin fans celebrate. This recording is a real gift, made better by the fact that the narration was so good. Delicious!
This book came highly recommended not only by hundreds of Audible readers but by my sister and a friend whose opinion I value. My experience was very different.
I actually stopped reading about two hours short of the end, after completing Parts One and Two. I suspected after the first eight hours that the book was not going to get better, but so much of the beginning of the story was in a mysterious land and an unfamiliar environment that I was willing to keep on going to discover more about Ethiopia and more about the inner life of a hospital in the third world though I was becoming impatient with the poor literary quality of the story.
Had the book ended after the main character left Ethiopia I might still have thought overall it was a pretty decent story despite some rough edges. But once the main character comes to American the flaws in the narrative and in the characters became unbearable. This was especially true of the 'momentus meeting moments' when the main character encounters people from his past. This book took itself too seriously and made every encounter between major characters sound like it should be announced by melodramatic organ music.
The story goes on and on and on. Nothing is ever held back or just suggested. Everything is explained in excruciating detail, even when totally unnecessary, which is a LOT of the time. There are about five stories running through the book, the story of modern Ethiopia, the story of the adoptive parents, the stories of each of the servants, the story of identical twins and love stories and side characters that don't add anything to meaning of the story. The story of the Eritrean separatists. What's wrong with the American medical system and Medicare.
Not that any of these stories weren't somewhat interesting - but they overloaded this novel with way too much baggage to carry on such a slim structure.
And the main characters in the second half deteriorated into people whose major motivations were spite and cruelty. By the end I couldn't hear anymore, what had started out peopled by characters with decency and warmth had given way to people who supposedly were skilled surgeons but lived and interacted according to only infantile and troubled motives and only the whores had good and generous hearts. The female characters in the second half of the book are caricatures of women.
The narrator's progress was much like that of the book, started out really well, but went downhill badly in the second half of the book. His reading just got too pompous to bear although his diction is clear and I would eagerly listen to another narration by his pleasant voice.
I NEVER leave a book with only two hours to go, but this time I just couldn't waste any more of my precious reading time.
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