I love Dave Eggars, but this book disappointed me. The main character is a sad, unfeeling middle-aged guy, who seems to relate to people inwardly but can't make connections. His work is essentially empty and meaningless, his personal and financial life is in a shambles, and he seems to fail at just about everything. So he finds himself, appropriately enough, in the middle of a desert, where nothing really ever happens. He gets momentarily exhilarated by things like strong liquor and guns, and has brief sensations of being alive when he looks at the sea or a woman's breasts, but it never goes anywhere from there. His only real lifeline seems to be to his daughter, whom he has let down. So all in all, the book is a downer. The narrator is very good, although he reads almost every sentence with the same inflection.
I finished this book about a week ago, but I feel like I'm still living in it. What was most interesting to me was the true-to-life nature of the characters' responses to the situation and its ever-changing nature. Each is affected differently by Wil Trainer's condition -- and each deals with it in his or her own way, some more bravely than others. Then there is the growth of the two main characters -- Louisa and Wil -- and the deep bond that they form that inevitably must give way to their own private needs. Beautifully written and performed -- ultimately a very positive story.
If you're looking for something a cut above a romance novel that will keep you mildly entertained, fine. But if you want a book with substance, polished prose, original characters, and an interesting conclusion, forget it. This is like comfort food, but not very good comfort food, and, not to give away the ending, but everything is wrapped up in too neat a package. There's no message here at all. Just a story about an older woman who gets a bit lost and then finds a new, seemingly perfect life.
I started listening to this book based on the great reviews. At first, I was somewhat disappointed. The writing seemed a bit cliched, and Janis Ian's voice was a bit cloying. But I got curious to find out more about how her career developed, so I kept listening. By the time I finished Part 1, I was completely hooked and rooting her on. I always liked her music, but never knew anything about what happened to her after her initial early success. What a phenomenal life! Or, to be more accurate, lives (plural). The way she kept coming back from hardship, never letting go of her dreams or losing her sense of irony and humor, always believing in her talent, and even forgiving those who tried to do her in offers lessons for everyone. By the end of the book, I felt that I knew her and wished that I really did. I also went back and listened to her music again with new appreciation.
The most enthralling thing about this book is the narration by Keith Szarabajka, which is superb. And the Arthur Opp character is one of the most appealing ever. I could so easily envision him lumbering around in his chic old brownstone, checking his mailbox, peering out the window, hauling mounds of food out of his well-stocked refrigerator. The voice of the teenage boy, the other main character, disappointed me a little, as I thought he sounded too old and mature (the only reason I gave the performance four instead of five stars). But the story is mesmerizing -- profoundly sad at times but ultimately satisfying. I loved the ending, which I had to listen to twice. At first it sounded a bit forlorn, but then I realized it was all about human connections and the truth that comes from that. A beautiful book.
This book immediately sweeps you back in time to an era of emerging freedoms and stubborn resistance. The main character, Cora, evolves at her own pace, which sometimes lags behind and sometimes eclipses that of the world around her. The surprising twists and resolutions make this a book about growth, tolerance, and the meaning of a full life. I enjoyed it tremendously but would have preferred an ending that was not so tidy and complete. Overall, a great listen.
I can't relate to the reviewers who were so enraptured with this book. Although it held my attention through to the end, I never felt any sympathy for the characters, and the storyline seemed implausible. I did very much enjoy the narration, however. Ballerini is one the best. Overall, an easy read, but not compelling.
Listening to this book will make you envy the Americans who made London their home during World War II. It brings to life the constant awareness of danger, the live-for-now attitude, the sense of common purpose, the adrenaline rush of being part in a great cause, and most of all the leading characters of that era. Most interesting was Ambassador John Gilbert Winant, about whom I knew next to nothing before listening to this book. He seemed to be a man who could have been a truly great American president; yet he has been a historical footnote next to Churchill, Roosevelt, and the other personalities focused on in the book -- Edward R. Murrow and Averell Harriman. Citizens of London restores Winant to his rightful place. I found the narration somewhat dull, but the content more than made up for it.
If you want to listen to a book that's full of passion and despair, then this will fit the bill. The most interesting aspect is the main character's evolution from a naiive, lonely housewife into a hardened and courageous woman with a strong sense of morality as well as irony. The narrator is perfect, but her evocation of dismal daily life in wartime Berlin made me want to turn to something more lighthearted and escapist for my next selection.
I love reading books about New York, my home town, especially those set in another era, but this one almost put me to sleep. I can't help wondering whether the author just compiled a list of restaurants, landmarks, and fashion trends from 1930s New York and the devised a plot to loosely string them together. There was virtually no character development, but none of the characters had much substance or potential to begin with. The word that comes to mind to describe this novel is "thin." It was also kind of show-offy and superficial.
Make the characters more compelling. Create a real story with a clear conflict instead of just describing a series of boring escapades around town.
Her performance matched the insipid nature of the book. In that sense, she did a good job.
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