With all the fuss about 50 shades I thought it would be good to go back to the most contentious novel of its time - and one I had never read. Lawrence uses the sex to illustrate two worlds clashing: the sophisticated, well-informed and utterly sterile world of the landed gentry in post WWI England and the earthy, honest, horny world of the staff working for them. It is a predictable plot, but the characterisation is what sets it apart. DHL creates vivid characters with real concerns, vital passions and sometimes hopeless lives. He writes with intimacy and this has led to the huge reaction from critics and sensors. You'd get rougher language on the back of a Sunday newspaper but you'd have none of the social commentary and the carefully dissected social structure. Go on and read it - if you can wrestle it away from your granny. The narration is absolutely fantastic - it is sometimes difficult to imagine the speaker is a woman, her modulation is so dynamic. Extra Brownie points to Veronika Hyks - much of the enjoyment of the novel is due to her acting ability.
I am astonished that this book was published, utterly gob smacked that it won the Booker. It is badly written, has a plot as thin as a pancake, a "twist" that is hilariously predictable and a feeling of boredom that pervades both the narration of the protagonist and the mind of the reader. There are many books where there is a slight plot, but there is usually great writing that compensates for this. The Blind Assassin has neither.
I read this book. This book is about a kid and his ma. They live in a room. The room is small. The story is told by the kid. The sentences are short. The story is predictable – that is a big word for a five-year-old kid. They are trapped in the room. The kid does not know about the outside. Then one day he does. And then the rest of the book is about the outside. And then the kid discovers things like trees, and dogs, and showers, and nurses and then I simply could not control my bowels any more and stopped reading this pile of steaming ... I am not sure what happens in the second half of the book – maybe there are angels, Martians, heroes. I don’t know and I don’t care to find out. The writing became just too tedious to tolerate. Imagine reading an entire book written by a five-year-old. A wonderful experiment, maybe, but that is like having to eat the cooking experiments of a five year old – everyday, for every meal, for a long time. Sooner or later MacDonalds is going to win. The only positive thing is the narrator – the child is simply brilliant.
I don't think anyone gets closer to Dickens than Peake when it comes to characters. There is no one who can compare with the way he draws the weird and wonderful world of Gormenghast. His plot is a little thin, mostly, and he is incapable of increasing his pace - even when the tensions and action reaches "fever pitch" the events are captured in slow motion. This is not irritating, but rather amusing and it leaves one more time to wallow in the glorious, graphic, intricate and incomparable writing. This should be required reading for any aspirant author. I have also picked up a new favourite saying, thanks to Dr Prune-Squallor when he sees his rather desperate and sad sister toffed up for a social occasion "by all that convulsive ..." . Looking forward to the last in the series.
The narrator is superb as usual. On a technical level the recording leaves much to be desired. There are several instances where a passage is repeated instead of being edited out - at one point it was about 3 minutes. There are also long silences. This points to a lack of attention to detail but not to the overall enjoyment of the masterpiece.
As a Bryson fan I have thoroughly enjoyed his books and was looking forward to his insightful and irreverent treatment of this noble subject. He lived up to expectations with a rather concise account of the life, times and work of Shakespeare with generous dollops of sarcasm, humour and derision thrown in. It would have been a splendid piece of work had Bryson settled for a professional narrator (as in Short History of Nearly Everything). Instead Bryson's clipped, clumsy and poorly enunciated voice is intrusive and jarring. What a pity. I hope the publishers consider another edition with a trained actor as narrator.
With all the field work and research available to him Diamond stands at the brink of what could be the most fascinating and significant popular science book of the era. He brings together so many disciplines to show macro trends, chaos theory, the power of germs in fashioning human history. It could all havee been absolutely mind changing. Sadly Diamond is not Bill Bryson. He has a scientific mind and a scientific compulsion for being comprehensive. Where Bryson can spin a story out of a proton, Diamond gets mired in a repetitive catalogue of insights applied meticulously yet tediously to every possible place, time and civilisation. I would really love someone else to re-tell this - someone who has the ability to convert the linear into the prosaic. I gave up after about 50%.
MacIntyre has been criticised for rehashing a story previously told by others (both here and in Agent ZigZag) and while this is technically true I doubt anyone has written these most intriguing stories with as much style as MacIntyre. His writing flits from reportage to crime novel to historical document to romance in the space of a single page. The narrator, John Lee is superb, maintaining a good pace which enhances the tension of the story. Definitely worth buying, but you'll struggle to turn it off - make sure you have lots of vacation time.
MacIntyre has been criticized for rehashing a story previously told by others (both here and in Operation Mincemeat) and while this is technically true I doubt anyone has written these most intriguing stories with as much style as MacIntyre. His writing flits from reportage to crime novel to historical document to romance in the space of a single page. The narrator, John Lee is superb, maintaining a good pace which enhances the tension of the story. Definitely worth buying, but you'll struggle to turn it off - make sure you have lots of vacation time.
Peter Carey is known as one of the best current literary authors. In this book he applies himself to the tumultuous events which took place in France after the first revolution and echoes it with the post revolutionary events in America. An interesting contract, so too the characters: a nobleman (who is rather blunt) and his servant (who is rather sharp). Through various trials and tribulations the pair of them reveal their true worth, character and opinions. There are many twists in this tale and I think it is perfectly summarised in the final chapter where the nobleman declares his doubt that anything truly artistic could flourish in a democracy.
It is interesting and well written, but not profound; which is what I would have expected from Carey. The narrators are brilliant (there is one each for the servant and the nobleman). It is a lengthy listen and worth it if you have exhausted all Carey's other treasures.
This is one of those books that need not really have a plot. The writing is so superb, so rich, even in translation, that the concept of a storyline is almost superfluous. That said one has to admit that the story is less than riveting, however the intellectual richness of the writing requires little else to support it. This is one of the classics, brilliantly narrated and a true masterpiece. I won't spoil it for you by giving a summary of the content, just read it and lose yourself in the (now sadly uncommon) luxury of superb writing.
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