Tassie reminds me of a kid who, after going strong for hours straight, comes in for dinner. When Dad asks, "What did you do today?" the reply is "Nothing." So disinterested in her life or the world, I hoped Tassie would drop out of the story and put both of us out of our misery. Maybe that's how you tell the tale of a post-9/11 20-year old, but it just didn't catch me the way it apparently appealed to others.
Much of the story was just not believable for me. Tassie becomes a nanny. She is described as very good at child care, but how can someone who is so matter-of-fact, unemotional and detached ever do so much as say "GOO!" to a small child?
While she's babysitting a group of children, Tassie can somehow hear long stretches of conversation 2 floors below. Really? This means (a) the children would have to be completely still AND (b) Tassie would have to be ignoring them - yet she gets kudos for doing such a good job.
Tassie's employer owns a fine restaurant. The author's discussion suggests she's maybe eaten a few nice meals, but I don't think she has any idea, really, about food, cooking, menus, or running a restaurant. She tries too hard to come up with odd flavor and component combinations.
The story about Sarah and Edward leaving their 4-year old on the Mass Turnpike, going to jail, changing their names and moving to the midwest. C'mon, gimme a break!
I'm sure it's possible for a university student such as Tassie to wind up enrolled in that liberal arts-gone-wild combo of courses she's taking, but her college experience sounds more like the 70s than present day. (Or maybe that's just my hope as university faculty?)
Clearly, some people really enjoyed this, so I encourage others to listen to the sample. If you like the narration, it will give you a good idea about how you'll respond to the book. If you aren't immediately captured, don't waste your time.
First, let me admit a real, but unintended, mistake on my part. I listened to this immediately after True Grit, thinking they would be good companions. True Grit is such a great listen that I now know it would be difficult for anything that follows to meet the standard it sets. Thus, my reaction to this book may be as much about when I listened to it as it is about the book itself.
This woman lived a very interesting life, and accomplished and survived a lot. I think her character is very much captured in the book -- but that same person, who takes everything straight on, just gets it done, no emotion, doesn't provide enough "story" for us. There are no details. There's no suspense. There's no joy or sadness. Things just happen. Not enough rain? I decided we should build a dam. So we got a bulldozer and built a dam. Done. Enough said. What's amazing is that she has so many of these stories that they can be linked together to give us an entire book.
Jeannette Walls' narration doesn't help. I wasn't bothered as much by her accent, or lack thereof, as I was by her overall reading style. She is a "down" reader (who reads without diphthongs, I might add). Inflection at the end of every phrase and every sentence is down. This makes the narration very matter-of-fact, with no anticipation at all, even in the structure of a single sentence. So everything is flat, a statement rather than a story. Combine that with a book that has no emotion and it's a rather dull experience.
This was an easy listen and a very interesting story. There were 2 possibilities for approaching this story, one from the perspective of a young mother who has been kidnapped, held hostage, raped. The other option is the perspective of a 5 year old who has never known anything other than an 11 x 11 room, who only knows the rest of the world as something you see on TV, whose mother does the best she can under the circumstances to educate him, keep him occupied, and protect him from the realities of their incarceration. I note the objections to the narration, and that's a personal thing (either you like the voice or you don't), but the fact that Jack is full of questions makes so much sense given the context. Please make sure you listen to the sample so you'll know how you'll react to this 5 year old's voice for 10 hours!
The only part of the story that had me befuddled -- and nearly ruined things for me -- was Ma's attempted suicide. Why would someone who believes her son is her whole world, who has done everything in his first five years to protect him, why would Ma suddenly attempt suicide? It just didn't make sense to me. Murder-suicide maybe (or just try to take Jack's life?) but not suicide. Not much was going on in the story so possibly it seemed like the suicide attempt was just a way to spice things up. The "slowness" others complain about, well, I think that's all part of the context. How do you transition back to civilization after years and years alone in a room? It takes time.
If you listen to this book as a character study you'll like it a lot. If you want something with a high energy, fast moving plot, find another book.
I did not realize I was downloading the abridged version! OK, so that's my bad, and my review is probably going to reflect problems with the editing rather than problems with the book.
If you've seen the movie "Murder by Death," the various super sleuths who are invited to the mystery dinner all take a stab at solving the murder at the end. Truman Capote's character, Lionel Twain, chides them for creating characters, citing clues that no one else ever had, and inventing situations that enable them to create motives or identify offenders. Well, that's the way I felt about this book. All of a sudden Maisie would "know" something and I had no idea where she got the clue, or how she knew it was a clue, etc. At first I thought maybe I wasn't paying attention, but now I realize I may have missed something you get out of the complete unabridged version.
Because authors sometimes write in a style that is similar to the way they talk/speak, I can imagine this trait would also make them the best choices to read their own books. Not this time.
I don't know if she's just too enamored of her work, or if she usually reads to 6-year olds, but Sarah Rose's narration is frustratingly bad. She seems determined to keep the reader in a constant state of WOW!, and the material doesn't lend itself to that sort of narration. She gives way too many words way too much emphasis, and most of the time it feels as though she's emphasizing the wrong words. Rose reads with some very strange phrasing -- are there really that many commas in the original work and are they really in those places? Her inflection goes up when it should go down and vice versa. The substance of the book is quite interesting, but the narration really gets in the way. I find myself thinking more about how I would read a particular sentence than I do about this history of tea.
While I generally enjoy Boyle's writing and Gardner is a very good reader, this book just doesn't work for me, for several reasons. The book is organized in reverse order, so we start with Wright's last (third) wife Olgivanna, then a section on his second wife Miriam and then a third section about his mistress Mamah, while Wright was married to his first wife Kitty. By the time I finished the section on Olgivanna, I knew as much as I wanted to about Miriam and couldn't finish the second section, so I skipped to section 3. What was the rationale for organizing the book this way? I think it detracts, rather than adds, to the story.
I have an issue with the narrator, who is supposedly one of Wright's apprentices. I realize this is a work of fiction, but Wright and Olgivanna were married in 1927 or 1928 and the apprenticeship program did not begin until 1932. Thus there's some contradiction between actual and fictional events, but I can handle that. What's more problematic is that so many events in the book occurred before the narrator arrived on the scene. His "involvement" in the later sections of the book is minimal, as you might expect, which then begs the question: why use this narrator at all?
If you enjoy listening to Boyle, you'll probably like this -- I really enjoyed the first section of the book. Then it got tedious, and overall, just a little too long for me (even skipping most of section 2).
I was a huge fan of the previous books in the series, so when I saw the opportunity to learn the backstory through this book, I jumped on it.
I completely agree with the other reviewer who suggested you read the prequel AFTER you've read the other books. Actually, I would recommend you read the others and just skip this one. I did not find it nearly as interesting as the others, particularly Nightengale.
Lian Hearn seems on a mission to say, "Oh, I forgot to tell you, they're Christian!" Over and over and over. Why? I didn't need it. It became a real distraction for me and overall, ruined my reading.
I don't recommend the book. Yes, I learned some things. But I got a lot more that I didn't want and wasn't interested in.
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