This book was exquisitely and expertly narrated by the author, the highly marvellous Dawn French (whose early comedy sketch with Jennifer Saunders of a disordered mother and daughter eventually led to Absolutely Fabulous).
The novel is told in the voices of four members of the Battle family -- 50 year old mom having a midlife crisis; still-rivers-run-deep dad; 16 year old son with an Oscar Wilde fixation; 18 year old daughter Dora always about to hyperventilate in absolute, outright, oh-my-actual-god indignation. The story came together powerfully well in the last chapters and the ending was highly satisfying.
However, I did find the first half of the book slow. Far too much reflection and exposition by the characters, not enough story. Except for Dora. Dawn French's characterization is so rich and funny that even Dora's most self-absorbed, outraged uptalk is a treat. I could listen to Dora talk about nothing all day long. In fact, I kind of miss her now.
I haven't read a horror novel for maybe 20 years (am more a literary fiction type now), but I chose this on a whim, and because I like Kate Mulgrew's voice. I did not regret my choice! Joe Hill's writing is vivid and strong; he can create truly frightening images and wickedly funny lines, often in the same scene, and the narration is rich and nuanced -- a truly great performance.
Make sure you listen all the way to the very end! There's a key bit of information in the production credits that you won't want to miss, and then Joe Hill talks about writing and his rather famous family of writers.
Loved everything about this book: the story, the characters, the impeccable narration. It's a great book if you like novels about children whose first (and perhaps greatest) accomplishment is to survive their weird, messed up families. (You will want to run the Fang parents over in your car, but you will also be cheering for Child A and Child B, Annie and Buster, the whole way through.) It`s also a great book about art and what it means to create something. Usually I hate reading descriptions of art in books, but the Fangs' horrible performance pieces were an awful delight.
The title alone made me want to read this book, and I was not disappointed. Fiction (and alcohol) ruin a lot of things in this book about Darst's coming-of-age, but her particular brand of humour, her truthfulness, and ultimately her compassion for her parents elevate and illuminate even the saddest parts of the story. A couple of times, the pacing of the narrative seemed off, but Darst is such good company, I didn't really mind. Very well narrated by the author. I was sorry when it ended. Write more, Jeanne!
I'm not saying the print version wouldn't be funny, but Showalter's delivery is exquisite. I really did laugh out loud in public, and when I wasn't laughing, I was walking around smiling, snorting, and hooting. A clever, literate, and oh so funny look at everything from publishing to being dumped to restless leg syndrome.
I was reluctant to purchase this book (I hate books with animals as characters) but these stories are pure Sedaris -- sharp, funny, sly. And the narration is a delight! Every single character is brought brilliantly, perfectly to life,and even though they are owls and gerbils and snakes and squirrels, I promise you they are all people you know!
I approached this novel with treipdation, afraid that the horror of Jack and Ma's situation would be too much to bear. But the precociousness of Jack's voice, and his wonder at the mysteries and beauties of his 11' by 11' world, dispelled my worries.
This is not a novel about abduction and sexual abuse and imprisonment, although these factors create Jack and Ma's situation; it is a novel about the bond between a mother and child, the power of that attachment. Although the story is told by Jack, you can feel the love and intelligence and strength of Ma shining through at all times.
The first half is taut and suspenseful; every detail is both mundane and extraordinary, telling you something about how Jack and Ma have survived (they run "track" for exercise, play the screaming game in case a passerby hears them). The second half is not as compelling but just as important.
I especially loved the voices of Jack and his Ma. Not since The Story of Edgar Sawtelle have I felt so absorbed in an audio book, so reluctant to turn off the iPod and interact with the world outside.
This was a joy to listen to -- consistently funny, vividly rendered, thoughtful but never self-important, and overall just completely entertaining (and I never even liked Duran Duran!). The laid-back narrator is a perfect match for the self-deprecating humour of the book.
I thought this memoir would be...snarkier. It's low in snark, self-pity and self-congratulations, high in clarity, warmth, and intelligence. It provides sharp social commentary and fantastic insight into the profession of comedy. I have a whole new appreciation of Sarah Silverman's cleverness and relevance.
Also: I was never, not even for one second, bored. There were no self-indulgent narrative tangents or preciously clever diatribes. This is very good, very disciplined writing.
Impeccably narrated by the author.
Sometimes brilliantly spit-out-your-drink funny and fresh, sometimes self-indulgent and boring. Always well narrated, although not all of the audio add-ons worked for me (list of movie character ideas set to music and sung! why? WHY?). Audio chapter divisions made it difficult to skip parts that were making me mental and arrive safely at the start of a fresh new chapter. (Yeah, yeah, I know: I should have bought the print version.)
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