This isn't just the story of the 10th Legion. It's also the story of Julius Caesar, Pompey, Marc Antony, Rome's civil wars, and so much more. It's told in an interesting manner, never dry or boring despite its richness of proper sourcing and crediting. I wish more history was told so entertainingly and accurately.
This is a good mystery novel, with a lot of gritty realism. It's suspenseful too. The narrator of the story is a 13-year-old girl, very well voiced by the book's voice-actor reader. The girl is Missy, and she and her brother Billie go through a lot that kids should never have to go through. It's a sign of the writer's talent that she manages to show how things looks through the kids' eyes, which is different than than through adults eyes. That's also a sign of the excellence of the voice-actor narration, that she can bring off this kids' world so convincingly. I haven't heard anything from Popi Ardisonne before, but I'm going to be looking for a lot more from her. I'd like to hear her voice-act an adult novel. She's got a wonderful, melodious voice.
The climax of the book.
When the mother brings home new "uncles", we adults know what's going on. The kids don't have this perspective. The effect of poverty is different on the kids too, than what we would expect it to be looking through adult eyes. What the writer does is hard to do, and she does it well. Be warned though if you're thinking of giving this book to your kids to listen to. There's too much of a danger-to-children element for it to appropriate for younger listeners.
Douglas MacArthur was one of the greatest and most fascinating war leaders America every produced, I think the only General to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. But as this book shows, MacArthur also excelled in his peacetime achievements. Almost no one expected that the bushido culture of Japan, steeped in militarism, could be turned around. Yet MacArthur did it. Morris's book also tells a lot about economics and politics, relating how MacArthur set the nation on a course to prosperity and democracy.
The book is excellently narrated by Charles Constant. He has done other WWII histories, and has become a world-class vocal chronicler. I enjoy how he paces his story, and how his voice inflections can be grim, enthusiastic, momentous -- whatever is called for by the material. He's an extremely versatile narrator. Constant is becoming my first choice for voice acting of serious works.
There are historical errors in Morris's book. My major quibble is that he doesn't take MacArthur to task for his treatment of General Yamashita, who was convicted of war crimes and executed. MacArthur pushed hard for Yamashita's execution. The verdict was appealed to him, and he refused to reduce it, even though it was clearly established that Yamashita was not responsible for the Phillipine atrocities. It was his subordinates who committed the Manila and other atrocities, in direct contravention of Yamashita's orders. For a very good recounting of this incident, and the flaw in MacArthur's character, read James Webb's "The Emperor's General".
Overall, this book is interesting and informative. And the narration is excellent.
I was ready to feel cheated when I learned, in the introduction, that Wm Manchester didn't write this book. He assembled all the data. Paul Reid wrote the book after Manchester's death. So the "written by" Wm Manchester line is deceptive. But it's impossible to feel cheated. Reid is an excellent historian in his own right. He takes an extremely complex period of history, and a complex array of characters, and weaves them into a gripping and understandable web. Don't assume this book is only about Winston Churchill. He's the main character, and the main reason I picked up the book. But the book is also about the politics of World War II, and the economics, and the military campaigns, and the major personalities. Not just of Churchill, not just of the English leaders, but of the key players in Britain, America, Russia, and even Germany and Japan.
Barbara Tuchman's "Guns of August". The same world-spanning grasp of history, and a similar narrative ability to make complex history understandable. Also, "First Blood: the Story of Fort Sumter" by Swanberg. A similar all-encompassing, multi-faceted history. Much shorter than the other two books though.
Don't be ridiculous. This is an enormous and multi-dimensional book, that will give you a satisfying two months of listening.
Beware of the introduction. It's not by narrator Clive Chafer, who is a very good narrator. It's by the writer, Paul Reid. Reid is an excellent writer, as I said, but he gets a D- as a narrator. That's not his thing. Fortunately, after the introduction, Clive Chafer comes on, and the narrating becomes professional and a pleasure to listen to.Craig.
This is a serious maritime history, which is hard to find these days. It is excellently narrated by Charles Constant, who has the voice for it, and the intuitive feel for this type of material. Some of the sentences in the book are long and complex. Mr Constant knows where to pause verbally to break them into understandable segments. And he knows how to give emphasis without over-dramatizing. I'm a dedicated history reader (and listener). I wish some of my other favorite history audiotapes had been narrated by this man. Too often, the books are narrated by people who don't have a feel for the material, and don't how to pace it verbally. This, on the other hand, is a first-rate performance.
Graf Spee by Dudley Pope. Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman. Along with this book, they are serious histories, related in a way that is respectful of the material.
Captain Ernst Lindemann. A master seaman, who took what care he could for his men under ultimately terrible circumstances.
If it wasn't so predictable. And if the characters were not so cartoonish. LeCarre's first few books were wonderful, complex, and unpredictable. His last few run like this: The good guys will end badly. They will end badly after making utterly stupid mistakes that the protagonists in his first few novels would have considered incompetent. In "A Delicate Truth" the good guys, all of them, achieve nothing toward their moral and praiseworthy goal, because they act like rookies, despite their years of experience and knowledge of tradecraft.
Something not by John LeCarre.
The last half of the novel.
I used to love John LeCarre. That was when his characters, both good and evil, behaved intelligently. His last 4 novels involve characters who behave like rank amateurs. In "A Delicate Truth", the main protagonist doesn't see things coming, which a 3rd grade reader would see coming a mile away. There is never any surprise anymore in his novels. The good guys are moral. They are self-defeating. They will end up very badly. The instrument of their bad ends will be telegraphed long before the end of the novel, and reader will wonder how the protagonist could not have seen it coming, when everyone else could. Sad ending for John LeCarre. He used to be able to write fiction. Now he writes cartoons.
This writer has potential, but he needs a good editor. He tends to overwrite. Massively. Every scene and every sentence. There are many, many characters to keep track of. Some writers can handle this well, such as the American southern writers. This writers should be exhumed, brought back to life, and forced to read Faulkner, Herman Wouk, and Pat Conroy.
Conroy is an amazing writer, and this is his best novel. It's dense and rich and funny and tragic in places. He's a southern writer in the classic tradition: his novels are peopled by legions of characters, and none of them are cardboard. There are at least a dozen major characters here (!), and all are fully-fleshed-out, complex, human, with unique voice and character traits that make them come alive. The way they interact with one another makes this a relentlessly interesting and satisfying story. So what's it about? Geez. It's about Tom Wingo and his brilliant but psychotic sister Savanah, and good-ole-boy-cum-philosopher Luke. Plus their mom. And their dad. And their grandparents. And... well, read the damn thing. You'll see. It's absolutely engrossing. He's a writer of compassion and wit and laugh-out-loud humor. I personally liked the earlier Wolfram Kandinsky narration best, but Conroy likes this one by Muller best; and Muller, as always, is exceptional, bested by no one in the narration universe except Wolfram Kandinsky.
It's pretty amazing, when you think of it, that O'Brian can make the Napoleonic war at sea so dull. Not so in his other books. I'm a fan of Patrick O'Brian, and his other books are wonderful. In Letter of Marque, though, nothing happens for the first quarter of the book. Then you get to the second quarter, where nothing happens also. In the third quarter, Jack Aubrey sets sail for a distant location where he hopes to find an enemy ship. Sail, sail, sail. Aubrey and Maturin talk a lot. The crew eat a lot of flying fish. The ship gets painted. There's high drama when one of the crew comes down with an impacted wisdom tooth. Then more sailing, sailing, sailing. No engagements. No battles. Finally in the last quarter of the book, they meet the ship they were sailing to meet. And take her. You were expecting a rousing sea battle? So was I . But no. They take her by surprise. There is a boarding party skirmish, but this is dispensed with in less than two minutes of narration. Really. That's it for the action. Back to the impacted wisdom tooth and more boredom. It's hard to believe this is the same Patrick O'Brian who wrote the stirring, emotionally involving other books in this series. I'd regret giving away the punchline in this review, except that there is no punchline. Nothing happens. The book is a great soporific though.
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