Let me start by saying that I am a Kingsolver fan. I'm not bothered by her liberal leanings and tendency to tackle social issues - in fact, it is part of what I love about her writing. Kingsolver is able to articulate some of the most important issues of our day in ways that are multifaceted. Furthermore, she explores them through characters we come to care about, that give the issues relevancy to lives, not just abstract theoretical value.
So, does this book hammer home the need to pay attention to and try to do something to address and ameliorate the effects of climate change? Yes. But it is done in a way that calls up deep societal divides and differences regarding what that means - the cultural territories staked out by various sides - with empathy for the passion and urgencies of each faction.
More importantly, it is a good story with compelling characters that pushes the reader/listener to reflect on her/his own position in the cultural ecology.
I love listening to Kingsolver read her own work. I think her voice is perfect for the main character - although I think the few characters that required unusual accents stretched her skills a bit. It was not enough of a problem to distract me from the story.
If you read the synopsis, it is hard to imagine how engaging this story is. But it is. The premise is odd, but results is a fascinating interplay among characters you don't expect to find in the same place. Beautifully written with language to savor. The performance is exceptional - with the narrator giving life to many characters with a wide variety of nationalities, dialects and personalities.
This has become one of my favorite audio books, and I will be looking for more by this author and this narrator, for certain.
I "read" this for my book group--- would not have thought to read it otherwise-- and that's what good book groups are good for! This was a fascinating story, nicely rendered. I did actually read part of it, and found I was very glad for the audio version, as the story is written in the Australian dialect of its time period. Kind of hard to read, visually. But easy to hear. The characters and story are engaging... FYI, this is historical fiction. So it's based on real people and situations, and thoroughly researched, but is still fiction.
I felt like I learned a lot and enjoyed the ride.
First, let me say that I read this book once before listening to it. It is a magnificent work, elegant in its concepts and construction. I had already read Mitchell's "The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet" and that propelled me to pick up Cloud Atlas. I agree with other reviewers that the first section is the hardest to get through, but it is well worth the effort to do so (as I tell everyone I recommend this book to). Everything hinges on the centerpiece section (the 6th story).
Each story is written in its own distinctive voice and style. The connections between the stories are myriad and sometimes subtle. The first half of the book can feel like everything is going wrong with everyone and the characters you care about are not likely to survive - the second half of the book is about redemption, as piece by piece, things are stitched together.
I think the casting and reading of the different stories for audio was done brilliantly. Like other reviewers, I especially appreciate the performance of the centerpiece story which has the most unusual and compelling language. This has become one of my all time favorites-- both the book and the audiobook.
If you're someone already fascinated with Patti Smith, Robert Mapplethorpe, and/or the late 60's-early 70's counterculture that they inhabited, then you may respond differently to this book.
However, as someone only somewhat interested/familiar with these elements before listening, this book failed to draw me in. The story was not well paced, nor continuous enough for me, and abundant minute details made for tedious listening. It totally makes sense that Patti Smith would read this, her own memoir, but I found her reading voice monotonous, and occasionally annoying as she would mess up her own phrasing or pronunciation here and there.
I wanted to know more about her, her life, her experiences and how she made sense of them. The passages where this happened were engaging, but not consistent. And she sometimes had a turn of phrase or paragraph that was breathtaking. But waiting for those just didn't justify the overall experience for me.
Admittedly, I'm not someone who often listens to memoirs or biography... leaning towards the narrative- I love good stories. So this fell short for me.
I had read this book a few years ago when it was first published. My anticipation of the release of the movie version of this story led me to re-visit it via audiobook. I have NO idea how they will do justice to this story as a movie, given the depth of the characters, richness of the language, and the fact that the story is told via three distinct (and very internal) viewpoints. That said, I think that audiobook was a brilliant rendition. The actors are very skilled. My only criticism was that Oscar's voice as rendered by an adult took a little getting used to... as he is quite young in the story. Once used to it, it didn't detract, and I think the actor did a very fine job.
This book is not just about 911 and its impact on a child. This book is about the multigenerational impact of trauma... what it means to survive major disasters, what it means to lose beloveds to those disasters, how people are transformed and go on, with all the brokenness and resilience that can and does result. There are parts of this story that are unbearably sad... and also moments of shimmering transcendence, wonderful humor, and humanness in all its imperfection. This is a story of tremendous depth, brilliantly written and expertly performed.
This is a beautiful story of the transformative power of love, including self love. It is also very deeply a story about racism and sexism (both external and internalized)... the damage done and the ways people find to rise above or carry on anyway. The prose is stirring, the story and characters compelling, and the whole thing is elegantly read by Ms. Ruby Dee. I haven't looked at the print on the page, but the characters use a lot of dialect, and I was grateful to have an experienced voice bringing these to life. There are a lot of characters and it takes formidable acting talent to keep them distinct (and she does).
This is one of those books I always thought I should have read... and when I saw it on audiobook, I was grateful to have this alternate medium. I'm so glad I took the time to ear-read this. It deepened my understanding of some very important issues, of people, and of a particular American context.
My first Gaiman experience was Stardust -- which led me to read everything he's written and listen to as much of it as I could get my hands on. Gaiman is a superb reader, and I love hearing authors reading their own work... who better than they to know what the voices should sound like? As Gaiman's stories go, this one is smallish in scope... totally manageable, and very entertaining.
The Book Thief is a stunningly written book, and a very engaging story. The reader is talented, no doubt, and does an excellent job as the narrator voice, and with the adult male voices in the story. But the main character is a young girl, and the narrator's cartoonish rendition of her voice (and that of other girls and some of the women in the story) was distracting and occasionally even disrespectful to my ears. That's my only real criticism... but it was prevalent enough to notice.
I like all of Kingsolver's writing -- I'd probably read the phone book twice if she wrote it -- but this is my favorite. The story lines are woven together as an elegant braid, or maybe a celtic knot... so beautifully constructed and tidy, with no loose ends. The characters are real and deep, imperfect and funny. Kingsolver herself is a marvelous reader who narrates with perfect understanding of her characters and how they were meant to speak. I have listened to this book several times on cassette, and when I recently joined Audible, I put this on my list right away- I know I will have reason to listen again and again, spend time with these characters as old friends and let Kingsolver's language and voice wash over me.
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