This looked very much like the kind of book I like, but I was not thrilled by it. I was first worried when I found the first section stiff and boring...but I don't love discussions of classical music, so I thought maybe that's why I was not listening intently. The middle part got more interesting, but any insights into the narrator and his dilemmas were either incomplete hints, or too subtle for me to follow. There is a lot of potentially interesting stuff to come from exploring the relationships between the Nigerian/German narrator and various other expatriates, and African Americans in NYC, but this stuff was more academic than integrated into a story. Overall this novel felt like a lot of connective tissue had been removed for the sake of a leaner book, and that it might have been better if it hadn't been so whittled down. I was also misled by the idea that NYC was a major part of the story, which it is not--at least not the way it is in Colum McCann's novel Let the Great World Spin. (It may be that reading the latter while listening to this really put Cole at a disadvantage.)
I read a lot of reviews before I take on a book by an unfamiliar author who is supposedly very popular somewhere else (like Australia) -- so I am surprised that none of the many reviews I read mentioned how larded this book is with juvenile, uninteresting sex (for the male lead), or perverted sexually-oriented abuse (for/by the female lead). Boring smut, descriptions of penises, and sexual stereotyping (Asians, Catholics, etc) completely undermine a potentially interesting WWII novel that starts out intriguingly. Although to be honest, a lot of the novel's plot that is not sexual consists of unbelievable lucky breaks, discoveries of cash, and field promotions. Can't believe I have actually made it to within three hours of the end (only because it is gardening season and I have hours of listening time).
Only could finish listening because Hope Davis' distinctive narration made this seem maybe a little droll, and I had a lot of weeding to do. The whole thing could have been a farce, except that Ann Patchett is not a funny writer and never has been. Unlike her other novels, there is nothing convincing or compelling about this story or its characters. The medical details are unbelievable, and the jungle and its inhabitants seem vaguely sketched and stereotyped. There are some thoughtful critical reviews of this novel lurking out there--I recommend you find them before you use a credit on this. (Meanwhile read Cutting for Stone, a much better novel with doctors and exotic locales, which also has weaknesses, but is at least original and compelling.)
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