I have read Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies in their print editions and have now listened to them. I highly recommend doing both, and don't think it would matter whether you listened or read first. Both Simon Slater (Wolf Hall narrator) and Simon Vance (Bodies) are excellent, and their readings add much to what is already sublime writing. I almost hesitate to say that Hilary Mantel writes in a poetical manner, because it might turn some people off, but she does, with a style that is so immediate and accessible that you feel as though you are part of Thomas Cromwell. The history is fascinating and leaves you wanting more. Thankfully, she is working on the third volume of the trilogy. Even though I'm very motivated to read more on this period and these people, I think I'll wait until after I've read the third volume. I want to hear it from Hilary first!
A ways into this book, I wasn't sure I was going to keep listening. The writing is straight-forward, terse, without much poetry to it, and I didn't know if I was up to 20+ hours of it. I'm very glad I persisted. It takes a while to get to know the characters, but once you do, they and their situation are compelling. The writing is effective and affecting, and the story is heartbreaking and all too true. If it doesn't grab you right off, keep going; it's well worth it.
Bronson Pinchot does a magnificent job of voicing the characters and bringing them alive. His command of accents is excellent. I hope he will do more "serious" literature; he seems to do a lot of fairly lightweight material. His narration of this book and of The Child Thief clearly show he is up to more.
I'm not a David Mitchell fan; I got through Thousand Autumns, but gave up on Cloud Atlas. I might give Cloud Atlas another try. I tried this book because of Ursula K. LeGuin's review in The Guardian; Ursula's opinion carries a lot of weight with me. I found The Bone Clocks to be seriously uneven. The first three sections & characters I found compelling, interesting and well narrated. The fourth section was difficult because it seemed to go on for a LONG time and the character was just so unpleasant. This might have been an easier read than listen; audiobooks come to life to such a degree that sometimes it's great and sometimes it's a downside. I didn't want to spend any more time with Crispin Hershey . . . but I got through it. I felt section 5 was by far the weakest part of the book. It's where the supernatural elements are strongest, and I just didn't believe it. I'm happy to go along with any number of fantastic constructs and worlds, but I need them to be well constructed and prepared for. These were not; it seemed like Mitchell just came up with a bunch of cool-sounding words and threw them at us. If the psychic weaponry and war make sense to him, that's fine, but it needs to make sense to me as well, and it really, really didn't. The narrator for section 5 didn't really work for me, and constantly mispronounced "Poughkeepsie." A small thing, I know, but it really got on my nerves after the first few times.
I enjoyed the final section of the book.
Overall I feel like Mitchell came up with some really interesting characters and didn't do much of interest with them. He can certainly write, no question about that. But the book didn't move me, and the supernatural aspect of the story was so weak that I'm left with no idea why he wrote the book at all.
This was Dickens' last finished novel, and he was at the height of his powers. The plot deals with the death of an heir to a fortune, and the effects of this fortune being settled upon a working-class couple. Along the way we have a couple of love stories, greed, jealousy, mistaken identity and murder. The threads of the plot are woven together beautifully and the characters are very much alive. I didn't want the book to end.
Simon Vance, as usual, does a superb job with the narration. His reading of the characters brings them to marvelous life. There is plenty of humor in the book, and Vance presents it with exactly the right touch of dryness. And his reading of the darker parts of the novel is extremely effective and affecting. I think this is one of his best narrations.
On to the next Dickens/Vance audiobook! Perhaps "Little Dorrit."
I read this book several years back, and am so glad I decided to listen to it as well. Today we have rich "athletes" who pay to be shepherded up and down Everest. In 1914 they had the real thing. This is a beautifully-written and narrated book that, despite knowing the outcome and having read it before, kept me on the edge of my seat. Most of the men on the expedition kept diaries which survived the journey, so there is a lot of detail and personal reporting; we get to know many of the men personally.
Simon Prebble's narration is impeccable: the men are distinctly voiced, and his delivery has just the right amount of drama.
I love the format, mixing the text with music. I would have been happy with twice or three times as much of each, and would have preferred more depth. I found the narration over the top; the emotion, the cultured accents, were overdone. At times it felt like a Monty Python sketch. But if you're looking for the basics of Dvorak's life and a taste of his music, it's a good choice.
I’m finding it hard to put into words how fine and beautiful this novel is. Anthony Doerr has created a stunning book, full of exquisite writing and beautifully-drawn characters. The plot is intricately woven, with several strands that are developed independently, then gradually wind around each other. The book moves forward and backwards in time, always focused on and progressing steadily toward the climax. It is one of the best novels I’ve read about World War II, and possibly the most moving.
The author writes so comprehensively, with such delicacy and finesse; he creates such vivid circumstances and settings that he doesn’t need to tell us how his characters feel. He lays the framework: we know the characters, we experience their lives with them, and therefore we know how they feel. It is deeply affecting.
This, like much of the fiction written about World War II, focuses on the suffering and misery of the Jewish people, France, Russia, etc., but here a major theme is also what the Nazis did to themselves and to the German people. They systematically made themselves and their people into monsters, and this is shown in heartbreaking detail. As difficult as that is, the author balances it with humanity, courage, and love. It's not a depressing book, not in the least, but it's not an easy feel-good read; there is a great deal of complexity here.
The narration is beautifully done by Zach Appelman, who seems to be quite new to audiobooks. His delivery has just the right amount of feeling. He doesn’t over-emote or over-dramatize the material. He mispronounces a few words, but other than that, the narration is flawless.
It’s a wonderful, engaging, utterly absorbing, highly moving listen. I’ll be thinking about this one for a long time.
I got this book out of the library and was so involved in reading it that I bought the audiobook so I could listen as well. This is a fascinating account of the Dreyfus Affair at the turn of the (previous) century in France. We see everything from the viewpoint of Georges Picquart, an army officer who discovered evidence that Dreyfus was innocent and spent years trying to convince his superiors to do something about it. The book is a great spy thriller, doubly effective because it is true. The writing is excellent, the narration as well, and it's difficult to stop listening/reading. In addition to the spy-thriller aspect, the book provides an in-depth look at the political and social condition of France following its defeat by Germany in 1870, and at its Antisemitism. It's a very absorbing book.
I was not familiar with the narrator, David Rintoul. He sounds so much like Simon Vance that I was convinced this was one of Vance's aliases, but upon googling Rintoul, it appears that he is a separate person. He does a fabulous job with the book.
I tried reading one of Garrison Keillor's early novels and it didn't hold my interest. Hearing him read this one was lovely; no surprise that I find his work stronger in audio, since he is first and foremost a storyteller. It is like listening to a very long, in-depth News From Lake Wobegon, and it held my interest all the way through. It has everything his monologues do; humor, gentle satire, familiar small-town characters and former townspeople who got out, but it's all developed to a much greater degree, and it works. I'll listen to another one sometime!
Howard Norman hits a number of tones in this book: despite the tragedy of the overall premise (the narrator's wife has been murdered, he has sold their story to a film director, and his wife continues to appear to him), the beginning is almost lighthearted, with a good deal of humor. As the book progresses, Norman retains some of the humor but the tragedy encroaches, and the end is almost heartbreaking. Woven through it all is the character of their marriage and of his wife. It's a very affecting portrait of grief.
Bronson Pinchot does a lovely job with the narration. I loved his narration of The Child Thief (never would have imagined it was the same person).
I might add that this book is priced lower than many, and is a great bargain!
Oliver Twist is the second novel by Dickens. He was a writer with a huge social conscience, and has a great deal to say with this book. It is as though Dickens has written his heart directly onto the pages. While I find some of it melodramatic and overwritten, the minutely-drawn characters, plot, writing and feeling are more than worth a few wordy passages. It's a deeply affecting story.
Simon Vance, as usual, inhabits the characters and simply becomes the book. He has a tough line to walk here; the book is an intense plea from the heart, and the narrator could easily overdo it. Vance voices not only the characters but Dickens himself, and his tone is perfect. Slight quibble: I didn't like his voicing of Rose, but that's the only negative I can come up with. It's a marvelous performance of a wonderful book.
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