I was most fascinated by the historic flashbacks, such when he writes about Genghis Khan, the development of the Russian aristocracy and the Decemberists. The travel writing is not so interesting, although Frazier certainly has a gift for storytelling. I haven't finished the book and might not ever because, so far (perhaps 2/3 in) not much has happened. I think for the most part, he relies too much on the reader having a strong idea of what Siberia is like. He tends to play against such assumptions, but since I had so little understanding of the difference between Siberia and Western Russia, much of the impact fell flat for me. I hope that the hardcopy book contains maps and photographs. The endless listing of places doesn't work particularly well in an audiobook format and, while he describes locales fabulously, there are plenty of you-had-to-be-there moments which slowed down the pace.
I actually bought this book because I was so impressed with Robin Miles' reading of The Warmth of Other Suns. I had heard good things about Adichie, so it seemed like a good fit. Miles continues to impress. The only drawback of the audiobook is that the book has a strange structure - midway through it has an odd chronological jump that perhaps would make more sense in the print version.
As the characters were being introduced, I kept trying to anticipate their fatal flaws, the thing about them that would lead them to wrong others or some other tragedy. But Adichie masterfully both evokes and evades such stock character tricks. In the end, this is a book without villains (which are my favorite kind). It's a book not about minor cruelties, but about a world gone mad and the way people come together to endure atrocities.
As mentioned above, I love Robin Miles and would like to listen to more of her work. She handles changes in gender, class and regional accent well, making each character distinctly memorable. In the other book, The Warmth of Other Suns, she does marvelous things with American accents. In this book, she does Nigerian and British, as well as speaking occasional Igbo.
This story could not be told in film format. It would end up trite and moralistic, which is precisely the opposite of what makes Adichie's writing so good.
Eugenides writes with astounding compassion. He allows us to sympathize with all of his characters, no matter how devastating they are to one another. In writing about three intellectuals and grounding his text in a college campus, he has depicted the passions which so often motivate academics without falling into the common traps of the academic novel (horny, over-entitled, middle-aged, white men trying to sleep with younger women and feeling tragic and angsty about it).
Despite his compassion, however, in this novel, Eugenedes fails to make me care about any of these obsessively self-indulgent characters. Maybe this is why he so often write about late adolescents, because the character flaws of that age so powerfully appeal to him. Unfortunately, the book left we wondering why I should care about any of them.
The link between architecture and homicidal insanity is unconvincing. Both the story of the World's Fair and the story of America's first serial killer are fascinating, but they don't match-up together as well as Larson would have us believe. The story necessitate some fascinating moments, but those moments are often told poorly. Larson clearly wants to build tension, leave his readers longing, and deal with the most grotesque moments with restraint and respect. He ends up instead sounding like he simply didn't complete his research, although I have no doubt he provide every available fact. I suspect that a touch of creative license would have made the book far more coherent and compelling. Larson also would have been better off if he had not picked up quite so many loose threads. While many of the side stories are interesting, they're so brief, and occur so sparingly throughout the main two plots, that they feel like incomplete distractions. Which is a shame, really. I would have loved to learn more about the worker's strike.
Absolutely. The book capture a fascinating moment in history quite vividly, and a few of the figures described even manage to wrangle a personality out of Larson.
This would make an exquisite visual text. There is so much imagery and essential architecture that I wish they'd make a mini-series out of it. Without a doubt, Cilian Murphy would make an excellent Holmes and wouldn't it be fun to have Stephen Rea play the detective who doggedly pursues him? As for the architects, I didn't get much of feel for any of them, nor did I for any of the female characters.
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