This is very good, but too deep for the audio format. I felt like I was drinking fine cognac from a fire hose - simply the wrong media for the content.
If you have read the book before, this might be a good way to revisit it. Otherwise I'd suggest buying the book instead. Still, the narration is very good and the content is wonderful, so I gave it a four.
This is an absolutely fascinating book and an amazing demonstration of how good it can be when world class research and top notch writing come together. Add in Grover Gardner, one of my favorite readers and you have a great, great story.
My only criticism is that there is far too much overlap between this book and the previous book in the series the Path to Power. Both are very worthy books on their own, but it felt like perhaps 20% of this book was directly copied from the Path to Power. Same stories, same wording. It seems as though Robert Caro literally copied and pasted big sections into the 2nd book. Still very worthwhile, but large sections become tedious in this regard.
Now I am rather afraid to listen to the first volume of Master of the Senate in case Caro continues to plagiarize himself! (But I will anyway)
This is a fascinating story of a complex and conflicted man. Does an excellent job of describing Johnson's early life without resorting to pop psychology. Johnson is a much more interesting character than I had previously suspected and this series fills a hole in my understanding of the man and his times.
My only criticism is that there is far too much overlap between this book and the next in the series Means of Ascent. Both are very worthy books on their own, but it felt like perhaps 20% of Means of Ascent is directly copied from this book. Same stories, same wording. It seems as though Robert Caro literally copied and pasted big sections into the 2nd book. Still very worthwhile, but the 2nd book becomes tedious in this regard. I am saving a lower rating for the 2nd book because of this.
Grover Gardner is one of my all time favorite readers. This book is no exception.
Depressed cynics who enjoy wallowing in a dark and hopeless morass.
I am not even sure to which genre this belongs, but no - Pillars of the Earth (POTE) was a great story.
John Lee is an excellent performer and I recommend him without hesitation.
I enjoyed Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follet's preceding work) but the sequel was a real disappointment. It is inferior in many ways, but what I found most jarring is that there is not a single sincere person of faith represented. This is in stark contrast to the earlier work which showed more balance. Yes, there are hypocrites in POTE, but they were balanced out by others' striving for sincere lives of piety and faith. WWE has no such realistic balance and is therefore riddled with unrealistic and unnecessary cynicism.
Dark, evil characters add spice to a tale, but just as a dish made with only spices would be wholly unpalatable, this book fails to provide any nourishment or sustenance.
Don't get me wrong, I don't expect people of faith (or faith of any kind) to be represented in every book I read or listen to, but this book is expressly focused on religious themes and monastic life. Having not a single character that is genuinely attempting to follow church/biblical teaching is kind of like writing a book about Wall Street, yet not including a single character that actually believes in capitalism. Ultimately it is depressing and unrealistic.
I am very impressed with the narrator/reader. As others have commented, he manages to maintain a separate voice for dozens of characters. With a story this long and complex, it is a huge help for keeping track of who's who.
At first I found it odd that he tends to use British accents for the various characters, but as the story unfolds, it made perfect sense (in an odd way). For a English speaking audience, who can tell the difference between the accent of a Russian aristocrat or peasant? But, we can instantly understand the class of British character as soon as they start to speak. Add a slight cockney accent and we immediately know "this is a peasant character speaking"
Again, I thought it odd at first too, but came to love it. Very, very well done.
The story is good, though famously long. I have always loved reading, but I personally doubt I would have finished this if it were a book. This is a case of a story being infinitely better in audio, because of the superb skills of the reader.
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