This is an outstanding title in the "Opera Explained" series, one free from a lot of extraneous detail and unneccessary introduction. We get right into the opera almost at once. And what an opera it is, containing as it does a political message, a paean to the joys of married love, and a score so demanding one wonders at the endurance of its performers. While the plot appears at first glance to be somewhat commonplace, it nonetheless shows the triumph of good over evil, justice over tyrrany, and hope over despair.
Furtwängler praised the opera, saying its political message and music "will always represent an appeal to conscience." But perhaps just as much, it is a monument to its composer's own statement: "Strength is the morality of the man who stands out from the rest, and it is mine."
Even if you're not a great fan of opera, if you love Beethoven, you're likely to enjoy this brief look at the incredible work he swore would win him "a martyr's crown" for his trouble. It is nothing less than a wonder to behold.
A self-described "plain dealer proud of the honesty of her transactions," protagonist Rachel brings us into the world of Oscar and Dorrie and their extended family. The couple is newly wealthy from an undisclosed windfall from the football pools. Rachel is, to their minds, best friends with their daughter Heather. Unfortunately, it isn't clear that either Rachel or Heather understands the precise nature of their relationship. This "friendship" is the true focus of the book and explores Brookner's obsession with misunderstandings and misalliances, as well as the nature of feminine interactions.
Much of the beginning is told in straightforward exposition without much dialogue, which does become a bit wearing after a time. But things pick up when Heather becomes engaged. Rachel has her doubts about Michael, Heather's Peter Pan of a fiancé, and more doubts still about his over-protective father.
Brookner's well-known gifts are evident throughout: close, telling observations which reveal deep character; a deft, painterly touch with description; the creation of an uneasy expectation about what may or may not come to pass.
Still, having read "A Family Romance" the same week, I found this a little less satisfying. There seemed to be less at stake here, and less intimacy in the viewpoint. But time spent with Brookner is never wasted, and I still enjoyed this story very much.
The beautiful Ms. Lunghi's narration is well-suited to the story. As Rachel, she delivers a slightly disdainful view of the circumstances with swift, impeccable enunciation.
Having listened to all three volumes of the complete stories, I am once again amazed by the talents of WSM. Were I an aspiring young writer, I would study his work as we figure painters study the draftsmanship of Degas and Klimt. He maintains intense focus, clear motivation, and never wastes a word as he captures character, dialogue, and situation. Times have changed, to be sure, but excellent technique endures, which is reason enough to study the masters.
The short story is a merciless, demanding mistress: one wrong move and there will be no end of trouble. When an author is a master of this medium, it shows his talents to best effect.
Some listeners have groused about Charlton Griffin's not being British. I don't mind that, though some of his pronunciations can be a little eccentric. His rich, world-weary voice is perfectly suited to the character of WSM's observations here. I highly recommend this series to students of human nature, good writing, and days gone by. Enjoy.
Jane Manning is a characteristic Brookner protagonist: rather shy, intelligent, sensitive, and by design and circumstance, rather alone in the world. Her aunt, Dolly, is a great contrast to her: maddeningly self-absorbed, designing, intriguing, and glamorous. Her many faults do not keep her niece from caring very much what happens to her.
In a culture of oversharing, where the facile observation is mistaken for wit, I find myself looking to writers like Brookner more often. Her depth of psychological wisdom and beautiful voice shine all the brighter by contrast.
Of course, she is not for everyone. But she may be for you.
If you are someone who values her privacy and independence, if you require "a ruminative space," as Brookner puts it, you may find solace here. Perhaps you learned your hardest lessons early in life and designed your life accordingly, determined to live on your own terms as many Brookner heroines do. If so, you will know what it is to be alone within the crowd, the observer at the party, knowing what it is to remain "the other" even if you are on stage. She speaks to those of us who know these truths, and we listen to her voice in awe.
During the book sale, I treated myself to all 13 of these wonderful productions and I've enjoyed them so much I can't tell you. This one may be my favorite, though.
Ambrose Bierce's masterful time-twisting in "The Death of Halpin Frayser" is unforgettable. Arthur Conan Doyle's story of the mummy is excellent.
And what more can be said for "The Fall of the House of Usher?" Every time I listen to Poe, I am stunned by his musical, poetical ear for language. (Besides, I've often thought I'd end up like Roderick Usher should I go mad, still painting and surrounded by stringed instruments!)
Poe is the master who stands above all others in imagination, originality, depth, and intelligence. He always leaves more to the imagination than he explains, and leaves the reader wanting more.
While I could do with a little less Lovecraft, I'd still recommend the series to anyone with a taste for the dark, Gothic, and supernatural. Bradley's readings are outstanding, and worth listening to again and again.
The title is taken from a piece by John Ruskin, referring to certain painters: “If a general and characteristic name were needed for modern landscape art, none better could be invented than the service of clouds."
This book reminded me of an Anita Brookner novel more than anything else, and that isn't a bad thing. Of slow pace, with beautiful literary writing, and good characterization, it is a novel in which not a lot happens. If you like a book with a lot of action and external conflict which moves the plot forward, this won't be a good selection for you.
I found it heartbreaking, sad, intriguing, and highly original. It's a book that plays to Susan Hill's strengths. Well done, and recommended to the reader who enjoys this literary style of novel.
This is a story so dark and heartbreaking that I find it hard to write this review. The setting is extraordinary, the characters entirely believable, and the writing simply excellent throughout. Unfortunately, I felt like my heart had been ripped out at the end.
I wasn't bullied nor was I a bully, but this story arc was unbearably tragic. If you were bullied, it would be triggering.
I didn't read reviews ahead of time --- I often do not because of spoilers --- but I hoped that if the story were about bullying, the tables would be turned and the bully would get his. Sadly, that was not the case.
But Susan Hill told a powerful, excellent story full of truth and emotion without ever going over the top. I can't fault her because it didn't end the way I would have liked.
If you're afraid of dolls, this book will frighten the life out of you. I'm not, but I still found it chilling and atmospheric. It's a short feature, but well worth it for the quality of writing, suspenseful timing, and of course, the originality of the story and its characters. Highly recommended.
This is Susan Hill at the top of her form. I really enjoyed this book all the way to the finish.
It is a beautifully written, evocative book, with all the deft touches Hill fans expect.
There are moments of Dickensian brilliance: perfect names, unusual characters, and yes, a convenient coincidence or two. At other times, the piece becomes Kafkaesque: is our protagonist on a senseless quest, inexorably led on from one place to another only to find his ruin?
The search for the elusive Vane culminates in an ending which leaves more questions unanswered than resolved. I love that in an otherworldly tale like this. I recommend it to all who love a chilling ghost story, but save it for this fall, when a chill is in the air...
Obviously, I'm in the minority here! Reading the many positive reviews, I feel I must be missing something.
As a tremendous Susan Hill fan, I was stunned at what a disappointment this book was. I expected a past master of the ghost story to be better suited to mystery writing. Mystery readers have a lot of expectations and I didn't feel Hill met many of them.
The book began well, but really bogged down in the middle, and the ending was utterly ridiculous. Some characters were well-drawn, while others seemed like cardboard cutouts pushed out on the stage of a toy theatre to "people the scene." The dialogue of characters was not well-differentiated. There was a lot of scene-painting and navel-gazing that could have been excised. And I think there was too much "sock puppetry" as the author put her own views into the mouths of one character after another, lending a preachy tone. (Polemics are for blogs and nonfiction).
When I purchased this, I also picked up "The Pure In Heart," but I am requesting a return of it after being so disappointed in this book. I hope the series improved, and well done if it did, but I'll leave it to others to find out. If you read this, I hope you'll find something wonderful in it I simply missed. Best of luck.
I find it hard to believe that Barbara Vine (Ruth Rendell) wrote this tedious, long-winded novel. Louche, vulgar, and pathetic are not adjectives I would ever think to apply to her work, but this story is all three. Contrasting this with THE MINOTAUR and many other excellent titles, this one feels as if it were outsourced to an underling. I found the story predictable and the narrators hard on the nerves. The book ends with every little detail explained, every loose end tied up, and some living all too happily ever after. Who reads this author for that kind of nonsense? If you haven't read her before, don't start here. And if you have, skip this title as it is likely to disappoint.
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