Reader Caroline Lee has a young girl's voice, so unsuited to the 98-year-old narrator of this novel that the dissonance detracts from the entire listening experience. The story itself includes all the well-loved, well-used elements of melodrama, such as the decaying great house, upstairs-downstairs, mysteries of birth (obvious from the start and why it takes the character so long to figure out, I have no idea), loves lost in World War I, crass industrialists, unhappy marriages and doomed affairs, and so on. What's not to love in all that? Unfortunately, there's very little tension to the sweep of these petty events because the story moves at glacial pace. If I cried at the end of this love story, it would be with relief that it was finally over.
This is a popular science book that expertly combines research with anecdote. I thought I wouldn't mind the narrator but after an hour, couldn't stand any more of her. She reads in a hushed, whispery voice (reverence for the death of species?) with little change in intonation, expertly combining boredom with irritation.
In a great book, the author knows what to leave unsaid. This book would be improved by cutting half the overly detailed and sometimes overwrought description. You could practically hear the violins playing in the background when hero and heroine meet. We already know from previous heavy hints that they are to be star-crossed. Description sets scene and mood, but each detail should also serve a purpose in moving the story forward. There may be an engrossing story buried here, but I lost interest.
Expect a cross between a Coen brothers' movie and Candide--plus a touch of Forrest Gump. It's funny, absurd, and entertaining as the 100-year-old man collects equally eccentric characters while the plot snowballs along. Enter this book as you would a fable and you won't be disappointed.
I do not read the kind of books Larry Correia writes. Yet I've listened to two and will probably listen to more because I can trust this writer to deliver kick-ass good guys (male and female); stinky slimeballs; strong-arm bad guys; the Supreme and Nearly Invincible Evil; and best of all, an action plot with characters who crack jokes and are individual and sympathetic enough to involve my interest. Correia's fight scenes amaze me--they go on and on and when you think they ought to end by now, they go on. I get bored with the longer fights but I can respect what the author is doing because he does it well. If he's corny, it's because he intends to be. Once the gun goes off at the starting gate, you're in for a fast ride. With guns and explosions, lots of 'em!
I hardly dare disagree with all the rave reviews, but this book takes me back to college assignments to read excellently written books that bored me out of my skull. I can't be sure if the problem is the narrator's repetitive, choppy rendition that rolls through every phrase and sentence at the same pace or if the pace of the writing itself is the same throughout. I suspect the problem is the narrator and plan to read the text instead.
The research is meticulous and accurate, the writing as precise as you would expect from McCann. This book lacks the deep involvement with each character that Let the Great World Spin had. I read about each character from a distance, more like a newspaper report racing through events. In a novel, I want to live with the characters, be right on the ground with them rather than peering down from above.
The author's historical research and detail are impeccable; the writing is highly competent. In her effort to heap up red herrings and plot twists, however, the author mostly succeeds in creating an unconvincing melodrama. Quite early in the book, I wanted someone to throttle the fair and frail Lydia, beloved of our hero only because she is a lovely lady in distress. She's a stock character, a non-entity. The so-brilliant Dr. Thomas Silkstone is reduced to cliché-spouting idiocy in her presence. He has to love her; otherwise he would have little motivation to work feverishly to solve the mystery. I have no doubt the series improves in later novels but this novel does not impel me to continue reading them.
Warning: don't listen to the opening scene while driving; you might laugh so hard that you end up in a ditch. The marked humor in this one makes it my favorite of the six Longmire books I've read and listened to so far, a welcome relief from the grimmer stories, even despite the sub-freezing temperatures and snow that I dislike as much in novels as in life. With George Guidall narrating, this series is better heard than read.
One element that grows tiresome is the way Longmire has to get physically beat up in every novel and give his all in a last-ditch chase, battling his injuries, the elements, and circumstances. It's a convention of the genre but stretches one's suspension of disbelief. Fortunately, you can even laugh about the injuries in Junkyard Dogs.
John le Carre is a master at knowing when to cut a scene and what to leave out, how to give just enough information to make you pay attention and figure things out. The way he layers out information can be as puzzling as life but not so puzzling that, even listening, you can't keep track. Except with this book. I recommend it as a book to read rather than to hear because it jumps around in time and place so quickly and frequently that the listener is constantly playing catch-up, especially if you listen while doing something else and your attention is split.
Those who find the book fully absorbing might be OK with it. It's harder to follow the narrative thread if you're not invested in the main character, Oliver Single. He's a cipher, a blank slate on which others write. That's his purpose in the book. He might summon up some backbone in the end--I won't know until I get a hard copy from the library and finish reading with my eyes instead of my ears.
The main strength is that Michael Jayston is such a good narrator that you will know who is talking even when you don't know where or when the scene is occurring.
I agree with "Lost in Manhattan." The first part of the novel detailing the main character's upbringing, war experience, and initial time in America is absorbing and shows promise. Suddenly, without reason or warning, the point of view shifts. With that shift, I completely lost interest even though the con game was supposedly becoming more complex at that point.
The reader made no sense at all. Everyone in America had an English accent. There are many other readers who could have done a much better job.
I'll happily listen to any Scalzi book that Wil Wheaton narrates but I'm glad I listened to others first. Scalzi has done better writing and better satire. This one reads as if the screenwriter in the coda wrote it in a couple of his six-hour stints--dash it off and send it out full of conscious cleverness. Since this is a more recent book, I hope it's not a sign of things to come.
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