Loved this. I've read a few non-fiction books about North Korea, but never before a fiction.
Adam Johnson did a wonderful job crafting this story. And I have no idea where he got his ideas from. If he's even half right about life in North Korea it would be scary enough. I understand he spent time there, but when no pre-scripted person can speak to you without significant fear of arrest it must be pretty tough to get a story.
However much is based on stories from ex-North Koreans & how much is pure imagination I wouldn't know but it makes for an attention grabber.
Well written & well narrated. Definitely something out of the ordinary & very special.
The publisher's description of the story did little to inspire me to read this book, I picked it up on sale & was blown away.
Arthur is on first meeting, not terribly likeable. I could pity him, but there is a sense of dishonesty because he is dishonest. He doesn't like who he is & is unwilling to let others know what his life is, to the point of putting on a shirt & tie to answer the door to the grocery delivery man so he can pretend he has been working all day, while in reality he is housebound, completely alone & does little more than eat and watch daytime television.
We begin to see through him though & what follows is a deeply moving story of loneliness.
Kel, the popular athletic teenager is equally lonely & his story is heartbreaking from the beginning as he does his best to care for his alcoholic mother without any outside support.
The two stories are told in parallel until their connection becomes apparent.
Some audio books I find I can become involved in doing something else while listening. In the case of this book I didn't want to. I found I quickly became emotionally invested in the stories of the two main characters (and the other characters also).
My only regret is that I didn't pick this book up earlier. It is absolutely a wonderful read.
The narration is spot on.
This is the easiest review I've ever written.
If you're going to read The Importance of Being Earnest this is the copy you want. The performance is incredibly delightful & there is no way you'll have the same experience simply reading the text. I have read the text & loved it but there really is no comparison. Short of seeing it performed at the theatre this is it.
The story itself is a hilarious "romp", it keeps your attention 100% and is wonderfully amusing.
I'm already looking forward to listening to this performance again.
I enjoyed this story greatly. It is beautifully written although I felt it stumbled at one or two points. It's easy to connect with the characters & the descriptive prose is delightful - neither over or under done. It was easy to read in one sitting as the story is a compelling one.
The stumbles were very small & barely detract from the story - a short cheesy kiss scene, and a brief but dated description of a mobile phone. It's a shame as without those two extremely minor points I felt the story could almost sit beside Khaled Hosseini's work (The Kite Runner). If you enjoy Khaled Hosseini's work you will probably enjoy this book as well. In spite of my comment about these stumbles they really were the only weak points in an otherwise great novel.
From this book I learned about the diversity that exists in the young country that is Pakistan. It added a further & fascinating dimension to news coverage & other stories I've read about the area.
It is a beautiful debut novel & I look forward to seeing more from Fatima Bhutto.
I looked at several reviews online before buying this (not including the ones here on audible). I saw the book described as a combination of Nabokov & Salinger. Nothing could live up to that hype, but this doesn't even come close.
It's a simple, easy read. It's not exceptional prose, it's not great literature. It barely held my interest as the characters lacked depth & the situations were fairly predictable.
It flows fairly smoothly from beginning to end & will certainly appeal to many readers.
I was expecting a great deal more from it & am disappointed. If the storyline description appeals to you & you enjoy a lazy read then you will very likely enjoy this book. But don't believe the hype.
In spite of the bleak setting for this book, every piece of this story is incredibly beautiful. Subtle, wonderful prose, and pure delight at every word.
I adore this story & it is a new favourite, one of the most beautiful books I've read. I'm so pleased I picked it up.
If you enjoyed Kite Runner & A Thousand Splendid Suns I am certain you will enjoy this book. I can't recommend it highly enough.
The narrator did a wonderful job in my opinion.
It's impossible for me not to compare this to the other three Lionel Shriver books I've read this year - they are the reason I returned to purchase this book, however The New Republic does not stand up next to "We Need to Talk About Kevin" or "So Much for That".
The story is dull and Shriver's usually strong narrative voice doesn't come through at all. And without spoiling the end, the ending really makes little sense. I had hoped Shriver would use Barrington Saddler's presence to introduce a twist as she did with her characters in "Big Brother". No twist and no logic to the end of this story.
The New Republic needs to stand on it's own merit & not on the reputation the author has from her later works. Shriver is an excellent writer, but this book is not excellent. It's not even good. It has no redeeming qualities beyond an interesting idea.
Jeremy Irons gives a perfect performance as Humbert Humbert (the narrator & fictional author of the story). His tone creates exactly the right amount of compulsion to listen while remaining a repellent character. If you know you want to read Lolita then this is the version you want.
As for the story, the way Nabokov brings the reader in as co-conspirator is both attractive & repellent. If we do not read Humbert's book, his crimes are not witnessed - possibly never committed. As reader we are complicit in every aspect of his crimes.
It's an incredible tale & we are invited right into Humbert's mind, where we are manipulated much the same way he manipulates everyone else around him.
The prose is remarkable. It is possible that Humbert is the most detested fictional character in the world while his story of "Lolita" is one of the finest stories ever written.
This book is Vonnegut at his finest.
Throughout the book he never failed to catch me off guard & yet it all made strange sense somehow, in a solipsistic style. If you've enjoyed other Vonnegut stories but haven't read this one yet it is well worth it.
The characters are well done but it is the moments when the author inserts himself into his own story that I found most startling & hilarious.
My first listen of Behind the Beautiful Forevers was from my local library. Once I'd read it, I read it through a second time immediately & then I bought my own copy here. Although I will never forget this story it is so compelling & so beautifully told I know I will read it many more times.
I hadn't read the description of this book when I first picked it up - I completed the book & it was only when I got to the epilogue that I discovered it was non-fiction. The narrative reads like a beautiful fiction but the story is true. The words of the characters are those told to the author during the 6 months she spent in the Indian slum where the story is set, or they are what she herself witnessed.
So now the authenticity I felt from the story is explained. It feels authentic because it is authentic.
The story gives insight into lives that people living in western cultures generally will not encounter. It is the story of deep poverty, deeper poverty & deepest poverty. And there are few ways to get out of the slum. The people in the story all want to improve their lives, but each has a different belief in how to do so. Hard work? Education? Corruption seems the surest method & it is not necessarily about having the most power - just about having more than the next person, and then being ruthless about using it.
While the stories of the people in this book are true, it is a book you will enjoy for the story itself and the way it has been told. Katherine Boo has deliberately chosen people who would not necessarily have shared their story with anyone else and therein lies the book's real gift.
This is another book that has gone to the top of my all time favourites.
“A time being is someone who lives in time, and that means you, and me, and every one of us who is, or was, or ever will be.”
This book is a beautiful concept under a masterful narrative. The 2 narrating characters (not the reader) lives touch in a meaningful way, although they will never meet.
An American novelist, Ruth, finds a Hello Kitty lunchbox washed up on the beach of the island she lives on in Canada. It contains the diary of Nao (a bullied teenager in Japan), some letters and a watch. A lot of the story is the diary, where Nao reveals the secrets she is sharing with no-one else.
The other half of the book is Ruth's attempt to to find out more about Nao and her family. Nao appears to be in danger. While Ruth & her husband wonder whether the lunchbox might have washed across from Japan in the drift following the 2011 tsunami, it's also clear that the Nao's bullying & her father's attempted suicide is leading her to seriously contemplate her own suicide.
Buddhism, western philosophy & environmentalism are some of the themes that flow throughout this beautiful creation, but most of all it is about being now. It is this that makes this book something you want to read in one sitting. And what makes you want it never to end.
Booker short listed, this is an exceptional piece. Get it, you will love it. It has found it's place among my all time favourites & I am sure it will be the same for many other readers.
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