Once you understand the central device of the book and get past the "that's a cool idea" moment, the book does not deliver anything more interesting than that.
I felt she could have gone much further with the story, but instead stayed on the well-trodden ground of this boring love relationship. Sure, it was refracted by the jumbled timeline, but was ultimately as unfulfilling as a meal of iceberg lettuce and white bread.
Furthermore, I found nothing charismatic, interesting or even likeable in the central characters.
If you like more literary writing (Geraldine Brooks, Barbara Kingsolver), skip this one.
First, the author demonstrates such virtuosity with each prose style in the book and with each linguistic style that it is like six books in one. He is equally at home with the historical novel, the thriller, the sci fi and the futuristic novel.
Second, the performances are GREAT.
I also loved how the stories interconnect in subtle ways that really make you think. The author does not spoon feed you anything, so if you like to work a little as you read, this is a good book for you.
The stories reminded me, with one exception, of those stacking Russian dolls, each nestling inside another, and shifting realities (who/what is "real" and who/what is from a novel within the novel?"), which makes for some intriguing reading.
Probably Robert Frobisher, the composer, because he is so delightfully flawed. And I am a musician, so I understood his thought processes.
My favorite STORY, however, was the one with Timothy Cavendish, the publisher, because its conclusion had me laughing out loud.
All of it, especially Zachry, because his speech was SO very stylized, yet the performance made it perfectly clear.
My only complaints are:
1) the scifi section in futuristic Korea left me bored and cold. I don't enjoy sci fi in general, so this part went on too long for my taste.
2) the ending, which seemed evanescent and not entirely satisfying. But maybe a 2nd listen will reveal more.
This is not for people who like their punchlines fed to them. This IS for people who like a complex, intriguing and expertly written novel.
This is one of the best I have listened to - among the top three, I would say.
Where do I start? First, I love how well researched it is. I learned something (a lot, actually) about North Korea while being engrossed in a complex, human story. I really cared about the characters and did not want the book to end. I love how it folds back on itself without ever straining to do so. The conclusion is satisfying in a weird way, but feels like the only possible one.
The various narrators help one understand the structure of the story beautifully, and each is a stellar performance.
In North Korea, the stories you tell are more important than the man you are.
I cannot recommend this highly enough. A great read, a great listen and one of the most engrossing, transporting tales I have read in a long, long, time. I'll be telling all my friends to read this one.
This ranks in the Top 5 of audio books to which I have ever listened. Dylan Baker gives a marvelous performance, creating many different voices, so you are never confused as to who is speaking. He seems to channel Henry Fonda in his characterization of Tom Joad...kind of amusing.
Faulkner's "Light In August," although I vastly prefer Steinbeck's clean, sparse style.
He practically channels Henry Fonda in the role of Tom Joad and gives each character a distinctive voice and interpretation. I just love his preacher character...so full of human complexity.
If you have read and enjoyed GoW before, listen to this.
If you have never read GoW, listen to this.
If you have ever or never heard Steinbeck, listen to this.
Very, very, very worthwhile.
My son is a big fan of the Hardy Boys series; he loves all these books and listens to them over and over. Great action and mysteries. He listens to every audiobook of the Hardy Boys he can get his hands on. An oldie but goodie, they still very much appeal to young readers.
I found the story completely uninteresting. Nothing but a sense of guilt over stopping halfway kept me listening to the end. The characters are all completely unlikable and so, again, I found no reason to keep listening.
The writing was pedestrian, like a pair of sweat socks. Gets the job done but adds no aesthetic value.
I seem to be in the minority here. I guess I am just hard to please.
Boredom. Complete boredom. I found I could skip ahead a chapter and not have missed anything but self-centered whining and hand wringing.
Sorry to dissent, but I think this book could have been great but did not live up to its early promise. It COULD have been more of a fascinating look at a corner of WWII history (the isolation of Guernsey), but instead devolved to a sappy unrequited-love-but-ends-happily story. In abler hands, such as Geraldine Brooks', it might have avoided that predictable trap, but these authors took an interesting character and made her just another woman who needs a man and a child to feel fulfilled.
The most interesting character, Elizabeth, was given very much a secondary position...too bad; I would have liked to have known more about the internal struggle she had in falling for a German soldier and bearing a child out of wedlock. Again, in abler hands, this story would have shone through more and not have been eclipsed by all that Catherine/Heathcliff junk.
Also, re: the recording...I began this book in print and switched to the audio version. In my head, my protagonist was much more independent, snappy and ascerbic than was rendered by the reader. This realization of the main character delved at times into sniveling girlish rants over unrequited love.
I guess I am a minority opinion, but if you like LITERARY fiction, you will be disappointed by this one.
I just love a good story, but it has to be poetically and lyrically written. And one which illuminates a period, a place, a history is doubly wonderful. This has it all: a great story written in a lovely, literary style, lovable characters, and a glimpse into history (Greek, Turkish, American) I really enjoyed. Don't be put off about the hermaphrodite theme: it's not really about that, but rather is used as an interesting allegory for the immigrant experience, family histories, and a host of other interesting issues.
Loved the narrator who was able to capture the HUMOR in this book. He was great!
Highly recommend this book - it's worth 2 credits (and it's long, too!)
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