While I'm not a huge Oprah fan (I don't think I've ever watched her show), the Oprah's book club isn't a bad place to start when looking for good novels to read (or listen to). As dull as the description of this one sounded (I'm really not into historical dramas), I gave it a chance mostly because of the Oprah recommendation AND because it was ridiculously long (at 40 hours). I have become addicted to audiobooks (the longer the better) because of a very long commute. I admit this is a slow start one--a little too much background to cover before the real story can begin--but don't give up. A few hours in, you are HOOKED. This is the kind of audiobook that you arrive at your destination and sit in the car a little while because you just CAN'T turn it off. Historically accurate (although with definite dramatic license), occasionally uncomfortably graphic and sexual for some tastes, but very, very good character development. You get to KNOW these people, and care deeply about then.
I read this book (and listened--a combination of the two) with complete astonishment that it that has received such near-universal rave reviews. It is shockingly racist and full of stereotypes that should have stopped being acceptable decades ago. A heroine whose husband is raping a slave girl--and yet continues to focus her anger on the victim. Who spends the entire book coming up with reasons why she is blameless for her part in slavery--and continues to compare her situation (even after she has become the mistress of the house) as equal to that of the slaves who are routinely raped, beaten, and killed. Convenient random "and then this happened" to fix flaws in the story. Dialogue that reads like a cheap dime store romance. Shallow plotlines that trivialize mental illness and addiction--with characters coming in and out of each when it is convenient for the story.
This book perpetuates stereotypes of the kind slavemaster and slaves who fight against freedom because they don't want to leave "home" and their kind keepers. Even in the end, freed slaves gladly stay to work for free to support a mistress who is held completely unaccountable by the story (or these characters) for her deliberate ignorance of how her actions (and inaction) and refusal to see how her looking past what is right in front of her face has contributed to their plight. The "heroine" (Lavinia) isn't plucky or likeable or sympathetic in any way.
Narration was good--particularly Turpin's, who made a ridiculous character almost realistic.
This may be the worst book I have ever read to the end. The reviews (and it being the only downloaded book I took with me on a lengthy trip) kept me going long after I should have thrown it away in disgust.
Perhaps someone who enjoys modern Harlequin romance type novels.
The story was so unbelievable while at the same time being trite and predictable. Every character felt like a maudlin stereotype. In the many years that I have been listening to audiobooks, there's never been another one that has me talking to myself as frequently. "Oh, come on. Really?" "This is beyond awful."
Perhaps; hard to separate the content from the narrator, though. And, some of the dialogue, attempting various accents, borders on comical.
Both of the main characters are unbelievable--and Elizabeth/Abigail/Liz is completely unsympathetic. Hard to believe that in light of the story line, but all I worried about is hoping her dog lived until the end. Sadly, I do not know whether that happens. I gave up halfway through the book.
If this is considered a GREAT Nora Roberts novel (as the reviews seem to indicate is the case), it is the last time I will attempt one of her books. I understand that there will be an audience for this type of book, but I am not part of it.
I purchased this audiobook a couple of days ago. I use audiobooks as a way to make a long work commute tolerable. And, Grisham is always a pleasant easy listen. This one has me ready to throw my iPod out the window. J.D. Jackson's narration is so painfully slow, deliberate, and over articulated, it's like someone reading to a really slow typist. Any comma in a sentence is a full second or two pause. The end of a sentence is as often as not 2-3 seconds of dead air. I've tried to get used to it now 3-4 times and simply can't do it. I keep thinking my iPod has stopped. "In Virginia, [long pause] we boarded the bus, [long pause], with stops planned in Kentucky, [long pause], West Virginia, [long pause], and Tennessee. [THREE SECONDS OF DEAD AIR]. Then the next sentence, also torturously slow and deliberate. It's almost as if they were trying to stretch the length. My fault--I should have listened to the sample--but I'm surprised more people haven't struggled with this one.
Usually, I find Audible reviews a good guideline of what I will like. I can't even begin to figure out what people liked about this one. The protagonist was unsympathetic and unlikeable--a combination of a poorly developed character and misguided narration. Virtually every character felt like a simplistic stereotype and the plot twists were so ridiculous that they were laughable. I am not a delicate reader, but the profanity and much of the graphic violence felt designed for little other than shock value. I can almost guarantee the author is actually NOT a mother; her attempts at describing emotions related to the short life of the baby were uncomfortably odd and did not ring genuine. The main character's relationships with every other character (from her mother to her dog to her boyfriend to her best friend) felt shallow and meaningless. The idea of this story is a great one; the end result, though, is a real disappointment and in the end I simply didn't care what happened. I just wanted it to end.
After reading the nearly universal raves about this audiobook, I enthusiastically ordered it, excited about what an amazing book it had to be. I'm done plodding through it, and am scratching my head at whether the book I just listened to is the same one reviewed. It's a spectacular story--told in the most annoying flowery objective prose to leave me rolling my eyes through most of it. It jumps around too much to keep characters straight, the protagonist (Zamperini) is actually quite unlikeable--arrogant, destructive, and self-absorbed (both before AND after the war). What he endured was horrific--but I found myself wishing the pages had been spent on the more obscure but ultimately more heroic men who are glossed over as a supporting cast but who I found infinitely more interesting and sympathetic. It reads like a bad novel--with a revival miraculously curing alcoholism, violence and PTSD;, trivializing domestic violence;, and--for those of us with some background knowledge of the politics of WWII--a little too much literary license with the oversimplification of the good vs. evil theme. In the end, I found it a potentially great story poorly told.
I disagree completely with the reviewer who defined this as a man's book (in fact, it was just a little offensive). You will need to be interested in military history, historical documentary, etc.--but you don't need to be a man to hold those interests. I will, however, issue a couple of caveats (without defining it as a male/female issue), At times, the detail on military strategy can be numbing. (I "read" during a long commute, and found my mind wandering at times in the first several hours). It will matter farther on in the book, so try to keep focused. Second, some of the descriptions of the brutal treatment of the POWs is extremely graphic and difficult to hear. I'm female (but not weak stomached or hearted), and yet I found myself close to sobbing at times. The depravity and inhumanity that war can create (particularly this one, where the broad differences in culture led the Japanese to see their captives as subhuman and not having any value) subjected Americans AND Filipinos (whose casualties were much higher than the Americans) to horrific abuses. It's tough to listen to.
I love long audiobooks. The longer the better (I have a long commute and go through 10 hours of listening minimum each week) but this was just horrible. Perhaps it reads better than it listens, but the narrators (particularly the male) has managed to make Henry an unsympathetic character with his droll almost sarcastic inflections. The pointless and lengthy detail on relatively minor points and dream sequences left me tuning out for long periods of time. For such a long audiobook, I never developed any sense of empathy for the characters, and left me cold with a lack of real personality, motive, or humanity. They felt artificially constructed and unrealistic. I simply didn't care what happened to them and struggled to get through this audiobook. My only real emotion at the end (and even that felt pointlessly overexamined to the point of desperation in an attend to make the reader/listener care) was relief that I could move on to the next book in my library. As noted by other reviewers, the language is at times startling (most notably the casual use of the "C" word, particularly when used by Clare)--and even that feels like a failed literary attempt at making the characters "real." It's just pointless. I chose this book based on a fair number of really positive reviews--and it's hard for me to believe those reviewers are even talking about the same piece of overwrought, overwritten drivel I listened to.
Wally Lamb is one of my favorite authors, but he certainly isn't Grisham, where you can count on a new book every year. This one took 10 years. And, in some ways, it was worth the wait. But, for those (like me) who were blown away by She's Come Undone or I Know This Much is True, this newest long novel is a bit of a disappointment. It is STILL better than your average novel; his juxtaposition of actual Columbine characters and events by making his main character the husband of a teacher who lived through that tragedy is clever and captivating. Further, his personal commitment to the betterment of women's correctional facilities (see his "testimonials" non-fiction work from 2004) has also been incorporated. This book takes a while to get into--there is almost too much background to cover before it can settle into the flow of the novel--but it is worth the commitment of time. You won't regret listening. It IS unfortunate, however, that Audible has not been able to get the unabridged versions of the previous novels incorporated into its database. This IS the best Wally Lamb offering in Audible, but there are two that are a lot better that will hopefully be here eventually.
I'm too young to have read this when it came out (or have seen the mini-series) but need LONG audiobooks for a long commute. I chose this one. I can't tell whether it was the horrible narration (weird fake voices--reminded me of a children's play--for different characters) or just a story that has not "aged" well, but this was perhaps the worst audiobook I have ever listened to. I did not find a single character likable, believable, or sympathetic; they were all caricatures--clownish even. Perhaps 30 years ago it was a time with Australia was still mysterious enough, or strong independent women were not the norm, or a fallen priest was scandalous. As it was, I was bored to tears and thrilled ONLY when I reached the end. (I've never been able to start a book without finishing it--even a bad one.) If you are considering this one, do yourself a favor and go with LONESOME DOVE instead.
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