I don't remember how I came across this book, but I am glad I bought it. The author did a great job bringing the American plains from back then alive. I am no authority on Indian history so I cannot talk to whether the culture depicted is authentic or not. But what I can say is that I felt like I was there riding along as another member of the party. The author have this ability to bring everything to life using words alone.
The story itself was plain. But then who needs a gripping plot line when the pleasure is the ability to immerse oneself into the story itself?
The author started off with a preface on how she struggled to organize the book. And I think it shows.
So here are the things I don't like about the book:
- The book has lots of characters. This by itself does not make it bad. But without much thought being paid to organizing them... it can get confusing very quickly.
- The book is basically a collection of stories (or vignettes). Unfortunately the author did not provide a lot of hints when she switches between them. So one finds oneself following one story and then it switches without much warning.
- Last bad part is the fact that the perspective of the story telling changes between the author and the characters being portrayed. One may be listening to one of the solders speaking in the first person; and then abruptly it switched to the author speaking in the first person. It may be easier to follow in print, but in the audio, it just changes.
There are, however a number of things I like about the book:
- First is the narration... the narrator is quite good. And it is thanks to her that I sometimes can catch the switching between perspective. Otherwise I could have gone for 'pages' between I noticed it.
- The story is actually good. It puts a human dimension to the war... especially when the families of the soldiers are being profiled. It reminds all of us that the toll goes beyond the soldiers. Their families also made sacrifices in the war.
- Finally, as a Canadian, I definitely appreciate a perspective that speaks to our soldiers, and how they contributed to the effort on all of our behalf.
Let's deal with the Spanish first... I know absolutely no Spanish and I felt very handicapped when listening to the book. There are lots of Spanish in the book and I think I missed a lot of the colour and nuances in the story as a result. And being a audible book, you don't even get the benefit of subtitles ;-(
Second problem I have with the book is the way it is organized (or not). I found the way the author jumping around confusing. And it is only when I got well beyond the half way point that I start to follow the story. Now I would blame the book's description as well... The book is supposed to be about Oscar, but it is also about his family and his home country. So I may be less confused if I wasn't trying to figure out what the different plot lines has to do with Oscar.
Having said all of that, I actually do like the writing. It is punchy and it captures social zeitgeist well (at least the parts that is in English which I can understand). The writing is can be funny in its own way from time to time.
So in the end, this is a fairly good book. The story line is interesting. The writing is good. But I just feel that I did not getting the full effect (kind of like watching a 3D movie without the 3D glasses).
For the introvert in me, this serves as a bit of self validation and somewhat of a manifesto. It is always nice to find some encouragement to find the power of the quiet 'in a world that can't stop talking'.
The only criticism I have is that the author did not set out to define the difference between introverts and extroverts. This gave her the convenience to use her data to support her point. But that's ok, this is not a scientific journal either.
The narration for this book is just perfect. I don't know if Kathe Mazur is a introvert or not. But in the passages when she was narrating the author in the first person... I have the perfect image of the author in the situation she was talking about. The soft-spoken, quiet assertiveness the narrator's voice is just perfect... exactly what the author was talking about!
I like the premise of the story, and how it portraits the vast gulf between the rich powerful class and the poor working class. Certainly open ones eyes to the fact that India still has a dark side today (or as the author calls it.. 'the darkness'). The story is also has some dark humorous moments.
The parts I don't like about the book is the last little bit. It felt like it was hurried and the story the author seems to have run out of time or something. I would have preferred if he had spent a bit more time on it.
Overall, the story is better than the 3 that was indicated. I would have given it a 3.5 if the rating system had allowed it.
The biggest problem I have with the book is that is does not feel like a book. If there is a central theme or thesis... I fail to detect it. Instead, it feels very much like a collection of magazine articles that got put together into a so call book.
To be sure, some of the articles are interesting, but it just feels like a jumble of 'stuff'. And the switch of timeline is just confusing: he will follow a topic into 2010 and then switch topic and we are back at the founding days again.
In the end, if you are not familiar with the tech world, then this may be an interesting read (to a certain extend). But at 20 hours, it just does not have a strong back-story that can capture you attention for that amount of time.
And when I finally finish, I was left wondering is that all? Where is the story?
I wasn't too sure about the decision to get this massive book. After all 47 hours is a big investment in time for a book ... and how can one write so many words on a single topic anyways? And a translated work to boot.
Well, 47 hours later, I am somewhat blown away. The author definitely figured out the art of pacing a story. The plot is not overly complex, and there isn't a lot that is going on in the story And yet, the pace is just right without any sections with 'dead air'. Yes, the writing is verbose, but the words are well used to make the story descriptive.
I also like the way the story is told, alternately from different perspectives. And the different perspectives timeline does not always line-up is a very clever way to keep the reader's attention.
As to the fantastical nature of the story... I liked it. It is weird in places, and the author really never explains what they are suppose to be. But I guess that where 'willing suspense of disbelieve' comes into play. And once I got over that, the story line just works.
Finally, the different narrators definitely added to the overall story. I must disagree with the reviewer who did not like Allison Hiroto's narration. I think her performance is great and helps me to visualize the heroine's character.
I got this book because of the fact that it won the Giller Prize and there were much critical acclaim written about it. The author has a background writing poetry... and the book certainly reflects that upbringing. Sometimes the prose in the book feels like beautiful poetry that gives the story a level of depth. But the poetry style also works against the story in times... making it feel chopped up and awkward.
So in the end, the trait that makes the book refreshing and beautiful turned out to be its Achilles Heels as well.
To give the narrator credit, she is actually very good at capturing the whining of the four year old in the story. So if you think a little kid whining is cute, the narration is good. Otherwise, be warned.
For the author, the premise is interesting to capture the poor mother and chid's predicament from the child's perspective. But I have a few problems with the approach:
1) there is way too much time spent in that perspective.
2) while I am no parent of a 4 year old, I cannot believe a child that young can know some of the things the author put into his voice
3) and, really, are all that whining necessary?
Overall, the plot and the story is good in its disturbing way... But read it only if you like having a 4 year old kid around you
I will admit that I have a base believe that human activities is impacting the climate. And I was hoping that the book will provide more depth and insight into topic. While the book did provide more data... I found myself lost in all the different figures, factoids, and evidences. And the thing that really confused me is the author's constant shift in his time frame... Sometime the global CO2 level will raise by x parts per million over the next 10 years; sometime it is the global sea level will rise by y feet over the next 200 years... All of that may be true, but if the author is trying to convince the reader that there is an imminent danger to the planet, shifting the time horizon just does not help.
I found the book 'reads' like a collection of unorganized, random thoughts. There are way too many angles being explored without a unifying message. In the end, as someone who does not need much convincing of our impact to the climate, I just found myself lost. If I am someone who need to be convinced that human activities have a adverse impact on the climate and immediate action is required.... then this would not be the book to sell me on it!
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