I can't understand why the narrator chose to portray the main character in the voice of an extremely elderly man with a stereotypical Boston Brahmin accent. The man is actually 71 years old and specifically mentions that he grew up in a bookish household in Montclair New Jersey. This choice skews the entire narrative and makes the central character almost comically flat. He's not a character, but a caricature, one invented not by the author, but by the Narrator. Too bad.
It wouldn’t necessarily be a problem to transform an epistolary novel into an audio book, but this particular novel has a lot of drawbacks for audio. If you want to hear specific telephone numbers, addresses, zip codes, and office jargon read over and over with seriousness, it might work for you.
Even worse, the novel depends heavily upon the presentation of financial accounting, so you get to hear the SAME sets of numbers read out in detail several times in succession, and then hear them again slightly altered, and repeated, later on. This goes on throughout the book. If you were reading with your eyes, you would get the point at once, and move on. You would not carefully read over each line of each document once you realized (which you certainly would) that the numbers and verbiage in each repeated document are the same. The author can't be faulted for this, since the book was certainly written to be seen on the page, not listened to. Whether it actually rises to the level of "novel" on the page, I can't say.
An unrelated problem is an insufferably self-involved central character. I realize that this is supposed to be part of the point of the novel, but our poor protagonist is such a collection of predictable clichés as to be sort of sad. This is one of those novels where we’re expected to believe that our hero is so spectacularly brilliant that all opposition fades in the light of her talent, but of the talent we never see evidence.
This is an incomprehensible choice of narrator for this book. Ms. Howlett butchers the pronunciation of all the French proper names, place names, and particularly street names (which play an unusually large part in this narrative). I don't ask for perfection in pronunciation of French words in an English translation, but Howlett's pronunciation is so bad it's practically comic. Encumbered by this, she mangles the rhythm of the prose, even in English.
In addition, she reads all of the younger women characters in a voice suitable for very young children. It adds a surreal element to the narrative that was certainly not intended by the author.
I found the story quite fascinating, but a struggle to follow because of the reader.
In a long life of reading, I have always known of this book, but thought it wasn't for me. Pegged as the Great American Political Novel, it sounded limited to me. If I want to read about American politics, I'll read non-fiction. I have had just the wonderful experience, at 69, of reading one of the most interesting novels of my life for the first time! And better yet, it comes from my own country, in my own language, and written not long before I was born. I'm saying all this to convey how personal this book feels. I feel my parents, myself, and my children in this book, even though our personal details have no similarity to anything in the book. And beware, there is NOTHING comforting here. What a book. And well read.
This is a rare book that becomes more interesting, more compelling, and more evocative as it progresses. Too often, it seems an author has a wonderful idea, but can't sustain it. I hope Ivy Pochoda has a long and fruitful writing life. She seems to have confidence in her reader, as well as in herself.
Every laudatory word in the reviews is deserved by this wonderful book. I'm not going to even try to describe or explain. Read it.
I listened to this book twice, then bought the hard copy. I'm so glad to see that many other listeners reacted to it the same way I did. After a long lifetime of reading, it's not that often a "new" book enters my consciousness permanently the way this book has done. It seems timeless, yet absolutely focused on life as it is in our time. The readers are superb.
Takes a while to get into this book. One fears at first this may become a sentimental or overly nostalgic view of a lost way of life. After a while you realize you're in good hands with this author. I highly recommend the book, in audio or print.
Roy Dotrice, the reader, performs a great service to the book, I think. I certainly don't know the subtleties of accent and intonation he's dealing with here. But he has made decisions about how he will read it and carries it out over a long span with perfect integrity. His reading turns the entire book into poetry, or even music. Here again you may feel at first that the voice will wear on you, but his skill is such that it carries the story along without fail.
A perfect match of reader and text.
There are only a very few books I've listened to twice in immediate succession. After I finished it the second time, I had to wait a couple of days before I could read any other book, in either print or sound This is not only one of the best audiobooks I've experienced; it's one of the best books I've ever read. I'll be buying a print copy to pass around my family.
I've always liked Richard Ford (especially The Lay of the Land), and this book was something of a surprise. You can see the connections with his other work, but this seems to have sprung all at once (a very focused and intense book) from some rather different place. I wish Ford a long and productive life! And I thank him for this book.
Also, an excellent reader.
I found this book fascinating and compelling throughout. Don't be put off by the fact that every review seems to mention The Matrix and Inception. I'm an old school reader (read elderly) who has no wish to see either of those movies a second time. This is very good writing on timeless human mysteries. I wish this author long life and many more books.
I'm surprised to find myself giving the reader five stars, because there were some jarring almost dyslexic misreadings of particular words and syntax, but in the end it seemed the perfect voice for the book.
One of the best books I have ever read. I bought a hard copy so my husband could read it. A book I want in my permanent library.
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