This lovely book unfolds deliberately, allowing us to fully immerse ourselves in the characters of Janusz, Sylvana and Aureck. The book goes back and forth between the present day, as they are trying to get to know each other again after being separated during the war, and the past, as we gradually learn what they have faced. Janusz's desire to be a proper Englishman and have a perfect small town life seems impossible considering what they have faced and the secrets they keep from each other. But as we get to know them, they get to know each other, and the horrors of war become part of what they share instead of what divides them. The narrator of this book is excellent, easily able to switch between Polish, French, and British dialects. I especially appreciated that the stories of their separate lives during the war were presented honestly but not dramatized or over-emotionalized. Just like the present day, the past is what it is -- nothing more.
I fell under the spell of this book within the first few sentences. The author creates a magical setting in the Alaskan wilderness where the northern lights, snow-covered meadows, frozen rivers and wild animals seem perfect and beautiful. When you live with Jake and Mabel, you live in this land, and you get to know it as they do -- living fully within it and accepting its harshness as well as its beauty. In this setting, a child who seems to come to life from snow seems almost logical -- and although Jack and Mabel wonder about Faina, they come to accept her as their own, just as they accept the rest of Alaska's mysteries.
I loved the gentle tone of the narrator, and loved the beautiful, magical story. This one will stay with me for a long time.
This is a rare and magical book. The world Erin Morgenstern creates is beautiful and imaginative, and you care about every character in it. I've seen several reviews which comment negatively on the non-linear writing but I loved it -- it underscored the strange world the characters inhabit. One of the reasons this audiobook is especially wonderful is the performance by Jim Dale, who narrated all of the Harry Potter books. Unlike those who were distracted by the familiar voice, I found it reassuring -- knowing that I was in the hands of an expert. I loved every minute of this and hated for it to end.
I had read other reviews of this novel before purchasing and so was looking forward to a taut psychological thriller/ I wasn't disappointed, but the only reason for 4 stars instead of five is that the thriller part took quite a while to play out. The premise is unsettling: a woman has a rare form of amnesia that means she wakes up each morning not knowing who she is and remembering nothing of her past. I wasn't sure how the author would be able to play that out, but she uses the device of having the character start keeping a journal, so the reader's memories can start to accumulate even if the character's do not. Knowing that this was a psychological thriller, or would eventually turn into one, I didn't fully trust any of the characters, but when the twist came it was played out very well. I think it is well worth a credit.
I bought this because of positive reviews on Audible and I'm glad I did. I've read so many mystery novels and thrillers over the years that it's hard to get fully engaged in many of them now because I can see what's coming. It's a rare skill for an author to be able to keep my attention throughout the entire novel, but Gardner did. The characters were immediately engaging, and the author skillfully let just enough of the story out at one time to keep my attention. The twists and turns kept coming, but were done so skillfully that each one made sense. Loved it!
The problem with "quirky" novels is that you either get into the world the author has created, or you don't. I enjoyed this book and even admired it at times, but I did not fully engage with the characters or the semi-supernatural world they inhabited.
The idea to create an audio-only novelization of Macbeth is a wonderful one, but having Alan Cumming narrate it elevates this into a work of art. The characters are beautifully fleshed out. Macbeth comes off as a patriot instead of a traitor, doing what he believes is best to save Scotland's traditions rather than allow a weak king to appoint his son to replace him. Alan Cumming's narration is brilliant -- superb acting combined with Scottish flair. I could listen to his voice all day (and just did!).
Having just returned from Scotland, I can also say that the atmosphere of the Scottish Highlands comes alive in this novel, as much a character as any of the people. Understanding the Scots, their fierce pride and love of the land, puts Macbeth and his wife into a setting which makes, to me, much more sense than the Shakespeare version. Sorry Will.
I encourage everyone to take advantage of this unique and beautiful book.
Tina Fey was one of the funniest people on television, and now she is one of the funniest people anywhere. I loved listening to her read this audiobook -- it was like sitting in her living room and hearing behind-the-scenes SNL and 30 Rock moments. She also touchingly bares her soul about her love for her daughter and decision to have a second child (obviously this was written before she became pregnant again). One of the best purchases I have made on Audible! My only question is -- where is the PDF she kept referring to (as in "refer to the PDF for the picture)??
As a fan of Ernest Hemingway, I was really looking forward to this book. Several chapters in, I realized that I was not enjoying it. I soon realized that it was not the book itself, but the reader that was getting in my way. Carrington MacDuffie reads this book with a cultured tone that softens the edges of Ernest and his macho friends, and gives a simpering, whiney tone to Hadley. I wish I had chosen to read the book instead.
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