A good book from a great writer. The book is quite slow at the start and reflects rewriting a story in 1920 that was begun about 1914. Told entirely from the viewpoint of a woman. Intense feelings after the woman falls in love with a traveling stage actor, just as cinema is replacing live vaudeville shows. Not as enjoyable as Sons and Lovers or Women in Love. Excellent narrator.
I was marginally familiar with Anne Morrow Lindberg, the subject of The Aviator's Wife, and more familiar with Melanie Benjamin, the author of the novel -- from reading Alice I Have Been, the story of Alice Liddell Hargreaves, the title character in Alice in Wonderland. I also know as much as any schoolboy of the 1940's and 1950's about Anne Morrow's famous husband, Charles Lindberg. Since this new novel, has been well received, I thought it worth the cost of admission to buy a copy from Audible for my enjoyment.
I did find the book a little slow-paced, in the beginning, even through the pre-war years, when Charles Lindberg put himself on the pacifist side of the debate raging in America -- in the end, being denounced as a Nazi sympathizer and being denied the reinstatement of his officer's commission. That Charles Lindberg reestablished his place in America's pantheon of heroes was unknown to me. I was quite impressed with his wartime work, in a civilian capacity, with Ford Motors and with the U.S. Army Air Force.
This book is not so much about Charles Lindberg the hero, however, as it is about Anne Morrow Lindberg and her quiet support and love for her husband in spite of his austere, cold personality. The death of the Lindberg's first child, Charles Jr. did much to destroy Charles Lindberg's personal life. His failure to save his child from the kidnappers was a personal defeat and humiliation that he never forgot, although he never discussed it, even with Anne. After fathering five more children with Anne, he virtually abandoned her when she was unable to bear more children, visiting their home in Connecticut only a few times per year and being away for months at a time. Instead, the novel reveals the fact that Charles fathered seven other children, with three other women, in Germany, between the 1950's and his death in 1974.
The Aviator's Wife may appeal more to women readers than to male readers. I did find the tone of the novel (which I listened to in audio format) fairly brittle. But I do recognize the growth of Anne Morrow's character during the book and her strength in Charles' declining years and his final illness. Her behavior at Charles' deathbed in 1974 is emotional dynamite. The book is very well organized around that deathbed scene, moving back and forth between 1974 and various significant times in the past -- the real aviation partnership between Anne and Charles during the 1920's, the kidnapping of Charles Jr. in 1932, the pre-war visits to Germany and Charles' link with Nazi Germany, the war years Anne and the family spent in Detroit while Charles joined the American air forces in the Pacific, and Charles' more and more rare visits home to his wife and children. The organization of the segments makes Anne's analysis of her marriage to Charles very believable and well worth reading.
Although I do not usually read collections of short stories, I have read two of the author's novels, Homecoming and The Reader, and I did not want to miss any new fiction from Bernhard Schlink. Each of the selections in Summer Lies is really a novella, rather than a "short" story. A couple of the early selections seem somewhat incomplete or unresolved, as if they were meant to be only portraits of a particular character and his shallow relationship with his wife or lover. The later selections are much more satisfying, exploring relationships that are much more complex and moving. I particularly like the last three selections, all which deal with much older characters, both men and women, who are confronting end-of-life emotions, while trying to define who they are, how they have lived, the life-altering decisions they made, and their relationships with parents, spouses, children, and grandchildren. The last two selections are particularly intense: a man trying to reconcile with his 82-year old father, with whom he shares only one passion, the love of the music of Bach; and the story of a woman living in an assisted-living facility who has fallen out of love with her children and grandchildren, but leaves on a trip, accompanied by a grown granddaughter, to revisit the town in which she attended university, more than fifty years earlier. This relatively short audiobook (about 8 hours long)is well worth the reading just for the very best of these selections. The rest is intro and bonus!
I read Winter Journal by Paul Auster because I have read two of the author’s recent novels, Sunset Park and Invisible. In fact, I listened to the audiobook version of Winter Journal because it is read by the author. I liked the writing style of Auster’s memoir but found the actual content somewhat guarded, lacking intimacy, with biographical information substituted for comments about his writing. Like many other authors, Auster seems to conceal his literary opinion so that his readers will make sense of his novels based solely on the published text. Auster’s thoughts about life, aging, and death are similar to my own, which is not too surprising since he and I are close to the same age. What Auster says has been said just as well or better by others, who are willing to explore deeper questions about the meaning of life, religious faith or lack thereof, and strategies to remain relevant and “loveable” in our old age.
I was puzzled by the rambling style of the memoir. Part is chronological, giving us comments about every home Auster ever lived in, his own childhood memories, his experiences in France and his general dislike of the Parisians, his first marriage (but not the reasons for its breakup), and his second marriage, which has continued for thirty years. Parts of the memoir jump back to the author’s relationship with his mother and his lack of a relationship with his father. Auster’s recurring “panic attacks”, dating from his early twenties to the present, are quite revealing, and seem related to his insecurity during his childhood, after the divorce of his own parents. His own divorce, on the other hand, coincides chronologically and psychologically with the rebirth of his own creativity. He learns to hear the music within himself and to put words to that music. His description of an experimental ballet, without music, that he saw performed at this time identifies the incident as the spark of his rebirth. Shortly thereafter, with the help of his estranged wife, he overcame the emotional turmoil attending the death of his father. Not too much later, he met the woman who became his second wife, and entered a relationship he finds as loving today as thirty years ago.
Although authors who publish memoirs late in life sometimes announce or anticipate their own retirement, Paul Auster does not seem to have retirement in mind in Winter Journal. I hope to see new works of fiction from the author for years to come, and hope to be here to read them
Audible recently made a free audiobook version of this work available to its members. I love "free" and was interested in the character of Black Hawk, so I was pleased to listen to this brief 3-1/2 hour work. Black Hawk lived from the late 1790s to the mid 1830s. He wrote his autobiography about 1833 and included the relocation of his Sac and Fox tribes from an area near Montreal to an area near Rock Island on the Mississippi. The story narrates the tribe's encounters with the French, the English, the Spanish, and, finally, the Americans. In 1804, the Americans swindled the tribe out of its lands east of the Mississippi. The treaty of 1804 was later used to forcibly relocate the tribe west of the river. Many of the tribe were killed when Black Hawk defended his lands. Ironically, Black Hawk was then treated to a grand tour that included visits to Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Albany. On this tour he was treated like a great celebrity, although he and his tribe had been treated with extreme cruelty and indifference in his home territory by the agents of the U.S. government and the settlers.
Much of the abuse of the Indians by the U.S. is not news to us, but to hear the details of the abuse in the words of an Indian of that time period is quite moving. Also interesting is Black Hawk's description of the Mississippi and the Wisconsin Rivers in the early 1800s, the various tribes who inhabited the area, and the nobility of the lifestyle of the American Indian.
Posted to Goodreads on 3/19/12:
This book was written in 1983 but released again in 2008 as an audiobook, which I picked up from Audible at a very good price. I liked the fantasy, magical sequences of the story and the portrait of New York City from the late 1800s to the year 2000 (the future, as of 1983). The story was slow to get going, although the "Gangs of New York" style of the beginning held my interest. Once some of the main characters really take the stage (Peter Lake and Beverly Penn), the pace picks up. On the whole, however, some of the fantasy borders on the juvenile, similar to the movie Polar Express, and some of the history seems incorrect. Also, when the author tries to imagine New York of the future and a cataclysmic event that could destroy the city, he does not reach his goal. That a character tries to build a bridge to see the face of God is difficult to consider seriously.
The book is really too long, but if you have the time, you may like the early approach to magical reality. The book has some similarities with Chronic City.
Novels based on religious events or religious figures are inherently risky. Many modern novelists are not passionate believers or active participants in their religion and their attitude is shared by most of the readers who follow them. Another large group of readers, however, are ardent believers and practitioners and react vociferously to fictional accounts of events and the actions of religious figures. An author risks boring his or her own readership with a highly orthodox version of the events or enraging a large group of other readers who were attracted to this new work because of the religious topic. The reaction of certain Christian church leaders to two books by Anne Rice, who is best known for her vampire novels, that recount the boyhood and early adult life of Jesus Christ, are cases in point. I have not read Anne Rice???s vampire novels but I did read Christ the Lord and The Road to Cana, because I liked one of her early novels, The Eve of All Saints. I liked the religious novels, but some new readers did not like the author???s fictionalization of the stories; and, as a result, Anne Rice has returned to writing for her established vampire audience.
I was afraid that Alice Hoffman???s book, The Dovekeepers, would be either too religious or too involved with the Jewish State to be of interest. Because I have read and enjoyed 11 of Alice???s other books, however, I jumped in. I thoroughly enjoyed the new book, which uses the events at Masada in 70 ??? 73 CE primarily as a backdrop for the exploration of several women who were trapped there when the Romans overran the fortress. I found the stories interesting, well-immersed in the history of Israel, Jerusalem, Rome, and Alexandria; and I found the characters strong and passionate, although more modern in their thinking that most women of 70 CE. The zealots defending Masada are not all good men, acting only for the good of Israel. The women are not all holy, pure, devoted, or faithful. What I found engaging about the book, however, caused Sarah Fay, the reviewer for the New York Times, to pan the book in very uncertain terms. Although she never said so, Ms. Fay seems to believe that Alice Hoffman is unworthy to use the Masada story and to focus on the women involved rather than the religious or national significance of the Masada story. Her objections are framed in literary terms but have a decidedly personal tone, which I was amazed to see applied to a widely-followed and admired author by a reviewer for the New York Times.
I believe that sales of the novel and the weight of other reviews will demonstrate the error of the Sarah Fay review.
A straight-forward, brief, and candid account of Ms. Patchett's own life, divorce, and second marriage. Both touching and amusing. A nice gift from the author and Audible for the holiday season.
I have read the author's more famous works and liked them very much. This early work recently became available as an audiobook at a reasonable price, so I indulged myself. The story is unsatisfying because it lacks diversity. Lawrence draws an interesting portrait of a married man of about 40, an artist, who starts an affair with a young woman and joins her for a week's holiday on the Isle of Wight. He is bored with his wife but loves his children and knows that this affair will only lead to his own destruction. Whether he and the woman even consummate their affair is unclear -- something I would not have believed based on Lawrence's other books. The novel merely consists of the details of their holiday, his return to his very angry, resentful family, and his suicide. The character portraits are interesting and the author's language is always arresting, but I missed the elaborate narrative development of Women In Love or Lady Chatterley's Lover and the candid sexual themes.
I like the author's style of writing, his lively intellect, and his intuition about what his characters are thinking. The subject of this novel, the development, and conclusion of the narrative are all quite puzzling, however, and controversial. How is Walker's incestuous relationship with his sister central to his character or relevant to his conflict with his nemesis, Robert Born? Perhaps his love of women is the product of his early-teen sexual contact with his sister and is central to understanding his protective stance with three other women in the novel. His defense of these women brings him into conflict with Professor Born on several occasions and it is those battles that power the book. Born's multiple roles of Professor, Agent, Double Agent, protector, and murder are also at the heart of the book, however, and those roles are implausible at best. It requires quite a suspension of disbelief to accept the central facts about Born, enjoy the characters in the fable, and continue your appreciation of the author, Paul Auster.
I love Annie Proulx's work. This novel is less structured than her famous The Shipping News and more like her great short stories. Her wit and sass always amuse me. The underlying story concerns a young man sent to the Texas Panhandle region as a scout for huge hog operations -- who loves the region and develops a connection to its people. Some of the back-stories concern characters who go back to the days of freight wagons, which preceded the railroads in developing the area. I wish more of Annie Proulx's material was available in audiobook form.
Report Inappropriate Content
If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.