For anyone who recently read or listened to Pillars of the Earth, I would suggest waiting a while before starting World Without End. I just listened to the first one two months ago, and I wish I had waited at least year before listening to the second.
At first, I felt as if Follett had used up all his ideas about basic personality traits and plot ideas in Pillars, and in the second book just mixed them around, assigning them to different characters (good monk becomes bad monk, bullying, jealous builder (Alfred) appears in a new family, etc). The plot "twists," this time much more predictable, and other obstacles were also all too familiar, but each with a new outcome or resolution. After about 20 hours of that, the plot finally took off and became a new story in its own right, and it was a lot more interesting and engrossing. Since it's so long, that still left me with about 30 good hours, but it would have been a lot more enjoyable if my memory of the first book had been dimmer.
Initially, I didn't even consider listening to this book since I'm well aware of current events, and I thought it would be repetitive. After all, didn't we get enough of the daily harping on the factors contributing to our economic crisis? But The Economist listed it as one of the best books of the year, so I thought I would give it a try. In fact, Too Big to Fail is not a dull chronology of the events leading up to Lehman's failure and the creation of TARP; rather, it exposes the sentiments, conversations, decisions, and intentions of every major player and government figure involved with Wall Street's financial rescue. It reads like a suspense novel and is full of gossipy, fascinating tidbits which one would never hear on the news.
Sorkin's awareness of private conversations and correspondence between government regulators and the investment banking firms' staff is absolutely incredible. Since there haven't been any lawsuits accusing Sorkin of slander, I can only assume that they are truthful portrayals. He must have convinced friends, spouses, government staffers and high-level figures alike to recount everything they had witnessed, heard, or said. I don't know how he managed to do all of that and publish the book in such a short amount of time, but it's pretty impressive.
Dickens has a sharp eye for the best, the worst, and the absurd in human nature, and narrator Frederick Davidson brings every character to life as never before. Because Dickens' work relies more heavily on dialogue than prose, Davidson's talent is unleashed to its full extent here, with a stunning result. As with Shantaram, another of my all-time favorite listens, this audio version of David Copperfield is one of those rare gems, better heard than read.
Considering that this book was written almost 300 years ago, it's very readable and the language is not difficult. However, I strongly disagree with the reviewer who made it sound like this book is just another great example of riveting historical fiction. Certainly when it was published it must have been a fascinating new idea- a man being marooned on an island- gee, how could he ever survive? But in our current day and time this is an idea which has been explored over and over from many different angles, with many heroes and heroines in much more dire straits.
Robinson Crusoe was stranded in the very best of circumstances, with ample tools and important items from the ship to help him on his way. Thus, it is no page turner but rather a classic piece which has influenced pop culture in myriad ways, and is, as such, worth reading. If you are not interested in the story from that perspective, and furthermore if you find movies like Cast Away even slightly tiresome, this book is not for you.
If you enjoy well written 19th century classic literature, this is a great choice. It's pretty light, and not quite as intriguing as The Portrait of a Lady, but it still keeps you interested. My only complaint is the narrator's pacing- he reads well, but leaves interminable pauses between most of his sentences. It might be worthwhile to listen to a sample before buying it.
This is the most well done audiobook I have ever listened to. Roberts does an incredible job of depicting the experience of exile, self-imposed or otherwise, and in doing so brings the many Indian dialects, customs, and particularities of speaking English as a second language to life. However, as intriguing, humorous, and interesting as the story is itself, it is the fabulous narration that truly makes it brilliant. Humphrey Bower does such a masterful job of portraying every accent, character, and emotion that it shocks me that he did not win the award for best male narration. Don't miss this one!
This read was just okay- very tortuous and certainly not gripping. I appreciate her attempt to make the book feel more like literature than typical current fiction, but felt that her attempt fell short of success. The author clearly loves books along the lines of Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, and Rebecca- I imagine she wishes this book could sit right next to it on a shelf in the library. At times eloquent but never deep, her myriad references to Jane Eyre as a foreshadowing device falls way short of the literary brilliance I expected after reading other people's reviews. I wouldn't recommend this book.
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