Andrew Wilson's book provides a wonderful expansion of the Titanic story. What he's done is gather and organize a series of lives: what happened to the survivors of the wreck? Some found happiness with new life partners they met in the lifeboats; others struggled to make sense of the tragedy, and more than a few committed suicide.
Wilson does a great job capturing the unique qualities of each person's life and personality. (I do have two criticisms: one is that he sometimes tends to speculate about psychological states that can't be verified; another is the recurrence of the phrase "lay at the bottom of the ocean.") We hear about Jack Thayer, the scion of a main line Philadelphia family; Dorothy Gibson, star of silent film who wrote and acted in her own film about the Titanic within weeks of her arrival in New York; the haunted and reclusive Bruce Ismay, who lost a leg to diabetes; the affable Sir Cosmo and Lady Duff Gordon, who spent the rest of their lives trying to justify their escape from the wreck in a lifeboat that held only 12 people; the obsessive Edith Russell, the woman who had a pig-shaped music box, and who was horrified when the film version of "A Night to Remember" showed her wearing a dress she would never have worn; and Millvina Dean, the last survivor of the Titanic, who was only 9 months old at the time of the wreck and who died in 2009.
Most of the stories are of first-class passengers, with a handful from second-class and virtually no one from third-class. Of course the first-class passengers were more likely to survive and more likely to leave accounts in newspapers and books: by percentage, more first-class men survived the sinking than third-class women and children.
There's quite a good account of the wreck as well, obviously much shorter and more selective than Walter Lord's narrative. But as he discusses the lives of the survivors, Wilson returns again and again to the story of the sinking to fill in stray details.
The book is read brilliantly by Bill Wallis, whose gravelly voice sounds like it's been through a few shipwrecks of its own. I found myself holding my breath as Wallis took me through Ismay's appearance before the Senate inquiry in America and the British Wreck Commission inquiry; cringing at the obtuseness of the Duff Gordons during their own time in what became, for them, the dock of public opinion.
I'm usually listening to three or four audio books at a time, switching between them at different times of day or depending on mood. One of the best things I can say about this enthralling listen is that I set aside all the other titles I was working on till I finished this one.
Loved the translation; loved the narrator. This is one of the best audio renditions of the poem I've heard. But for me, Aeneas remains a bit of a prig, and the poem subject to occasional digressions into sentimentality - something that is never true of Homer.
I have a kind of love/hate relationship with George Eliot. On one hand, she writes beautifully crafted novels filled with interesting and solid characters. On the other hand, she's always interrupting her narrative to tell me how to think about it. She's forever reaching after generalizations, but many of them ring as false to me as the narrative itself rings true.
Adam Bede is no exception. As a narrator, Eliot annoys me; as a narrative, the book is a graceful and moving story about life and love in a small village as the 18th century slides into the 19th. (Some of the dinner-table conversation revolves around Bony - Napoleon - and the threat he and the armies of France pose.)
Adam is a carpenter who's in love with Hatty; but Hatty's head has been turned by Arthur, the son of the local squire. Arthur and Adam fight; Arthur goes off to join his regiment; Hatty decides to marry Adam after all; but as the day approaches, she discovers (in wonderfully elliptical Victorian prose) that she's pregnant.
In some ways the book could have been written by Thomas Hardy. The ending is less grim than it would have been in Hardy's hands, and there is considerably more country-folkish humor throughout the book; but not everyone makes it through, and there is a kind of autumnal poignancy about the last moments.
One of the more remarkable achievements in the book is the character Dinah, an early Methodist. Until the Conference forbids it, Dinah plays the unusual role of itinerant preacher. She's a gentle, loving, peaceful soul, and one of the few utterly believable persons of faith I've encountered in fiction.
Nadia May is a comfortable narrator, reliable as a rock, and I very much enjoyed her performance.
Agnostic and evil secular humanist that I am, I still spend hours every week reading the Bible - or listening to it on audiobook.
Finding an audio version that I like has been a struggle. The versions with the best production values, like The Word of Promise, use translations I dislike because they tend to use "Biblish" - useful maybe if you can follow along with text and commentary, but not easy to follow as a form of audio storytelling. Translations I like better and think are more appropriate for listening - the NCV, the NLT, the CEB - have audio versions but not first-rate ones.
Then there's this one: the dramatized NIV. It's right about in the middle in terms of both accessibility and production values. I don't recognize the actors - none of them credited anywhere I can see - with the exception of the actor who voices God, who I believe is Todd Busteed. But they're all good readers and are not afraid to express emotion. The music is excellent and never distracting. The translation is a bit formal but free enough to be comprehensible to a first-time listener.
So, while it's not my ideal version, I think this is the best all-around audio Bible I've found.
I had just finished listening to Dan Stevens' remarkable reading of The Odyssey, translated by Robert Fitzgerald. But my Homer itch hadn't been fully scratched. For relief I turned to an old favorite - Stanley Lombardo reading his own translation of The Odyssey.
Lombardo's version is equally remarkable, but in a very different way. Where Fitzgerald is stately and heroic ("lift the great song again"), Lombardo is earthy and immediate. Lombardo developed his version originally for public performance, and his reading reflects that: it's brisk, rhythmic, and varied.
I don't read Greek, ancient or modern, and can't recommend one over the other in terms of accuracy. What I CAN say is that both are successful narrative poems in English, although they seem to be almost intentionally at opposite ends of the diction continuum.
One of the things I enjoy about the Lombardo recording is that Susan Sarandon provides a brief synopsis of each book beforehand. Another thing I like is the musical theme that plays as each episode begins. I've heard people complain about the fact that it's the same theme each time; but to my way of thinking, that's an asset. It serves to set the mood and it ties together the various parts of this extremely varied work of literature.
The Taming of the Shrew is another early Shakespeare play, and it's one that makes me distinctly uncomfortable - maybe even more so than The Merchant of Venice, another "problem play."
It is, in my opinion, a misogynistic play. The spirited Kate has a few moments of tenderness with her crazy husband Petruchio, but only after she's been starved, deprived of sleep, and forced to debase herself in front of others. (To his credit, he never actually hits her, but that's setting the bar pretty low.) Many productions try to get around the implications by making it all seem ironic, but I've never been able to find that irony in the text.
(One of Shakespeare's fellow playwrights seemed to think the same thing, and wrote a sequel called The Tamer Tamed: Petruchio's second wife turns the tables on him.)
Not much irony in this production either; it's played straight. The cast is, as usual, first-rate, although Frances Barber is sometimes a little too shrill as Kate; granted the character is described repeatedly as a shrew, but there's shrewishness that's funny and shrewishness that's just unpleasant.
The other odd thing about the play is the appearance and disappearance of the "framing story" involving Christopher Sly. Shakespeare sets it up and then abandons it after a couple of scenes. Another play from the period provides a few other scenes with Sly, including an epilogue that neatly ties up the loose ends. Many recent productions, if they include the framing story at all, add these scenes. I suspect they were written by Shakespeare and intended to be part of the play, but Arkangel sticks to their guns (and their stated purpose) and omits them.
Not one of the more satisfying entries in the series, but the fault is mostly Shakespeare's.
Eugene Onegin is a "novel in verse - the whole of it written in a series of 14-line verses with an unusually complex rhyme scheme. Falen's translation tries to reproduce the scheme in English. This isn't an easy task - English being notoriously short on rhymes - but he succeeds to an extent I wouldn't have thought possible. The syntax isn't distorted, and the rhymes click into place reliably and gracefully.
The rhymes are a big part of the pleasure of listening to this (although Raphael Corkhill's narration sometimes emphasizes line endings more than I would have preferred). Even if you don't try to explicitly follow the scheme, you will begin to intuit it and eagerly anticipate the next rhyme. That this doesn't distract from comprehension of the story testifies to the clarity and lucid simplicity of both story and verse.
It's a straightforward, sad story about friendship, love, loss, and regret. I'd read it years ago for a literature class, but I think the translation was a dud; it didn't make much of an impression. This time around, the novel was a pure delight.
If you give it a try, watch for the almost psychedelic description of a young woman's nightmare.
Professor Desan is a clear and engaging guide to this crucial period of European history. It's a bit unusual for a book or course to cover both the Revolution and Napoleon, but it's hard to argue with the results as she traces the cause and effect relationships. My interest is only partly historical; I was looking also for something that would help fill in the context for the political and military struggles that play such a major role in 19th century European fiction. (Not to mention Richard Sharpe and Jack Aubrey.) This does that beautifully.
Everything I said about Stevens' reading of The Iliad is true for this one, and then some. It's a nearly perfect marriage of translator and narrator. (Homer's not half bad either.)
The structure of The Odyssey is a wonder: multiple layers, multiple points of view, all of it flowing forth effortlessly.
Fitzgerald's translation of The Odyssey was my first contact with Homer. There are other translations that are more accurate, on a line by line basis; but few that throw off as many sparks of compact beauty.
Bart Ehrman is spot on as usual. The advantage of listening to his lectures rather than to someone else narrating his book is hearing the author's own voice. Ehrman is enthusiastic and engaging; he sounds like he's speaking off the cuff rather than reading a script; and he's able to present complex material in a clear and systematic way. It's important to note, however, that this lecture series is a history of early Christian IDEAS rather than early Christian people. There are a number of people discussed, of course - people like Tertullian, Ignatius, and Origen - but the lectures are far more topical than chronological.
My interest in Napoleon was sparked a few years ago by the adventures of Richard Sharpe and the Aubrey/Maturin series. After re-reading War and Peace, I decided I had to learn more about the background. Since then, I've listened to a number of audiobooks about Napoleon (a surprising number of them narrated by John Lee).
I had also previously read Andrew Roberts' history of the Second World War, The Storm of War, and was impressed by his writing and the organization of the narrative. The same qualities are in evidence here. We follow Napoleon from his early days on Corsica to military school in France, to Italy, to Egypt, to Spain, and to Russia. The whole of Europe became his battlefield.
As in The Storm of War, Roberts includes a generous helping of political history too. Napoleon scattered constitutions around Europe like travel brochures. He codified and exported laws that embodied at least some of the ideals of the French Revolution. (Roberts, however, notes that the liberal tendencies of the famed Napoleonic code were blunted by its persistent sexism: all men might be equal under the law, but women need not apply.)
The man himself was an interesting combination of engaging and repellent traits. He was a bully, certainly - and a butcher - but he also had an insatiable thirst for knowledge: if a dinner guest had specialized knowledge, he would pepper him with questions and take notes. He was never afraid to say "I don't know" in response to a particular question; but he would always try to find out. He was always in motion. He consumed his meals in 10 minutes, and his lovemaking was likely to be equally hurried.
Napoleon's spectacular rise is matched by his equally spectacular fall. His story has an inherently dramatic shape, and that comes through in this mostly chronological account.
John Lee is, as always, a rapid and enthusiastic narrator. And also as always with this type of material on audio, I found myself reaching for supplementary maps and diagrams in Wikipedia. I do wish PDF supplements were standard for this type of book on Audible, and that they were easily accessible through the mobile app.
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