There are many books I read in high school and college that I really didn't like, but when I read now, I adore. This is not one of them.
I read "The Last of the Mohicans" in a college American Literature course and hated it. I thought I'd give it another go (Hey, it made a great movie with Daniel Day Lewis) and thought an audiobook might help. Nope.
I've read much French, English and American literature around this time (Dumas, Dickens, Bronte and Poe) so I know its not the literature of the era. The language is difficult because it is so flowery and stilted. The narrator couldn't even help this. Also, I am good at considering the context of a book's era and forgiving what today seems politically incorrect. However, this book was popular and contributed to the stereo-type our country had about Native Americans being either inhuman, cruel perpetrators of unimaginable horrors or the rare "noble savage".
In addition, the portrayal of Cora (who represents her sex bravely), and her sister (the constantly fainting, Alice) and the love-struck Major Duncan Heyward irritated me.
I completed the book because of its historical significance, but I certainly won't go back to read any more about Hawkeye (Natty Bumppo) and his loyal Delaware friends.
Fascinating look at Cornelius Vanderbilt and his long, successful life. To start from an industrious young man working for his father's boat to become a "Commodore" of the steam boat industry, and then a railroad tycoon was amazing. Much of the book talks of his time from the late 1700s to the 1870s. A man of amazing energy, stamina and discipline. The book covers the changes caused by changes by steamboats and rail by moving communication, people and products. It also shows the changes in New York during this time, and Vanderbilt's role during the Civil War.
While interesting, I felt it could have been shorter. It was not as riveting as book "Lindbergh", "Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr.", "The Bishop's Boys: A Life of Wilbur and Orville Wright", "The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin" or many similar books that portray a person and their times. I became impatient towards the end. Another reviewer I read commented that he appreciated the epilogue because it helped make sense of the rest of the book. Sad but true.
The book is very complicated - about 1/4 of the book are "digressions" where Hugo discusses topics as diverse as Waterloo, the Paris sewer system, slang, the penal system, politics, cloisters, Paris rich, Paris poor and more. While these passages are hard to wade through - they prepare the reader for later passages, and add a little suspense as we want to get back to the story of Jean Valjean and others.
Nothing is absolute with Hugo, he examines both sides of issues - he may rail on Catholic cloisters, but Valjean's road to salvation starts with an act of kindness by a priest, and later he and Cosette are living in a convent.
Overall, the book is about what is good/evil and the possibility of redemption but how society's conventions may get in the way. While reading the book, I was struck to the similarity in construction to "War and Peace" (a fabulous story with many digressions). This makes sense since Tolstoy and Hugo were contemporaries and "Les Misérables" was published 7 years before Tolstoy's masterpiece.
I really enjoyed this book - it follows Captain Victor (Pug) Henry as he becomes the naval attache in Berlin up through the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Through Pug's assignments he has access to leaders in USA, Berlin, England and Russia. The experience of Pug, his wife, three children, and friends show many different aspects of WWII including the Nazi invasion of Poland, the blitz of London, Roosevelt/Churchill meeting and more. I enjoyed this so much that I immediately got the second volume.
A look at the treatment of Native American's from their view of the history of the U.S. Widely acclaimed when it was published in 1970, the book brought to light a viewpoint generally not covered in American History.
I knew some of it, from places I've been and other books I've read, but Brown's book helped connect some other dots for me - especially events in Colorado/Arizona/New Mexico/Kansas where I know the name of the person or place, but not what occurred, and what lead up to some of the major events. It definitely makes me want to learn more.
A great follow-up book is "Empire of the Summer Moon".
A great Victorian/Gothic novels most people never hear about. If you like the Bronte sisters and Middlemarch, you'll enjoy this.
Early on we are introduced to the mysterious woman in white when Walter Hartright is travelling to Limmeridge house to be a drawing tutor for two young ladies, Laura Fairlie and her half-sister Marian Halcombe. They rest of the book tells the the story of Walter, Laura and Marian.
Wonderful evil characters - Sir Percival Glyde and Count Fosco. Excellent fun, and the narration of Simon Prebble and Josephine Bailey was superb.
Interesting note - Wilkie Collins was a friend of Charles Dickens.
I had no idea how little I knew about the Commanches other than they were fierce warriors and feared by settlers. This book talks about the traditions, the history of the Cheyenne, other plains Indians and the Indian Wars that eventually moved many tribes to reservations.
I liked how Gwynne pushes people to not view traditions through our modern eyes, but also consider the violent natures of our ancestors (Celts, the inquisition). He has a balanced approach - the war attrocities of the Cheyenne and also the combating Texas Rangers and U.S. Cavalry. Gwynne also discusses the impact of changes in technology - like the Colt revolver.
The end of the book covers the role of Quanah Parker - son Cynthia Anne Parker who was kidnapped in a raid when she was young. When "rescued" later in life, she continuously tried to escape back to the Cheyenne. Parker and his mother are studies in adaptation. He learned the game, and played it well to the benefit of himself and his peoples. What I don't like is that because of the focus on Quanah, it brushes on this not being the case for the majority of Indians who changed their lives from nomadic hunters to farmers. But - that is a lot to ask of a very interesting book.
I adore Stegner. He develops characters and stories with depth better than anybody. This book is about two couples, Larry and Sally Morgan and Sid and Charity Lang. They meet as young couples in a college in Wisconsin, and the book follows their lives and relationships.
It is by twists and turns heart-warming and tragic. He shows the two sides of character that can be giving and demanding - so much like life. In this book, he digs into how life is complex, we get in our own way, but some people gloriously overcome illnesses or setbacks what would destroy others.
This was his last book, and makes me want to read much more that he has written.
"Apocalypse Now" was based on this. Yes, that movie put it into a more modern view with Vietnam instead of the Congo, but after reading the V.S. Naipaul's book, "A Bend in the River" plus the Kingsolver book, "Poisonwood Diary", I think the Congo is more horrifying. The confusion, the darkness, "the Horror".
Marlowe's telling of this tale makes it an amazing ghost story. The listener characters melt away as Marlowe tells the horrific story of madness that he seems to still be dealing with. The end, when Marlowe is faced with the profound grief of Kurtz' intended and lies to her about his last word is moving. Was Marlowe true to the memory of Kurtz? I believe so.
Branaugh's narration was just as brilliant as I had expected.
My 3rd Wouk. I really enjoyed this - especially reading with an eye on leadership and how Willy's views of Queeg as he matured. It makes me want to see the movie again, but as I recall, the movie focuses more on the ship - Queeg and the mutiny, and not about Willy Keith as a young Princeton graduate as he matures through the book.
Incredible. Built around historical events and figures, the Henry family witnesses military events in Europe, the Pacific, Russia, Los Alamos. Especially moving is the experience of Natalie Jasper and her uncle Aaron, American Jews in Italy stuck after Pearl Harbor. As the author writes in the historical notes, his purpose was to "...bring the past to vivid life." Mission accomplished. Well done Mr. Wouk.
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