I'm usually a sucker for this kind of story. Families surviving their circumstances, love conquers all, etc. This one left me flat. I actually couldn't wait til it was over. I kept listening hoping it would get better, but alas, it didn't. The characters, other than the narrator (written in the first person from the perspective of a young Jewish girl) and her bubbe were not well developed and had no depth. Her parents were developmentally narcissistic teenagers. This family lived in a Jewish ghetto, supposedly very poor, yet these people indulged themselves in expensive clothes and entertainments, even professional manicures, while resenting the few dollars spent on clothes their daughter needed for school. I found nothing to like about them, as the only thing I was told about them was that they were beautiful and charming, which was reiterated so often it became insulting. Although the author is a good storyteller, none of the stories or episodes gave the listener any insight into the individuals, nor did they seem to learn or evolve throughout the book. There were no consequences, epiphanies or maturation. It was a series of this happened, then this happened, and it all seemed so random. Even Manya, the wise grandmother, escapes a relationship with a horrible man, not by her own choice, but it just works out that way. The family is often the beneficiary of the largesse of more successful family members and friends, and it all seems so contrived, always coming just at the right moment.
I gave it 2 stars because the stories often held their own, being interesting vignettes, even though they didn't seem to be part of a larger whole with a plot line leading somewhere, and I learned some things about life in that era and environment.
The reader, though a woman with a full, mellow voice, as evidenced by the tone she used when reading the narrative portions of the book, used the same, shrill voice for all the speaking parts, and the same accent. People raised in Connecticut had the same NY twang, just not quite as much. Although everyone sounded pretty much alike, the men's voices in particular were indistinct from each other, just louder and higher pitched, so they seemed to be yelling all the time. The text of this book contained a lot of dialogue that was back-and-forth conversation without explicitly stating who was speaking. If you were reading the book, each change of speaker would be a new paragraph, and it would be easier to discern who was speaking, but when listening without the benefit of distinct voices for each character, this was difficult to follow.
I read this book last year and recommended it as a selection for my book club. I was going to re-read it to refresh my memory and then decided to listen to it for a new experience. Wow, am I glad I did. Jim Broadbent brought such subtle nuance to the character and made his emotions so real. If they make a movie of this book, he should play Harold, although he might not want to: been there, done that.
The themes of transformational introspection, love deprived and nurtured, and the healing power of forgiveness resonated with me. A lovely tale of an Everyman (and woman) on their Everyjourney.
This book is beautifully written and the words seem to almost sing when listened to. This was definitely a case where listening to the audible version was better than the read, which, by the way, I loved. It's also a book I will listen to again, after a while. Kind of like a movie you watch about once every year or two.
I wish I didn't know who really wrote this book, but I can't unring that bell. I'm such a big JKR fan, but I'd like to think I can separate that and assess this book in a reasonably objective manner. Once I started, I couldn't stop listening to this book. It hooked me from the get go and never got boring. There's a lot of depth to the characters and the back story gets filled in gradually so they evolve as the book progresses. JK's descriptive abilities continue to shine and make every scene a rich experience beyond the progression of the story. Besides all that, it's a rip roaring good mystery, with twists and false turns aplenty. I look forward to the future adventures of Cormoran Strike and Robin.
The only thing better than the book itself may be the reading of it. This was a wonderful performance by a gifted actor/reader. I had a copy of the book and in many parts read along with the narration. I found his reading and interpretation so much more vivid and interesting than I would have done in my head if I read it. Each character's voice was so well done and unique, I could tell who was speaking before the text told me.
You know it's a good one when you're sad when you get to the end because there is no more.
I love Ms. Kingsolver's writing and have read most of her books, but I will never listen to the audio version of another one that she reads. This book, although not one of my favorites of hers, was a good story, and in the typical Kingsolver fashion, manages to educate about an important topic while keeping us entertained using wonderful prose and interesting characters. There was a lot of scientific detail about Monarch butterflies that some might find tedious, but I enjoyed. Apparently I'm as big a nerd as she is.
However, she's not an actor and does not do her work justice by performing the reading herself. Her voice doesn't have the full, round tones we've come to expect in an audio book. I have seen her in person, when she read a few pages of a book and that was great, but she doesn't have the talent or training to pull off an entire novel.
Her reading of the dialog was actually okay: not great, but a good amateur performance. I'm no linguist so I can't say whether her accents were accurate, but they were good enough for my untrained ear. Certainly better than I would have done in my head had I read the book. It was the narrative portions of the book that drove me to distraction. It was plodding and cumbersome, and I was constantly aware of her trying to enunciate each word carefully. The intonations were exaggerated and it felt like I was being read to by a kindergarten teacher who couldn't break out of her usual role.
Please, Ms Kingsolver, keep to what you were born to do: write. After all, would any of us have benefited if Arthur Miller insisted he had to play Willie Loman?
I love British stories of all kinds, especially ones that take place in small hamlets. These characters were very vivid, made more so by Tom Hollander's narration. Everyone was a little flawed, yet no one had no redeeming qualities (well, almost no one). I was able to empathize with almost all the characters at some point, and see where each was coming from.
I listened a while ago and sadly, can't remember her name. The troubled teenage girl who was on the rowing team. I believe it was Crystal, but I'm not sure. I was particularly sympathetic to her attachment to her little brother, and her discouraging situation.
His normal voice is very deep and soothing, and he had well-defined voices for each character. I could tell immediately who was speaking before the text indicated it. There were a lot of characters in this book; I think his interpretations helped keep them vivid.
Yes, but if I say it, it's a spoiler. Late in the book, involving the teenage girl I mention as my favorite character.
In the middle somewhere, I guess. I've listened to much worse performances, but also much better.
Perhaps the Sue Grafton books, both having a strong female detective lead.
No, this is the first of hers I've heard.
Yes, although I didn't. But I enjoyed having a short, entertaining mystery.
This story was enough to make me interested in more stories in this series.
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