This audio version is well-handled by using more than one performer, as there are more than one narrative strands here. There is the modern strand: a lively amateur sleuth mystery about a young man who had once been tossed out of a polygamous community, but who goes back to exonerate his mother, who is falsely accused of murder. And there is the historical strand: the real-life story of Ann Eliza Young, the 19th polygamous wife of Brigham Young, who wrote a notorious memoir and gave lectures that had a great deal to do with Mormonism's eventual decision to discontinue polygamy. I had actually purchased this book expecting two fictional narratives interwoven with each other. What I found instead was a modern fictional narrative interwoven with a mostly factual historical narrative. Even though the story of Ann Eliza Young is fascinating, it is nevertheless a problem that Ebershoff makes such extensive use of what is after all the writing of someone else. And as for the modern fictional narrative, while it begins well, it resolves in a way I found unsatisfactory. Even so, the novel as a whole is worth a listen because of how perceptive it is about the problems of polygamy and the questions it raises about the two original prophets of Mormonism, namely Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. These two men accomplished amazing things (especially Young), but they also introduced the odious practice of polygamy into their faith, a self-serving decision which very nearly resulted in the destruction of that same faith.
I agree with a previous reviewer's comment that the reader is a little monotonous in his reading voice. It is a bluff male voice such as might be suitable for a sailor, but it lacks range. This problem is perhaps made worse by the fact that Melville launches into some heavily discursive passages in which he berates the unfortunate effects of the so-called "civilized" Europeans on the South Sea natives. These comments were a much-needed corrective at the time of the book's original publication, but they have the effect of taking the reader out of the novel. Typee is really only an adventure novel in the first section and briefly again at the end. In the middle is a long section describing the lifestyle of the Polynesians prior to being heavily impacted by European visitors. It is an idyllic life in which little work is required and the natives, who are feared as barbarous and violent, prove to be mostly benign and hospitable. I wouldn't rate this book as being on par with Moby Dick because the themes are so bluntly stated, as though the narrator had decided to step out of the narrative in order to deliver a lecture. Yet it was fascinating in what it depicts and is still a worthwhile listen.
Although this is generally a good reading of this classic work, I must point out that there is a problem with the way the book has been divided into 2 parts. The end of Chapter 9 has been cut off at the end of Part One. Part Two begins with Chapter 10. Thus someone has made an error and left out a portion of the reading, because the reader is cut off in mid-sentence at the end of Part One.
I have to give full marks to David Case for the excellent job he does as narrator of Bleak House. He manages to create believable distinctive voices for many characters of all classes and both sexes, and this made the novel an excellent listen. My only reservation is with Dickens himself, who is at his best when writing satire but who really lays it on thick when he delves into sentimentality. Dickens' characters tend to be one-dimensional, which works fine when he is satirizing their quirks and bad habits, such as the ludicrous Mr. Chadband, whose manner of delivering sermons is to ask absurd rhetorical questions over and over and then refute them. Yet Dickens' sentimentality doesn't really spoil how entertaining the book is in the final analysis, and I suspect the fact that Dickens is a little obvious and heavy-handed in his moralizing is also why he remains a very popular writer to this day.
This is certainly a fun book and I was delighted to find Miriam Toews on the Audible.com list and would love to see more Canadian authors make it onto Audible. This is basically the story of a madcap roadtrip undertaken in desperation by the aunt of a teenage boy and an 11-year old girl, together with those children, to find their father after their mother goes into hospital with mental health problems. Ultimately, after crossing the entire United States, they find him. But I was unsatisfied by the conclusion. Hattie, the narrator, commits herself to looking after her sister, Min (the one with the mental health issues), in the wake of a failed love affair. But as the book makes clear, Hattie has tried to do this many times before, without success. Why should the reader believe it's going to work this time? The story ends seemingly prematurely without a full resolution, perhaps like life itself, but I am not a reader who believes that art should exactly imitate life. Readers expect a story to have a more satisfying conclusion than life often affords, and I believe an author should respect these expectations. In this story, Toews doesn't, which is why I thought it not as good as her earlier novel, A Complicated Kindness.
In this novel Baldwin presents a realistic portrait of artistic young people in New York in the early 1960s. The most compelling character, the tormented black musician Rufus, is alive for only the first portion of the book, yet he casts his shadow over everything. Baldwin shows how even well-meaning whites who try to create friendship or love across the racial barrier often have no idea of the emotional sorrow they are up against or the further sorrow they may inadvertently cause. This novel also explores the conflicts that can arise among a group of struggling artists when one of their number becomes successful. As well, the novel includes some frank but well-written sex scenes, including homosexual encounters. Some may find this novel overly dark and full of conflict. Certainly, it is not a light or cheerful book, but it is an important work.
I was surprised at the negative comments of another reviewer about the reader, C.M. Hebert, of this version of Little Women. I found the reader to be warm and lively and to have conveyed well the old-fashioned moralism combined with a genuine love for her characters that rescues Alcott's classic from merely being larded with bromides or unbearably treacly. Because let's face it, this is a very sentimental book, but the characters are so loveable and so sympathetic that the reader overlooks this quality and just goes along for the ride. And C.M. Hebert, with her amused tone, well conveys this spirit.
This novella may be compared to Ethan Frome in that it is about country people rather than about the wealthy about whom Edith Wharton more commonly wrote. And yet this novel is more complex and emotionally compelling than the more famous work. The tragedy of this young woman's life and her seemingly unavoidable doom is spellbinding.
Conrad, whose most famous books were about seafaring, wrote this lesser known work around 1907 about a man who serves as a spy for a foreign country in the Edwardian era. He is provoked by his employer into committing a terrorist act in order, supposedly, to cause the British police to clamp down on anarchists and communists. But the bombing goes awry and fails to produce the desired result. The story is a thoughtful portrait of a selfish man and the self-centered maneuverings of those around him: the police, the Minister in the government, and the foreign ambassador. Yet the story has resonance for modern times and provides insight into the minds of modern suicide bombers and terrorists.
I hadn't expected a story of such dry humor and Kafkaesque qualities as "Bartleby the Scrivener" from the author of "Moby Dick". The story is intriguing and more than a little strange. The reading is quite good.
The main tenet of Aurelius' philosophy seems to be that a person should stay true to their highest nature. Nobody can truly harm you, no matter what they do to your body, if you do not compromise your divine nature. This is a very simple and beautiful idea. However, this particular reading of the book is a bit dull and pedantic, although admittedly the material is not inherently dramatic.
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