South Australia, Australia | Member Since 2010
I have literally just finished listening to this wonderful work, part novel, part history, part biography and wholly a revelation. It is difficult to comprehend how the well traveled road of Henry VIII, the Boylens, Thomas More, Wolsey and others could be given a new perspective. Ms Mantel has done just that, and from the point of view of the apparently least sympathetic character, Thomas Cromwell. Of course we all know how it ends, but that is in part the genius of the narrative. Even knowing that, the story presents itself, in the true sense, as novel. I was not tempted to the dictionary with regularity nor to the history books. Because the history is well know, the essentials don't need to be cross-checked (as they often have to with other historical novels). The incidentals don't press you to be checked (because they illuminate the characters in preference to the events).
I particularly like the seeming transition from the third person to the first person that the author has employed with great skill. Through it, and the simple device of capturing the day to day, she conveys what some other historical novelists miss: the inner character of the historical figures. For example, whereas Thomas More's martyrdom seems like the hallmark of his struggle with Henry, as an event for Cromwell it is much more. Cromwell respects and disrespects More in proportion, but he hates that great thinkers must be sacrificed. Yet sacrifice is the artifice of government. That dilemma for Cromwell is palpable from the narrative. For all that, the language is simple throughout, reflecting a Protestant value true to Cromwell's aspiration. It also reflects with wonderful eloquence a simpler time when there was a right and a wrong (although they could change overnight at the monarch's whim); England in the 1530s. I was tempted to keep reading, moving to the second in the trilogy at once. I have resisted only to make that reading even more auspicious.
As to the performance by Simon Slater, I think him the perfect selection to read this work. His voices were attuned to each character, particularly Cromwell and More. The stretch narrative was conveyed at a lovely pace. I am pleased to see he has also read a version of the sequel. It is on my Wish List.
In my opinion, Ms Mantel deserved the Man-Booker Prize for this work and readers of good books deserve to have books of this quality win prestigious awards.
I have heard so much about this book I truly expected to be disappointed. Fortunately I was pleasantly surprised, over and over again. It is a wonder that you can be so taken aback by the obvious, even when you know it's coming. That's how I was, right to the Epilogue.
I think it sells this title short to call it a "coming of age" novel, but it is one. It's also a mystery, a why-do-it, a psychological thriller. A fantastic first novel which thoroughly deserves all the praised heaped upon it.
From a performance point of view, I would have preferred someone else to read this. True, Ms Tartt added some parts (mainly identifying who spoke parts of the dialogue), but overall it sounded too much like Holly Hunter and not enough like Richard, the modern Caufield. Still, i followed it in print, heard my own voices and managed to disengage from the voice. Even with the voice, it is still a fantastic, riveting listen and a wonderfully rich and complex story.
It must be more than thirty years since I first read this title, but it has lost none of its impact, its relevance or importance. I recall that after I first read it I went on a Hemingway bender, reading one title after the other until I made myself sick of his work! I feel like doing the same thing again (reading more Hemingway), but a bit older I think I will exercise some temperance and enjoy what I have just drunk in. I don't think the futility of war that comes through the words can ever be truly lost no matter whether your view is that this is an uplifting book (which I subscribe to) or it is a depressing one.
As for Cameron Scott's performance, I thought it good. He captured the futility and the tension. The characterisation was ok, too. I would have liked the up-beat passages to lift a bit more (like his cinematic performance as "Tunner" in "The Sheltering Sky", perhaps), but overall he was more than just serviceable. Afterall, it is so hard to read a classic such that the voice that you hear from the narrator is the voice that was already in your head. Certainly, this reading did not offend my preconceived view of any of the characters.
This is without question the best documentary analysis I have ever read/heard and certainly the most riveting look at this riveting subject, Watergate. Whatever view you might have of John Dean and his role in Watergate, there can be no doubting his intellect, thoroughness and acumen. I can only sit back and admire his skills as a lawyer, an analyst and the enormous work ethic he must have to have collated this material in such a readable way.
Having acknowledged Dean, it is important to praise Joe Barrett. I am not sure I could have read the 26 hours worth of text without Barrett's fantastic capturing of the characters; Nixon, Haldeman, Erlichman, Haigh and numerous others.
I enjoyed it so much I have purchased the hardback and I will re-visit Dean's earlier apologia, "Blind Ambition", that I read 30 years ago. I have reams of notes that I can't possibly use in this review, but I wish I could.
This is truly an outstanding piece of work, at least 90+% supported by the Watergate tapes and the remainder being very astute inference by Dean that is hard to fault. It is essential reading/listening if you are at all interested in this remakable piece of history.
This is one of those titles that I ended-up enjoying more than an individual assessment of its content and the performance suggests. Don't get me wrong, the content and the performance were fine, but not a 4 in either case. Despite this the story was very enjoyable, amusing and interesting. I enjoyed the characters, particularly the likable Karp and the caricature, short Italian wise-cracker (I could see Tony Danza or the ill-fated Robert Blake in this role). I'm amazed that no one has picked-up the rights to this series, or if they have, not put it on the screen (big or small). Maybe it has to do with Tanenbaum's legal and political background, although its hard to wonder what stopping the go-ahead now.
From a plot point of view, it was all good, entertaining stuff until about three-quarters through, when it became slightly unbelievable. I guess anything is possible in NY, but this seemed a stretch to me. It prompted me to check the blurb and reviews for the second book which tended to confirm that the extraordinary takes over. Still, that doesn't stop the plot from being fun and Traber Burns played with it in a fun way. I intend to read Book 2 sometime soon.
This title begins with such a lovely literary device I found it hard to stop smiling despite the subject matter, or at least its implication. It ends so well, too and unexpectedly. Generally I pride myself in picking the twist, but there are so many here it is hard to cover them all off and I certainly did not pick the last one.
It's hard to write much more about this title without giving away something important and, as I hate spoilers, I don't intend to do that. It's probably enough to say that it is up there with the best Harry stories, that Sean Barrett does another excellent job with the characters and that I am intrigued to read the tenth installment.
Viva la Hole!
Although I thought this an interesting interview and it did contain some historically relevant record of the Obama Clinton race for the Presidency, it was not as revealing as I had hoped it might be about the topics everyone wanted to hear Sorensen speak about; Camelot, the assassination, JFK's input into those famous speeches and the other politically sensitive things like the Bay of Pigs and Nixon. Still, it was good to hear him speak in his measured way and to imagine the calm that he (probably not O'Donell) brought to the tension that gripped the Whitehouse during the Missile Crisis. Worth the time and the meager expense.
At last I am up to date with the author's Langdon catalogue, but I can't honestly say that I feel any the better for it. Again the story conforms to the stereotypes for this genre (see the second paragraph of my review of "The Symbol", which could be cut and pasted here without losing any of its accuracy, save that there is no Masonic element in this plot). However, for some reason I just couldn't buy into the story this time and so I found it less entertaining. On reflection this might be because I am a Dante fan and know the Divine Comedy in more than passing, or because I am a regular visitor to Florence and know its attractions well. So, just maybe, my familiarity has bred, not contempt, but perhaps indifference. In any event, the revelations were not as startling to me as, say, "the Symbol's" and, although it is still a good yarn, it did not have that element of, "What? Really!" about it. Sure I still checked out the tour sites on the internet (there are several), but more for refreshing a memory than to look upon it for the first time. Most of the internet travel related to the third city of the plot, Istanbul (Venice is the second city, after Florence).
Paul Michael did another good job with the narration, particularly with the accents.
If you are not familiar with Dante, Florence or Venice you will probably find this more interesting than I did. That said, it was still an entertaining listen.
It seems appropriate to write a review of this title on Australia Day. FitzSimons tells a familiar historical tale of the misuse of Australian troops by persons far away and without adequate appreciation of the facts as they were at the battleface. Like many stories of former gallantry, there is a sense of the inevitable and of the unnecessary. FitzSimons captures all of this and more. He is unflattering in his condemnation of criminal negligence, whether it was Blamey's or McArthur's. He is patriotic to a fault and respectful of the Digger and the Digger's duty to his mates. He tells the story, often in the first person, relying on interviews with survivors, diaries and other contemporaneous records. It reads like a novel in parts and a documentary in others. At times it choked me up, but it often made me smile. It is a strange thing that one can be proud of some much bloodshed. That said, if the book has a failing, it is that it is a wee bit too empathic for me and, I suspect many Australians, preferring as we do to let the result speak for itself and not boast about it. Of course there are exceptions, and FitzSimons might have found a valid one here.
As for FitzGerald's reading, I thought it an outstanding performance from an accomplished artist. He captured the fervor, the frustration and the brutality, and his nuance was pitched perfectly. I loved the use of the 1940's Australian idiom (now, sadly, dying) but I thought the use of an echo on many of the quotations was an unnecessary dramatic device. I liked the Chapter divides military segue. I note that the new edition of the hardcopy contains an Afterword that is not in this production, but which is short and could be read in the bookshop waiting in line!
I think this is an important read for most Australians. I was heartened to see from the reviews on this site that it struck a chord with many others, too. I would be interested to know how it has been received in a Japanese market because, although critical of Japanese brutality (to themselves and others), it is respectful of those unfortunate men of both sides that gave their lives to hold or take a sod of mud in a jungle far from their homes.
Over three decades since I last read this classic of the genre that Poe made his own and which he labelled in his anthology, the "Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque", it has lost none of psychological intensity. Long before there was Stephen King and Alfred Hitchcock before him, Poe was frightening the growing number of adults who were looking for something more than the prevalent romances of his time. In some ways, Poe borrowed from the noir repertoire that was entrenched in Paris, in others, as I have mentioned, he created his own style.
The symbolism is almost as important as the literal, and it remains so.
I regret that I did not care for Ms Dobson's reading. In my opinion she paused where there was no warrant to pause and her nasal delivery grated upon me. Also, perhaps strangely, she ended many sentences with a flat, downward inflection to the detriment of the words and the symbolism.
The rating is a reflection of the narration, not the tale that remains as full of dread today as when I first read it.
I downloaded this title because of Simon Vance, one of my favourite narrators, and because I had enjoyed "Imperium" and cannot get the sequel in audio in Oz. The storyline does have similarities to the latter (and in fact assumes some knowledge of Cicero's famous victory over Hortenius in the matter of the regent of Syracuse) and Vance did not let me down with his reading skills. That said, the book is not a deep one, more a "who done it" set in Roman times and populated by some well known personalities, including Julius Caesar, Pompey the Great and his co-Consul, Crassus. Of course, Cicero and the great filibusterer, Hortensius, play important roles, too. The plot is sufficiently salacious to be fun and the history is sufficiently important to the plot to make it interesting. Alas, the protagonist, Decius, is not good enough to be admirable, nor flawed enough to be pitied, so I am yet to make my mind up about his future appeal. However, I had enough fun to give him (and SPQR) another go so long as Vance continues to be his voice.
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