South Australia, Australia | Member Since 2010
This truly is a revelation. I had read the book many years before, of course, but I had never really appreciated the way the story was told in correspondence. I suspect that lack of appreciation is a testament to Bram Stocker's skills as a storyteller and to my lack of acuity. Whatever the reason, hearing the tale told through the words of the correspondents makes it so much more intimate and exciting. It puts the Twilight Saga and True Blood in their place as pieces for their time and generations, but confirms the traditional view of Dracula, van Helsing and Transalvania as everlasting pieces of literature for all time and a mature audience. In the parlance of the present cinema, it's M15+ verging on R, but not for the sensuality (although that is there) or the viloence (of which there is an abundance), but for the themes.
As for the production, it is first class. For me it was Simon Vance and Katy Kellgren who shone; more so even than the named principals. Alan Cumming was as good as ever. Tim Curry really didn't have enough of a part to make a real impression, more's the pity. Van Helsing is really seen through others' eyes. So the Harkers stole the show. In retrospect, that's not suprising, but I had (wrongly) expected more from the principals. I also missed a voice for Dracula (because he is not a correspondent, of course). I thought Vance captured his intonation beautifully when he recounted the conversations between the Count and Harker, but with Borsi Karlof, Frank Langella and others in mind, it would have been nice to hear him speak. Alas, that was a legitimate sacrifice for the lierarary device that Stoker adopted and which this production brings to life.
Finally, after decades of hearing about this famous trial conducted by the Bard of the 'Bailey, "alone, and without a leader", I know the truth about the absent Leader.
Of course, I have know nearly from the start that Rumpole hardly needed a Leader and I had guessed that SWMBO's dearest "Daddy" might be at the heart of the absenteeism, but it is another thing to know the truth. And, as every good trial lawyer will tell you, the truth will come out, no matter what we might do to impede it (albeit in "the best traditions of the Bar"). Still, like all great secrets, shrouded in the mists of myth for decades, when it outs, the truth is not always as surprising as we might hope. That's how I felt about this title.
(There is a bit of a SPOILER coming, so skip the next paragraph now if you don't want to know).
The plot is as good as ever and Rumpole is as cynically and brutally brilliant as ever. But, like all great yarns, it might have been better for this one not to be told. For once I found myself analysing the evidence, which I've never felt the need to do with Mortimer's previous excursions along crime alley. I felt a hint of resentment that the bloodstains I heard so much about, and about we knew so little, were not front and centre. However, I was pleased to learn of the origins of the relationship between Rumpole and Chateau Thames Embankment and his defence of the ever grateful Timsons.
The late Bill Wallis' characterisations are terrific, especially the women. His Hilda is wonderful, but only to be out done by his Dodo. His Rumpole is good too, but no one can capture Horace like Leo McKern, of course. That is not a criticism however, merely a fact.
Again, I am pleased that I listened to this tale, but in the end, if I did not know the whole truth, I would be only a little less enriched.
Returning to an earlier time has its advantages and its disadvantages. On the upside, you know the characters well (perhaps better than the author would have intended). On the downside, the story is not as fresh because you have read hints of it before and the plot lines are a little less mature (from a developmental perspective). Both of these attributes were apparent to me in this listening.
Overall, I felt the book suffered as a result and if I'd had the opportunity to read it in sequence I would have been less critical and more comfortable with the plot. As it was, I thought the plot was a bit too obvious. I picked the villian very early and the false scents were not enough to throw me off the trail. The last Nesbo I listened to before this one was less obvious, I feel sure. Of course, Harry is more advanced as a character now too, so this was a throwback to a troubled soul at the beginning of a path toward redemption.
By now I am very comfortable with Sean Barret's characterisation. There can be no other Hole for me. I am an official convert!
I'm pleased I listened to this title, at least so I have all the pieces to date. I am looking forward to re-visiting a slightly more mature and maturing Harry in future installments. No doubt there will be falls from Grace, but Harry is a good metaphor for human fraility. It will be like renewing contact will an old friend. I'm hoping.
I very infrequently listen to something I have read that suffers from the reading. Unfortunately, I thought this was one of those occasions. Fortunately the substance of the book is good enough to rise above the let-down I felt on listening to it.
The plot is really not that complex. Liesel is an orphan. She is relocated to the outskirts of Munich at the outset of WWII and billeted with Hans and Rosa Hubermann. She grows up playing soccer with her close friend Rudy Steiner and other boys and girls. She learns to steal food and necessities. She is a survivor. And she has one special vice; she steals books. When she begins, she can't read, but slowly she becomes the voice for the small community, reading in the air-raid shelters whilst the bombs fall tragically on Munich. In all of this she is supported by her step-father (Geoffrey Rush in the film version), an extraordinary man in a very ordinary way, and step-mother (Emily Watson in the film), the disciplinarian with a soft centre.
However, it is the telling of this beautiful story that makes it. The little asides, Death as the narrator and the fun that does just enough to break the appalling mantle of loss and destruction. I surmise that this is why I didn't enjoy Denis Olsen's reading. It is not how I had read it, many times aloud, to myself.
I am an admirer of Olsen's. He has long been a statesman of the Australian theatre, especially in Gilbert and Sullivan and Shakespearean roles; his King Lear is something to queue for. So, he has a classically trained voice which is very apt for some versions of Death, but is a bit sing-songy for me almost in every other way. This is made more so because he reads the parts (with feeling), he does not assume the characters (except Death).
I struggled through the title because I knew how powerful the ending is. If you don't have the same reaction to the reading, you will no doubt love the title, because it is a wonderful story. Hopefully you pre-reading expectation will not get in the way of your enjoyment.
This is an outstanding second novel from this young woman. It has all the hallmarks of a Dickensian novel; complex plot, numerous characters, intrigue, a Court case, coincidence, violence and era. The characters are well developed caricatures; Carver is the malevolent villain, Lydia the scheming widower, Anna the innocent girl gone astray and Moody the son stepping out of his father's dark shadow.
I agree with other reviewers that a List of Characters is essential (so I got myself a copy from the front of the printed text - it's not yet on Wiki), but I disagree that the diagrams in the text are at all helpful. The diagrams only make sense if you can read astrological charts (which I cannot) and I suggest are more confusing than enlightening.
I also agree that the tale is too long. It could easily have ended after the trial. Sure, there would have been loose ends, but there were some anyway (what happened to Moody's father, for example). The conceit of the structure (very clever, admittedly) would have suffered, but not the novel. I read an extract of an interview with the author where she postulated that the structure-plot tension was part of an experiment to see if the former could be maintained without expense to the latter. On the evidence of this attempt, I would answer the question, "No".
As for the performance, I thought Mark Meadows did a sterling job. His narrator's voice reminds me of Jack Davenport (from "Coupling"), or perhaps Arthur Dent's voice from the BBC version of "Hitchhiker's Guide", while his Lauderback was Roland Coleman-like (or perhaps more accurately, Don Adams mimicking Coleman). His female characterisations were good, too, but even he could not capture the difficult to credit transition of Anna from innocent to whore and back again.
Overall, the title is well worth the listen to about the end of Part 8 or 9. After that, I don't think you will miss much in the way of plot, except for the frustration of the summary being longer than the chapter that follows.
It is always hard to know where to make your pitch. This must be true of every non-fiction title, but I expect it is particularly true of physics. One can't get any more iconic than the formula at the heart of this title, but very few of us know what it really means or why it is so important. I got interested in finding out about the time reports were leaking out of CERN about a particle that was faster than light. I thought it was time to turn to Cox and Forshaw for help (again). Of course they supplied the answers, but pitched at a level that was a bit too general for my liking. I was having fun with the maths (now that I don't need to pass exams) and getting into the dimensions they explore in the text when, suddenly I couldn't follow the math myself and I read the dreaded words (or words to the effect of), "take it from me, if you do the maths, this is the result". I wanted to do the maths. So, i ordered the hardcopy from Amazon, hoping it would be filled with lots of nice tables, diagrams and appendices. There are some diagrams, but the detail is omitted. That's fine of course for where the authors pitched the text, but I was a bit disappointed. I of course went out and got Physics for Dummies (or something akin to it), then went onto a text book and now I'm happy and ready to write this review.
The rub is, if you know nothing and are happy with something, then you'll be well pleased with this. If you want to do the math (like me) then it's a beginning, not an ending.
Jeff Forshaw reads the title with interest and is easy to listen to. No problem with the performace, at all.
Hannah Kent has a very bright future if this introduction is anything to be guided by. So, it is all the more remakable that she begins with such a dark subject. Add to this her youth (28 at present) and one can only wonder how she found the insight into the death throes of her protaginist, Agnes. Perhaps it is her age itself, close as it is to the unfortunate Agnes that loaned her the foresight.
In fact there are many principals in this debut novel; Agnes, the Jonsson family that are forced to harbour her, the assistant reverend Toti that is called to be her confessor, Natan (one of the two victims murdered and for which Agnes and two others are condemned) and the hot headed Frederick, a co-accussed. Also, the unforgiving Icelandic winter is a living character. It suprises me that each of these are developed in a pleasingly short space, with a careful use of language that wastes no words.
It is hard to say I liked the subject matter, but I can easily say I appreciate the skill with which this novel was written. It is a 3.5 star story, really, but again halves are not an option. I balanced this out with the overall 4 given the excellent reading by Morven Christie.
Of course, Ms Kent is a local of Adelaide, from which I hail, and this might have unconsciously effected by judgment, but I think not. I can objectively say this book is not for you if you are looking for a fun read or a ripping adventure. Similarly, it has a feel of "The Piano" (the Jane Campion movie), so if you "enjoyed" that, you will possibly like this title. This quality is enhanced by the performance of Christie. Her characterisation of Agnes is wonderful.
In years to come, you who read this might be pleased to say you read it, and read it before Kent is a well known name. I trust there is more to come.
A good indication of the worth of a series is that each title is an improvement on the one before. Although this might not be the case in a planned trilogy, for example, it must surely be true of a hero or heroine or, as in this case, an anti-hero. Harry is better in this book, there is closure in this book anf Nesbo is cleverer this time too. Just when you think it's Langdon scurrying around out there in a demonic world, you find it might just be Nesbo yanking your chain! Or not?
I enjoyed the adventure of Harry Hole's 5th spin around the block. I enjoyed the quiet familiarity of recognised characters and their continued development. Most of all I enjoyed Barrett's performance and, as foreshadowed in "Nemesis", this has brought a clean sweep of 4s.
Finally, now about half way through the published titles, I am pleased with the decision to start at the beginning. I am looking forward to Book 6. That, I think, remains the best recommendation I can give.
This historical search for the lost Second Book of Aristotle and the murderer of seven monks follows a labyrinthine path, like the rooms of the library the monks have sworn to protect. Now, 30 years since it was first translated into English, the pace seems too slow for modern tastes (compared to, say, "Wolf Hall"). The amount of detail is comparable, if not in excess of other very good historical fiction, but the "care factor" is lower. I have commented before that I never though that I could like Cromwell until I read Wolf Hall. I'm afraid I simply have no care for the dead monks, or even William of Baskerville (whom I pictured as Sean Connery throughout, although the narrator, Adso, I saw as no Christian Slater; more a minion than a martyr). I found the tale too dense, the characters unappealing (even the ones that you suspect you're meant to dislike, like Bernado Gui, the inquisitor) and the discourses too frequent to maintain the pace of the investigation. That investigation takes seven days, but it took me considerably longer to listen to the whole title. None of this can be laid at the feet of Sean Barret, who performs the roles with dexterity and good character differentiation. I wanted to like this more than I did and I suspect I will be condemned as a Philistine for the overall rating, but it simply was not my cup of poison.
It is difficult for me to think of a better version of this wonderful piece of verse (A Play for Voices). It begins at the beginning, with Dylan Thomas' fantastic ear and his fisheye for detail; and then continues on with the soothingly lyrical tones of Richard Burton, as only he can sound. It concludes with a whimsical quip, leaving the listener ever longing for just one more verse of all those lovely voices.
I first listened to this as a young boy on long drives to the beach, marvelling at the words and the voices that match so perfectly. It still conjures up for me those times and brings a smile or a frown, as if on cue. It is a little piece of heaven to be treasured. I would give it a perfect score, but alas, the technology cannot impose what the original had not; and perhaps, that's the way it should be. I can almost here Van Morrison, that more recent Gaelic poet, crooning just that!
I was recommended this title by a friend with the introduction that Silva is allegedly Bill Clinton's favourite writer of thrillers. I can see why. The plot is fast paced, the characters are alluring and the dichotomy between good and bad is starkly written. It is this last part I found disturbing. Terrorism is hard to define ("one man's terrorist is another's patriot" and all that) but you know it when you see it. By contrast, it's easy to define retribution for what it is. The justification for revenge is always hard to rationalise and even harder in a global context. Northern Ireland, the Middle East, Tamil, Beruit, Munich. It's a never ending list where Hammurabi's Code dictates ever more escalating responses. So you can see it and know it for what it is. Somewhere, does it shade into terrorism? Hard questions with harder answers. The problem for the listener of this book is that these questions lie just barely below the surface. I found it hard to read without thinking about them. Perhaps I should just chill out and read it for the exciting story that it is, but I could not.
I think the book would make a very successful film (and I understand that at least something is planned to this effect). The performance is strong and well paced. Armstrong reminds me of the narrator for Air Crash Investigation, too. That added to the tension! If you can read without thinking, I suspect you will like this title.
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