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I don't know that I've ever written this on this site, but I think this is a book better read than heard. At least, it's better read than heard with this narrator.
His general tone is one of sneering condescension, as he explains things that his tone seems to indicate any idiot should know. It's as if he's sprinkling vinegar, rather than honey, while attempting to convert a group of flies.
There is a lot of good information in this book. I had many questions as to the origin of the information provided. Perhaps the printed edition includes footnotes.
I have to say that the book gave me a lot to think about, and I will be adjusting my diet.
I truly enjoyed this 42 hour, 84 lesson marathon. I enjoyed it so much that I finished it under three weeks. I stayed up late and got up early to learn about a few more authors.
It was fun catching up with old friends from my English Lit college days - Homer, Dostoyevsky, Dante, Wordsworth, Austen - the list goes on. Like a cocktail party, however, our visits were brief.
Nonetheless, I gained insight into many of my old favorites. For the first time, Achilles didn't seem like a sulky boy refusing to play because someone was mean to him. I learned more about Jane Austen's family and romantic life than I knew (or, possibly, I'd forgotten it). The insights into the Divine Comedy were fascinating.
There was not a single lecture when I didn't learn something, and there were probably a dozen authors I knew virtually nothing about. I apparently know virtually nothing about French literature, and look forward to checking out Voltaire, Rabelais and Proust.
There are also some Romans I'd like to check out. (I was a little sorry that the gossip columnist for the ancients, Suetonius, did not merit a lecture, but he did get a couple of shout-outs.)
The reason I didn't give this collection five stars was because listening for so long to speakers who are not actors reading from scripts made their verbal tics very obvious. One of the men (I forget which) would often ask a question, then answer with "It seems to me..." An occasional "I think" would have made a nice change. While this is unexceptionable, say, three times in half an hour (it seemed more like five to ten times per half hour) hearing it over and over on a dozen or so lectures made me want to start drinking every time I heard it.
And it wasn't only one speaker. I think only the final lecturer seemed tic free, but he seemed somewhat smarmy. I imagined him enjoying being surrounded by sweet young co-eds after each lecture. (It's quite likely that I've totally invented the smarminess, but that was my aural impression.)
Although the tics were annoying, the wealth of information about a wide variety of notable writers aroused my desire to return to some of the classic authors, and to listen to more literature courses.
Finally, the applause at the beginning and end of each lecture confused me. I don't recall applauding for anything in my college days. Was this not meant to be a regular college class? Perhaps it was supposed to be a lecture that people paid to attend? I only know that I was always surprised and skeptical that there was a room full of students applauding at the end of each lecture.
When I started this book, I thought I had made a terrible mistake. The protagonist, Helen, seemed like an awful person. She arrives at her parents' house, lets herself in with the key she told them years ago she lost (while secretly holding it "just in case") and announces she's moving in.
Her parents are less than thrilled.
Helen seems to have nothing nice to say about anyone she's ever met.
As the book goes on, serious matters (mental illness) are woven in with a missing boy band member (now age 37), various romantic entanglements, a hilarious depressive's line of paint names, and a lot of detail about the actual work of becoming and surviving as a private eye.
I had no idea what had happened to the boy bander (although the clues were all there), and grew to love and admire Helen.
There were many smiles and a few laughs out loud.
This is apparently one of a series of books about the 5 girls in the family, and I will definitely check out the other books.
I really liked the characters in this book. We came to know and care about many of the people stuck in the London blitz. There was a lot of excellent history, and I think the author did a fabulous job letting us experience the terror of constant bombing, the privation of constant rationing and the courage shown by much of the population.
The cutting back and forth between different centuries and different locations was a little harder to follow in an audiobook than in print.
What made me subtract a star from the overall score was the constant repetition of the same themes - "I'm stuck, no one can rescue me", "I may have changed history" and "I'm not going to tell my friends what's really going on because I don't want them to worry."
The six parts that make up the two books in this series were probably twice as long as they needed to be.
I'm no stranger to, or enemy of, extremely long books, but I do want the story to keep moving. The same thoughts kept running through the characters' heads, and it was tiresome to hear them over and over.
We also got to hear slightly humorous or sarcastic thoughts, almost never voiced, which was also annoying. One character might say, "That's a dangerous job" and another would think "Not as dangerous as rescuing prisoners from Dunkirk".
I wondered why the characters couldn't occasionally voice their thoughts. It also occurred to me that characters, like people, probably only think interesting thoughts a small percentage of the time. Listening to every boring thought that anyone might have in a day is almost torture.
Perhaps this review is more negative than I intend, but I like Connie Willis' work in general, and I liked the characters and theme of this book. If the redundant thoughts were eliminated, I think this would be a great read for lovers of history, sci-fi fans and those looking for an exciting listen.
This book seemed to be the first draft of a book. There were interesting stories about killers, but there didn't seem to be any connection between the various stories except that all the killers were active in Los Angeles. The opening story, of the so-called Grim Sleeper, was captivating, but the book was not even able to provide a conclusion, as the man arrested had not been convicted by the end of the book.
There were no insights into what made a person "homicidal", nor how the police could easily recognize incipient serial killers.
This book was also very short, reminding me of the joke from Annie Hall, "The food isn't very good...And such small portions!"
I loved this series. Professor Messenger has a wealth of knowledge, a pleasant voice, a trove of old recordings and a cast of musicians and singers on call.
We learned of the origins of musical theater in revues, minstrel shows and musicals.
Many different performers, composers and lyricists are discussed, including Gershwin, Rogers and Hammerstein, Cole Porter, Al Jolson, Fanny Brice, Eddie Cantor and many more. Andrew Lloyd Weber even rates a bit of discussion in the last lecture.
I learned a lot, and I loved listening to the music.
As a person who has never taken any sort of music class, there were parts of two lectures that I didn't fully understand. Professor Messenger discussed phrasing (AABC, AABB, and/or some other patterns that I couldn't hear) and he discussed blue notes, which I think I did understand.
Those were the only even moderately technical discussions. The rest of the series involved history, themes, current events, race relations in the theater and the world, as well as other topics easily understood by anyone.
I am sure that I will listen to this very enjoyable series again.
I have been an opera lover for decades, and Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro" is my absolute favorite. I also like "The Magic Flute" and "Don Giovanni" very much. I wanted to know more about Mozart and his operas, and this title did deliver.
Unfortunately, the first third of the series was devoted to "Cosi Fan Tutte". While I did learn a lot about Cosi, I have always disliked the inane story, and the lectures changed my opinion only slightly for the better.
The middle third of the series was devoted to Mozart's early life and early works, and (IIRC) "Don Giovanni". I found the information, and some of the selections, fascinating.
The last third gave very short shrift to "The Marriage of Figaro". I think Marriage might have gotten 1 lecture (45 minutes), possibly 2. The lack of attention paid to "Marriage" is perplexing, since Dr. Greenberg points out its many stellar arias, particularly the sextet when Susanna learns Figaro's parentage. "The Abduction from the Seraglio" is barely mentioned. A lot of time was spent explaining the Masonic origins and meanings in "The Magic Flute". I've always felt "Flute" dragged during the Masonic tests, but Dr. Greenberg's explanation made those sections more interesting to me, as well as explaining why Pamina joined Tamino for the last test, and why Papageno was not punished for his general bad behavior.
In addition to my disappointment in the relative amount of time spent on the various operas, I also found Dr. Greenberg's voice somewhat grating. I did enjoy his enthusiasm for his subject.
In summary, I'd say that this lecture provides excellent information and musical selections, but I wish Mozart's great operas had all gotten equal analysis time.
I found this book interesting, particularly regarding the manners and goings on in the mysterious Forbidden City. I don't think the character of Orchid was particularly well-developed. She recognizes that her husband has many problems (both personal and political) but doesn't seem to do anything to help him overcome his personal problems, and doesn't plot to help him avoid his political troubles (she does answer his mail in his name.) While it may be historically accurate that there's not much she could do while her husband was alive, history now records her as far from retiring or inactive.
More annoying, especially at the beginning of the book, was the narrator's apparent sinus trouble. She constantly seemed to be dealing with post nasal drip, which required audible gulps.
In addition, her voice throughout the book was extremely calm and placid. While this might seem to be appropriate for an empress, Orchid never seemed to convey any excitement. Even when she sees the marvels of Forbidden City, which she says are amazing, the narrator shows no awe in her voice.
If you'd like to hear about life at the end of the imperial age, this may be worth a listen, provided the narrator's sinuses and placidity don't turn you off.
I read this book thirty years ago, but remembered only that Raskolnikov "took an axe, gave the pawnbroker 30 whacks, when he saw what he had done, he gave her sister 31." (This was a popular ditty in my literature class.) I also remembered that I liked it.
When I purchased this audio version, I was surprised that it was long-ish. When I started listening, I was amazed how psychologically intense it was. I don't know if it was the narrator's skill or my own maturity, but I found this book incredibly disturbing.
We suffer with Raskolnikov. We share his fears of his own sanity. We also see the injustice done to innocent Lizavetta, something that virtually no one in the book mentions.
Raskolnikov's justification for his actions, and lack of remorse, reminded me of what might be the sentiments of the various killers who feel that the sacrifice of innocent lives in a cause they believe is just is not worth any consideration.
This is truly a work well worth hearing.
I have long wanted to read this book. It was on sale on Audible, and I thought the perfect opportunity had arisen.
Although the book is well-written and competently narrated, I found it very difficult to follow in audio. Were I reading a printed copy, I would have turned back to previous pages or chapters to review the information. I also believe a printed copy would have illustrations that added to the written word.
I did learn a lot, but not nearly so much as I am sure there is to learn.
I think this book is best read in print.
The narrator of this book is excellent. The stories themselves are excellent. The complexity of Faulkner's sentences and story structure, however, often forced me to rewind, because I wasn't certain if I had missed something.
Each story was fascinating, with tales of trickery and veniality mixed in with occasional kindness and hope.
I certainly cannot fault the narrator, who does a wonderful job with accents and differentiating the different speakers. Having read (in print) other books by Faulkner, I knew that he loves a rambling sentence, and always tells a moving tale.
If I had read this book (in print) before, perhaps I would not have been as confused by the sometimes abrupt turns the stories took.
It's book well worth reading, beautifully narrated, but I would recommend that if you haven't encountered Faulkner before, or if you like obvious continuity, you get the print edition.
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