A good friend of mine refuses to read (or listen to) this novel because--as an avid Harry Potter fan--she is afraid that doing so might taint her positive perception of J.K. Rowling's authorial talents. I had the opposite response: being a fan made it impossible for me NOT to find out what The Casual Vacancy was all about. At the outset, I want to say that I very much appreciate the irony of the title. The vacancy of the Pagford parish council seat generates a ripple effect through the "pretty little town" and its citizenry that is anything but casual.
In a recent interview with Cynthia McFadden, Ms. Rowling said that the themes in which she is most interested as a writer are "morality and mortality." Certainly, readers of the Harry Potter series are familiar with her treatment of these themes, and we see them again in The Casual Vacancy--which begins with the latter and resonates throughout with the former. We also witness again Rowling's skill at creating characters that quickly capture and maintain our interest, and we recognize her sometimes subtle, but at other times rather didactic, social commentary.
J.K. Rowling did not need to write this book for the money it might make, and she definitely ran the risk of compromising her authorial reputation in publishing it. I'm sure there will be some readers who do not appreciate a few of her less savory characters and dark, not in the least fantastic, plot twists or the decidedly non-Harry Potterish language. However, given her background as a woman who once lived on the "benefits" that the U.K. provided her, I have to believe that writing this novel was a labor of love, and I, for one, am an even bigger Rowling fan than before.
I downloaded this audiobook immediately upon seeing Mike Greenberg being interviewed (primarily by Gayle King, who claimed to have loved the book) on "CBS This Morning." I was intrigued by the notion of a man who seeks to discover the father he hardly knew through the stories his father's six wives are willing to share with him. This is a nice story peopled, in general, with nice characters; in the hands of a more talented/sophisticated writer, it could have been a very good novel, indeed. As is, it's a pleasant enough listen with a few insights and even more basketball thrown in.
I listened to this book about a month ago, and this one has stayed with me. As other reviewers have noted, Santino Fontana's narration is pitch perfect: He IS Joe. However, he also does a phenomenal job reading Beck's girlfriends. Kudos to Caroline Kepnes for skillfully getting inside the psyche of an alienated male character and making him rather likable despite his notable anti-social tendencies. Plenty of book, movie, music, and social media references for readers who enjoy stories that unfold and are illuminated within a modern-day context.
Once again, I decided to purchase this audiobook after reading a collection of negative reviews and one five-star review. There's a point at which one knows how to read between the lines of reviews. No, this isn't an action-packed, plot-driven novel. No, there aren't any vampires or zombies. Yes, it is a very human story about parenting and marriage, and Jenny Offill has found an original way to approach both subjects. Hats off to her! I wish Dept. of Speculation were longer than just three hours and ten minutes; I could listen to Offill read her own writing for days on end.
I've listened to hundreds of audiobooks over the years, and I've enjoyed most of them--probably because I read reviews carefully, and I have a pretty clear idea of what I'm going to like. I was torn about purchasing He's Gone for a couple of reasons, including Caletti's reputation as an author of novels primarily aimed at a young adult audience and Pegeen's foregoing "chick lit" and "soap opera" comments.
Ironically, what clinched it for me was Pegeen's impassioned call for less "self-introspection." Character-driven books are the ones I most enjoy, and I consider self-reflection a positive rather than a negative. In the case of He's Gone, I couldn't disagree more regarding the chick lit and soap opera judgments; Caletti is a superb observer of human nature and behavior, and on nearly every page I encountered something that resonated for me in my own life. I am hugely impressed at how Caletti was able to capture universal (and even commonplace) thoughts and emotions in original ways. I love this book so much that I ordered a hard copy from Amazon so that I can go back and highlight particular passages for re-reading and journaling later. "Chacun à son goȗt," as the French say.
Cassandra Campbell understands Dani Keller absolutely, and her narration (which is always good) is spot on.
Over the three years that I've been a constant Audible listener, I've learned well that a narrator can either enhance or detract from my enjoyment of a book. In the case of Cascade, Madeleine Lambert nearly ruined what I think was probably a pretty good novel. As at least one reviewer noted, her rendering of the male voices was clumsy and very distracting; moreover, Ms Lambert read the entire novel in the same tone and cadence. For example, the lines, "The man she wanted thought the worst of her" and "It was fall but unseasonably warm" carried the exact same intensity, and a love scene that could have been quite sensual if read by a difference narrator (Maggi-Meg Reed comes to mind, but there are many other very talented female readers) falls flat. I haven't heard Madeline Lambert read before. Did she have a cold while she was narrating Cascade, or does she always sound like this?
I learned some interesting facts about the plethora of environmental threats to breast health, and I was very pleased that Williams included men's breast cancer in her discussion, but I was surprised that her research did not go beyond the Women's Health Initiative (a flawed study that is 11 years old) when it came to conclusions about the risks/benefits of hormone replacement therapy (HRT). She spoke only about Premarin and glibly dismissed bioidentical hormone replacement in one short sentence, despite the fact that there are some (admittedly, early) data out there.
Kudos to Williams for taking a critical look at mammography and for exploring some alternative breast cancer detection technologies, but why did she completely ignore thermography--a detection method that does not zap us with radiation (like mammography), is not time consumptive (like the ultrasound method that she discusses), and is not hugely expensive (like MRIs)?
Interesting, scary, but--ultimately--disappointing.
Kate Reading read the book like an adventure/romance novel; she's no Malcolm Gladwell, that's for sure. And, really, Camp "LejuRne"?
complex, unpredictable, honest
I like that it begins as one thing (the narrator's expressions of his love/hate relationship with this lover and her husband in the aftermath of the affair) and continues onto something else (a meditation on the nature of love, as well as one's relationships with others, including God). One of my favorite lines from the book: "How twisted we humans are, and yet they say a God made us...."
At times the narrator--Maurice Bendrix--may delude himself, but he is always notably self-revelatory with his audience.
This is the first audio book I've listened to for which Colin Firth was the reader/performer. Not surprisingly, he does an outstanding job.
This book took me some time. It was thought provoking and deserving of reflection.
I recommended it to my husband, who is not usually an audiophile; I think he appreciated it even more than I did.
The stories in this series are satisfying enough, but "Lil Tulip" reads them like a quarterly report--no changes of pace (and she reads much too fast) or intonation (no sensuality whatsoever). I was disappointed, because I had enjoyed Alison Tyler's Best Bondage Erotica. I think I liked Tyler's story choices a bit better than Bussel's, but it might just be that Tulip's narration was so dry the stories suffered for her reading.
I enjoyed Dylan Baker's reading, especially his renderings of Enid and Al, but--although some of the themes are the same--this story didn't "capture" me the way Freedom's did. That being said, Franzen's development of Al's increasing dementia and its effects on his wife and children is both emotionally moving and thought-provoking and, once again, Franzen captures the little tortures of married life and absurdities of the parent-child bond quite keenly.
Report Inappropriate Content
If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.