I have rarely been as disappointed in a book as I was in "The Mermaid Chair." I had loved the luminous "The Secret Life of Bees," with its strong, sympathetic characters. "The Mermaid Chair," however, is about a self-absorbed, shallow individual whose solution to an uninspiring life is to have an affair with a monk--this despite having a loving, caring husband and a life that could have provided her with any number of avenues to fulfillment. I wanted to shake her and say, "Good grief, woman! Get a job! Volunteer somewhere! Take some art classes to further your talent or some other sort of enrichment!" Although the descriptions of the island were lush and poetic, there came a point where I'd had enough with hearing about marsh grass and birds and wanted to see the story progress. The book reminded me of the a short stories that appear on the back pages of women's magazines.
Listening to this book reminded me of riding a train with frequent local stops. No sooner do you seem to get moving when the train halts at a station. You sit there while people get on and off the train and thing happen at the station. Eventually the train gets underway again, but in no time pulls into another station. Fifteen hours later, at a station just like all the rest, the conductor announces, "End of the line; everybody off the train!" And there you are: surprised at the journey's end, because you really haven't gotten anywhere. The writing was stellar, the characters intriguing, the setting unsettling, the narration excellent--but I think because of the frequent and apparently important interjection of apparently preternatural occurences, the ending of the book seems abrupt and unsatisfying.
I've rarely read a memoir where I disliked the writer as much as I did with this one. He was not a "gleefully mischievous boy." He was an obnoxious little punk. Despite being raised by parents who were (by his own admission) loving, caring, nurturing and trusting, John turned out to be a chronic liar who thought nothing of stealing, vandalizing or terrorizing an elderly neighbor. He was drinking and smoking by 10; at 12 or 13, he was growing marijuana in his bedroom and in the family garden. He repeatedly betrayed his parents' trust and thought nothing of it. When he had his own children and wrote that he intended to raise them as decent moral human being, I wondered how he'd do that, since he'd shown little sign of it himself when he was a kid. As an adult, he resented is parents' difficulty in acceting his atheism; but he constantly mocked their faith. His snarky wife wouldn't even allow his parents to say grace before meals in their own home! It was considered a generous concession on her part when she finally conceded to allow them to pray at their own table. Thie whiny self-indulgent tone of the narration did nothing to improve the presentation. The best thing I can wish for him is to have kids just like himeself.
I read Inkworld and listened to Inkspell, enjoying both. Alas, I found Inkdeath to be a different experience. The basic storyline is intriguing, and the book comes to a splendid conclusion, with a few nice plot twists in the end. However, the author seems to have wanted to give her readers plenty of volume in the volume, padding it with prolonged and repetitious interior monologues--lots of mental handwringing on the part of the good guys, and excessive meditations on torture and painful means of execution on the part of the villains. If one is reading the book, one can skim over all that; but as a listener I found myself getting irritated and wishing they'd just get on with it. After the wonderfully voiced narration of Inkspell by Brandon Fraser (who might be a SilverTongue himself), the ponderous tones of the current narrator only added to the tedium. This is one I think would be better read than heard.
I have been listening to audiobooks for several years now, and I have never heard a book so excellently rendered at this one by Brendan Fraser. The trilogy centers around the ability of certain people to read so well that they can literally bring a world to life. For me, Fraser did that. The book itself is well written with intriguing flawed characters and a relentless pace. I was disappointed that, unlike Inkheart, the first book of the series, Inkspell did not have a satisfying conclusion that left an opening for a future book; it's just a pause before the next. That's about my only gripe...other than the fact that Inkdeath has a different narrator. To me, Fraser is the voice of the Inkworld.
If we hadn't been trapped on a 6000 mile road trip with no other book in the audiolibrary, we never would hve finished this one. The author may have been the darling of his creative writing teacher in middle school, but he hasn't advanced beyond that. Nearly all nouns had at least two-- sometimes three--adjectives; adverbs were liberally sown through the extended sentences. One had to wonder if the inhabitants of the planet had a genetic neurologic tic disorder: they constantly shrugged, grimaced, narrowed their eyes, and performed various antics with their eyebrows. The plot was advanced (by millimeters) through lengthy conversations about planetary politics and technology. One could almost see the author outlining the movie scenario. The main characters were stereotypes--the stalwart handsome prince, the noble king, the nefarious enemies, and the invincible hero. The latter had been the only female character, but was aparently forced by circumstance to become a robo-dude. The whole trip, I kept apologizing to my husband for having picked this one.
A stultifyingly tedious book only made worse by insipid narration.
Listening to another book from this series is like spending a few hours with good friends. The reader's authentic accent with the dialog transports me to Botswana and makes me feel like I am listening to the characters themselves. A few simple mysteries get solved, but that's not the point: the point is spending time with these kind, wonderful people.
This book would seem to have been written by a breathless teenaged girl eager to please her creative writing teacher. The author follows all the rules kids are taught in writing class: use at least one simile per paragraph; always use an adjective with every noun (two or three are even better); description, description, description! Alas, while this may work well to get a good grade on a high school short story, it makes for tedious reading in a novel. The author also seems to have had the movie rights in mind. During the long explanatory conversations, she practically provides stage directions. There was one towards the end of the book where the words, "He paused," were used so often that I wished I'd though to count them.
The parallel stories are engaging. The characters, though two-dimensional and stereotypical (the plucky heroine, the stalwart father, the evil siren, the brave but doomed leader), are fleshed out enough to hold one's interest in the story. A ruthless but sharp editor would have made a very big difference in this book.
When the story moved, it was fascinating; all too often, though, it got bogged down in exploring and re-exploring Arthur's problematic love life (or lack thereof.) Detail of place and person was so meticulous that one felt as if one were part of the novel. The narrator was among the best I have ever heard--the reading was masterful. By the time the book ended, I was so absorbed in it--largely because of the finely tuned narration--that I felt as if I were taking leave of people I really knew.
This book was wonderfully read--each individual voice was distinct without being exaggerated. But the book itself was deeply disappointing: a random series of encounters among a number of cliched characters. And then it ends without having come to any sort of satisfying (or even unsatisfying) conclusion. If I'd been listening to it on CDs, I'd have thought the last one was missing.
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