War and Peace is a book that I put off reading for quite a long time. I have to say that I regret not having read it earlier in life, as the characters are so very true to life, and the story, while specific to its time, has themes that are universal and timeless. As one familiar with the Aubrey-Maturin series by Patrick O'Brian, I found Tolstoy's Russia of the same time period to be startlingly familiar in many ways, and quickly became engrossed in the story.
Listening to it in Audio book format only adds to the pleasure, as Neville Jason narrates each scene with superb timing, and is able to pitch his voice and change his tempo to put real "character" behind each character. It seems impossible, but he's able to portray both young and old women in a variety of circumstances in such a way that you ~never~ feel he's striking a false not, or tempt you to laugh at the voices he summons for them.
The basic character of humanity apparently does not change. Tolstoy's asides (Such as "Like all young men, he was determined to make his opinion known.") are as true today as when he wrote them. The nature and actions of the many people within the book are never dull, sometimes moving, often very funny, and always authentic.
I've purchased a printed version of War and Peace which I will look forward to re-reading from time to time, and may keep a few audio chapters handy for "impulse listening" in the future.
By all means, take a listen - War and Peace's reputation is wholly deserved.
I can take liberties with history in the purpose of good fiction, and I can take a liberal amount of "just suspend your disbelief" when the book is good, but when one of the key characters acts in a manner that MAKES NO SENSE when you look back at it from the persepctive of the end of the book, I just feel cheated. You don't have to - skip this one.
It's easy to dismiss cold war mindset as "unreasoning paranoia" on the part of Mr. and Mrs. Middle America and opportunistic politicians like Joe McCarthy, but there was a reason why every President from Truman through Reagan regarded the Soviet Union with great suspicion, and that was its own demonstrated cruelty to its own people. Stalin's successors, to their credit, did much to dismantle the terror machine that Stalin and Lenin built, but its shadow still looms over the Russians today.
What an enjoyable book. The characters, the situations and the mysteries delved into are "human enough" for anyone unfamiliar with Tsarist Russia to enjoy, but if you're familiar with "Crime and Punishment", the social strata of 1870s Russia or St. Petersburg, its even more engaging.
The narrator did a wonderful job of bringing the characters to life not by giving them Russian accents, but by giving them Equivalent British Accents, which works well for American listeners, who are better able to understand a character's class origins in this manner. I have NO idea what "high class" or "low class" Russian accents sound like, but British? Simple.
Very enjoyable as a story, and a glimpse into a culture and world that is now long past. Do yourself a favor and give it a listen.
I have to give this audiobook a 2 1/2 on content and the same for the audio quality, but I'll round it up to 3.
My issues with the program are these:
1. Style - I'm sure Mike Dooley is extremely appealing to some, but I wish I'd listened to the sample at length, as at about the 1 Hour point I found his presentation style to be rather annoying.
2. Quality - This is a recording of a live recording to an audience WHEN DOOLEY HAD A COLD. He wheezes several times. C'mon, if you're going to release an audio book, can't you respect your audience enough to make it sound more professional?
3. Content: I came into this book after listening to a number of really direct "self improvement books" - ala Brian Tracy, Napoleon Hill, etc. This is vague by comparison.
I don't want to be hard on Dooley because he seems like a very genuine guy, and some WILL like this very much, its just not for me.
Like you, I'm suspicious of books, seminars, and strategies that offer instant success. Well, I'm pleased to say that say is Brian Tracy. This is a recording of a seminar held in the late 1990s and Tracy does a bang up job in helping you to understand what you can really do to become a success in a focused, determined and realistic way. About 1 hour of the 9 is more sales focused - if you're looking for an alternate, try "Goals", which gives much the same message (I bought the book).
The only drawback? The somewhat lame music intros and extros that the audio book company tacked on.
This book is "OK" if you're looking for something that treats all religious experiences, religions and spiritual experiences equally. If you're "new age" then this book is sure not to disappoint, but I had some issues with putting Edgar Cayce, Bill Wilson (of AA fame), Muhammed and a pretty broad group of other folks all in the same collection. I was expecting stories of "miraculous events", and got instead profiles of people that had been "touched by the Divine".
It's OK, so far as it goes, but I don't personally believe that Edgar Cayce was on the level, which weakens the experience for me....
The most startling thing you'll find in this Audiobook is the uncanny way the narrator, George Wilson, has of switching from a straight "read" to suddenly channeling Reagan's voice during quotes. He's not doing an "impression" or an over the top mimicry. You know that its not quite Reagan's voice, but the similarities are so strong that it instantly summons memories of the man that help to "fill in" the audio portrait. Great job.
As for the book, I thought it avoided being partisan, and showed that Reagan stuck to his political principles, while being able to alter his views, particularly when confronted with a person embodying the other side.
While the sound quality for this download could be better, Russell Johnson does a nice job of telling his experience as an actor, primarily on Gilligan, but both before and after the show (and on all the sequels). If you're a fan of the show, its well worth a listen. Johnson doesn't engage in much "gossip", but he's very straightforward about his personal and professional relationships with his castmates. I'm glad I listened.
I bought this as a change of pace and it was definitely interesting, but I get the feeling that most of it is someone else's work, with Shatner adding a little color. It's primarily a "production history", rather than a personal memoir, with rather few personal recollections, and very few recoutings of personal interactions between Shatner and those on set. If you're a Star Trek or movie fan, its interesting to hear about what it took to get the movies made - in the boardroom, on the set and elsewhere, but I think Shatner held back on some of the best material.
Shatner himself is surprisingly self-deprecating (given his reputation), and he reads along at a brisk pace. Its hard to tell sometimes if this is because the sound engineer upped the pace, Shatner himself wanted to keep the listener engaged, or if he was just knocking it out as quickly as he could.
Nevertheless, a pretty good listen. I can't help but to listen to Star Trek Memories now to see if the lack of personal recollection here is made up for there.
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