Peter Galvin and Tracy Whitland were childhood sweethearts and each other's first love, until Tracy disappeared without trace when Peter was seventeen. In the intervening years Peter has moved on, married and had a daughter, but now Tracy has returned, still seventeen and in love. This story raises questions about what we want versus what we think we want, about happiness found versus happiness made and the choices we make and the reasons we make them.
This is the third of three prequels to 'The Returned', and all three stories hint at the plethora of issues facing society when those thought lost forever begin to return. No matter how beloved a lost love one is, life moves on without them. It will be interesting to see how Jason Mott handles the return of loved ones lost in time to a present they have no experience of. He has created a wonderful and imaginative concept and these three stories have piqued my interest in the novel itself. I hope it lives up to its promise.
My audiobook experience thus far has been that the narrator does impact the level of enjoyment of the story. David Ledoux injects himself a little too far into his reading of The Choice, which I found distracting and ultimately detrimental to the story. Perhaps in the world of audiobooks listeners follow narrators in a manner similar to the way readers follow writers. That said, 'The Returned' by Jason Mott is one to watch.
Firstly, an admission: I purchased this audiobook because 'I, Claudius' was our book group pick for April and most members had given up a chapter or so in because it was too dense a read. I have found that a narrator who understands the story can add so much to it by inflection and so chose the easier route. And, yes, I purchased the abridged version (tsk, tsk).
So, having chosen what I believed was the easier path, I still struggled in the early part of the book to keep up with all the -iuses - Claudius, Octavius, Tiberius, Posthumus, Germanicus, Augustus - you get the idea. Add to that the intermarriage and penchant for naming children a version of their parent's name (Agrippa - Agrippina, Livia - Livilla, etc), and it's a hard story to get a handle on without a family tree in front of you. That said, once I got the hang of it - I'd liken it to watching a movie with subtitles - I really enjoyed the story, Not short on drama, the Julio-Claudian dynasty, Also, the characters became easier to follow as more and more of them were killed off.
Originally published in 1934, I, Claudius takes the form of a memoir of Roman Emperor Claudius, who became emperor following the assassination of Caligula. He is, essentially, the last man standing. It is surprising, listening to this tale, that the Romans had any time at all to wage wars and conquer the world, given all the political intrigue and backstabbing at home.
Derek Jacobi is an excellent narrator, and his crisp delivery helped my understanding of the novel no end. Jacobi played Claudius in the 1976 BBC miniseries and 2007 radio adaptations of the book, so his knowledge of the character informs his reading of the book beautifully.
Having listened through to the end, I started again at the beginning in order to get clear in my head who was related to who (and who killed who) at the start. This isn't a story for everyone, but if you are interested in ancient history, enjoy a reading/listening challenge and are after some political intrigue, then this might be one for you.
'Heartburn' was originally published in 1983, and is the fictionalised account of the breakdown of her marriage to Watergate journalist Carl Bernstein. Like her main character, Rachel Samstat, Ephron's husband had an affair when she was pregnant with their second child (indeed, Carl Bernstein threatened to sue over the book and subsequent film, but never did). Rachel's story is told with self-deprecating humour and interspersed with recipes as she is a minor celebrity chef of sorts. Some of the recipes sounded quite delicious, but one of the downsides of an audiobook is the difficulty of relocating treasures within once the narrator has passed them by.
As for the narration, who could ask more than Meryl? She is, as you would expect, brilliant, and adds much to the humour of the novel. My main criticism of the novel - and there's not much that can be done about it, given it was originally published over 30 years ago - is that the story is quite dated. I think it would have been a little more cutting edge in its time, but in the past 30 years the story of wronged partner making good on their own has been done time and time again.
A man receives a letter from an old friend who is terminally ill. He walks to the post box to send a reply, but keeps walking. He continues walking across England because he is convinced it will save his friend's life. The premise 'The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry' is based on is so unlikely that I didn't read it for a long time, despite glowing reviews. I can't say, even now, why I changed my mind, only that I am glad I did.
The story is so much more than a man's physical journey from one end of England to another. It is a journey through his life, through his triumphs and disappointments, his regrets and if-onlys. Along the way he meets people who help him, people who hinder him, and somewhere along the way he finds a sort of peace. I know this sounds rather fanciful and neatly-tied-with-a-bow. It isn't. It is about life being about connections and wonder and fear and laughter and a collection of memories of interconnections and opportunities missed and taken. And it's funny - laugh out loud funny in parts. Jim Broadbent is a brilliant narrator. Rightly or wrongly I pictured him as Harold, but it wasn't because he injected himself too far into the story, but rather because he sounded to me like he got Harold.
The problem I am finding with audiobooks is that when the author uses a particularly brilliant turn of phrase, or expresses something perfectly I can't dog-ear a page and come back to it later. Rachel Joyce is a talented writer, and there were quite a few times I wished I wasn't driving (I listen to audiobooks in the car) so I could write something down. You'll just have to discover these treasures for yourself. Recommended.
'Speaking in Tongues' is a selection of five short stories. There is a marked difference between reading a story and having the story read to you by the person who wrote it. You can be sure that the emphasis is on the correct word, the inflection is correct and the tone of the tale is as the writer intended. Gaiman's narration is engaging and almost hypnotic, dragging the listener into each story. The stories each have an element of cautionary tale to them. My favourite was 'The Facts in the Case of the Disappearance of Miss Finch', a careful-what-you-wish-for story about a pop-up circus performance on a rainy London evening. There is also 'Daughter of Owls', 'The Price', 'The Sea Change' and 'Instructions', a poem about what to do should you find yourself in a fairy tale.
Like all good books, this one left me wanting more.
I enjoyed this story more than 'The First'. I think this is partly due to the narrator, who is excellent, and partly due to the story. The events of 'The Sparrow' take place six weeks after 'The First' and thousands of returned have appeared during this time, giving rise to suspicion among the general population and construction of specialised 'returned processing centres' by the government. Tatiana's return causes friction in the Campbell's relationship as Heather and Matt disagree on the best way to respond to Tatiana's needs.
It is not made clear why Tatiana returned to the United States when she died in Sierra Leone (The First makes reference to returned appearing in Africa so it seems safe to assume not all returned are returning stateside), nor is it explained why Tatiana's mother has not returned (or at the very least has not returned in the same place as her daughter). The distrust and underlying fear of the general population about events they cannot explain or control is an interesting phenomena, and may yet be revealed as the most fascinating aspect of the soon-to-be-released 'The Returned'.
This is the first one I've listened through to the end (yes, I know it's only a short one, but you have to start somewhere)
It reminds me of "The Green Mile", though largely because it was serialised. I enjoyed "The First", and am happy to see some prequel sequels available now ("The Sparrow" and "The Choice")
Clear, precise, proper
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