I bought this book captivated by the title. Isnt it an engaging title : as if something ominous is about to happen at "The end of the Affair".
It is the first Graham Greene that I have 'listened' to, having read him before and I must say that Greene agrees well to the audio book format. Especially this story with only a few characters and a simple plot. It is not the best Greene for me (that would be The Quiet American) but it is engaging with its soap opera style telling of an extra marital affair. The narration is clear and doesnt distract you from the story - which is how good narrations should be.
If you are someone interested in the process of discovery of medieval books from ancient monasteries - this is the book for you. I am not one of these people but even I could make out that this book is erudite and smart in that field. My problem with this was just that. Drawn in by the blurb, by Prof Greenblatt's Charlie Rose interview where he described Lucretius as the "honey on the lip of a cup of bitter medicine" - I was disappointed that this book did not have enough of Lucretius for me. For almost 5/6th of the book it is clever writing about Europe (or even more specifically Italy) in Middle Ages. It may be that I misled myself, but I would've liked a lot more discussion on Lucretius instead, right from the beginning, and a closer examination of the ramification of the discovery of "On the nature of things" not just the finding of it.
This is not an easy book to listen. And perhaps, read. It is long and fragmented and Johnson is not trying (at all) to make it easy. Then what is he trying to do here? Vietnam - really? - after Kubrick, Coppola and Greene - is there another new word left to say? Apparently yes. In his prose Johnson manages not only to show us Vietnam but he manages to put you inside Vietnam, in a war that was never completely war but managed to suck everyone associated with it inside out. This book should not be classified prose, cause really is poetry - page after page, line after line of words you'd want to hang around - even if they make you cringe. That takes talent. I suggest you listen to this book in increments of 0.5 hours at one go and by the end of it you'd want to turn back to line 1. Like I did.
Robert K Massie has now tackled both the giants of Russian History: Peter and Catherine! From her relatively humble beginnings as Sophia of Anhalt-Zerbst we begin to see this 18th century monarch sometimes as a present day adolescent, a frustrated wife, a political leader or even a celebrity. Like he did with Peter, Massie weaves in the more mundane aspects of biographical writing - the politics, the policies and the more risque ones with great skill. He is at the top of his oeuvre and it shows. But then this is such great material to work with! If you think of Catherine as the art collector, as the queen with deviant sexual tastes then this book will be a revelation. She comes across as an autocrat but not a despot, an enlightenment enthusiast only more practical and a woman who seeks the company of intelligent men: be it Voltaire or her great lover Potempkin.
The narration by Mark Deakins is, like all good narrations, un-noticeable. His ability to subtly change voices when para phrasing different characters never sounds contrived and by the end you will miss the friendly tone telling a good yarn. And you'll miss Catherine!
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