Read the whole thing. Yes, I know, 4 words.
Wonderful voices, male and female, different accents, brings the book alive.
This is a hard book to review without being a spoiler, so I'll limit myself to the process of the reader/listener. I spent at least the first third of the book developing a thorough dislike for the protagonist, as Fowles intended. I hated him so completely that I asked myself why I was still listening. This is not a women's novel, no surprise considering the author penned The French Lieutenant's Woman, and more's the pity: Fowles advanced about 85% to where he needed to go. Still, not bad, in the scheme of things, i.e., judged from the perspective of 2013.The remainder of the book builds the major theme, an examination of... individual ethics (now called "personal responsibility") ... in a modern way, considering the book was written in the 60's. That's a poor summary but all I'm willing to give away. It reads and feels like a 60's period piece to one who lived through the era. Don't worry, it's not preachy. A reader who likes to anticipate plot twists will have plenty of material to work with. Ultimately, this is not a novel about plot. That's all I can say. Finish it.
I do have a quibble about the production of this reading. It included numerous quotations in foreign languages without translations. My understanding, not to mention my enjoyment, would have improved with translations!
I've read an enjoyed four of Amy Tan's earlier books. Maybe it's me moving on. Maybe it's Ms Tan moving on. Whatever the cause, my enjoyment has diminished with each successive book. I'm at the point of wondering if it's time to reread The Joy Luck Club and The Kitchen God's Wife to reevaluate my strong affinity for those works.
This is the first Tan novel I've listened to on tape. I despised the stilted narration in the early chapters in Violet's voice. I barely hung in to finish the book. The only chapter I thought was acceptably narrated was close to the end, the chapter describing Lucretia's later life. I still can't tell if the narration destroyed my enjoyment of the story or if narration and character development equally disappointed. Fundamentally, I didn't feel much connection to the characters and their struggles, didn't understand and accept their reactions to life events, and couldn't sympathize deeply with their plights because their actions didn't feel authentic. The Valley of Amazement was entirely too much of a soap opera, where the characters repeat stupid life mistakes and wallow in the misery that results.
The background material about life in a Shanghai courtesan house was interesting as far as it went, which wasn't far enough. Autobiography of a Geisha did a marginally better job of describing the life of a courtesan and the individual's acceptance and reaction to that life. Yes, I know, that was an autobiography about a geisha in Japan, not a novel. It felt so much more authentic to me without sacrificing my sympathy for the geisha.
The final indignity was the ending. The story just stopped. Grrr.
Someone else is going to be the beta tester on future Roth novels. Allegiant had the feel of a hurry-up production patched together at the last minute to meet a deadline for an advance, a first draft.
I like a good teen angst novel as much as the next reader. I also like my dystopia raw. Sadly, Book 3 tracks a steady decline in quality that started in the middle of Book 2. Tris and Tobias' internal conflicts are narrated rather than illustrated. That's just plain dull, but then, how could it not be, given the plot and central venue? The plot was uninspired in contrast to Divergent. Overall, I give it a C- or D as creative writing.
I hammered the overall rating because Book 3 ruined what could have been a good series. The final plot twist was predictable, disturbing and unsatisfying. The whole experience was a big thumbs down.
I sometimes read historical novels to pick up little of the feel of a place. This one doesn't ring true. Conquistadora is written like a soap opera. The narrator, who is the author, reads like my 3rd grade teacher. I initially thought I'd picked up juvenile fiction by mistake. But descriptions of unconventional sexual conduct put that impression to rest. It's full of anachronisms ("infrastructure" in 1840?) that ruin the tone. And...it's a cliff hanger at the end. Nope, not my cuppa tea, but I did finish it.
After John Lee's narration of A Feast For Crows, it was a relief to find Roy Dotrice as narrator again in A Dance With Dragons. I'm no happier than anyone else about the voice changes, but I'm grateful I didn't have to suffer any more of John Lee's interpretation. It almost turned me into a hard copy reader. Yes, it feels like the series has become formulaic, but I'll say the obvious: we're hooked.
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