This book deserves all the praise it's been getting. The story grabbed me right from the beginning. It is intelligent, very well written, strong character development, and a plot that is entirely unpredictable (at least so far: I haven't finished yet). The narration is terrific. I have already recommended this book to about ten people. Verdon is a master.
This is a lovely tale about a beautiful girl who defies darkness, evil, and hatred in Nazi Germany through her loving heart, creativity, imagination, and courage. There are moments in this story that are quite touching and certain delightful characters such as Hans and Rosa Hubermann, Max Van den Berg, and even Ilse Hermann. However, ultimately this book is a disappointment as the result of a poor narrator and a disjointed narrative. I expect the movie will be better, because, as I say, the story is lovely; it's just the telling of it - by both the author and the narrator - that fails to satisfy.
I'm not even finished and this is already one of my favorite books I've ever "read." Ondaatje's writing is captivating. I find myself listening over and over to some passages because of their pure beauty. Certainly the voyage from Ceylon to England is a natural metaphor for the journeys we take in life and this book does speak to that universal experience, Cats Table is so much more. It is a memoir, a love story, even poetry in its way. The author's narration lends greater depth and feeling, because we hear it as he sounds it out in his head as he is writing. His unique accent is sometimes hard to understand, and for me that makes it even better, because I have to pay close attention. Ondaatje's works are a gift to the English speaking world, to be savored, cherished, and celebrated.
This is a very interesting story involving all sorts of fascinating intrigue spanning 25 years. There's cold war spying, Stasi intrigue, and clever detectives who figure out who the Swedish collaborators are in an attack on the German embassy in Stockholm in 1975. However, the story is not well written and holds no surprise or suspense. Its basically just a simply account of what happened, not a clever who-done-it or suspenseful spy thriller, which a better author could have rendered. Also, I forgot what a lousy narrator Davies is. His characters sound like they're on quaaludes or are constipated. Why does he insist on those silly, inauthentic Swedish accents?! It completely detracts from the narration. I would not recommend this book, but I do think it could be a terrific movie if it were re-worked by a greater talent.
I think I agree this is the best of French's books. The story is so absorbing right from the beginning. French doesn't just tell a good story. She creates characters and the reader is drawn into their lives. Her attention to psychological dynamics of each character is remarkable. And a LOUD shout out to the narrator. He, George Guidall, Simon Vance, and Simon Prebble are the four best out there. It made the story all the better.
I purchased this book because the reviews were so favorable and I liked the narrator...at first. But overall this was a disappointing listen. Frankly, I think the print review in the Guardian has fallen victim to the silly idea that if something is European it must be good, and if a mystery story is Scandinavian, then it is superlative. But the fact is, the story here is really implausible and the writing sophomoric. I started counting the number of hackneyed noir-like expressions and then lost count. It almost seems like the author had just taken an adult ed writing class. What the real kicker was was the narration, though. Davies is pretty good until he tries to put on Danish accents. All the characters sound constipated. Danish people do not speak English with a Danish accent; they speak Danish. A far better approach would have been to do what Simon Vance did with the Larsen series, and just speak English like an Englishman. It is WAY more authentic and far less annoying. One last pet peeve: his mispronunciation of the German place name "Schleswig Holstein" makes NO sense, especially when he tried so hard to pretend to be able to put on a Danish accent. No Dane would have gottten that wrong.
I am enjoying Mission Flats. The plot is complex, inviting further listening. The characters, likewise, are compelling, well described, and interesting. I am interested in how they will fair in the end. Landay's written a compelling mystery in a narrative style that is artistic, more than mere pulp fiction. He shares a bit of Dennis Lehane's artistry. The BIG problem with this audiobook, however, is the narrator. He's terrible! It's like listening to John Boy Walton try to narrate a gritty Boston murder mystery. His Boston accent is woeful, utterly unconvincing: I used to live in Boston, so I know a fake when I hear it. His tone of voice, inflections, and pace make the main character, Ben Truman, sound like a bumbling casper milquetoast, which I do not imagine Landay intended, even for a Versailles, Maine rube of a cop on the mean streets of Boston.
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