Few books detail the suffering of the Polish people during and after the Second World War. That being the case, I'm grateful that Anne Applebaum researched and wrote this book as the information contained therein is rare and valuable. I found her description of the Eastern European social context at the close of the war to be especially so.
She treats horrors visited upon the Poles, Ukrainians, Hungarians, Czechs, Germans, and Jews with incredible clarity and with a rare touch that brings context to those horrors and allows for an appreciation of suffering by one or other group that does not diminish horrors visited upon others.
Her work here is admirable.
Unfortunately, the book does not hang together especially well.
She structures the book in chapters each describing a component of Soviet occupation (Policemen, Violence, Ethnic Cleansing, Radio, Politics...). Each of these components combine to create a context within which Soviet occupation was able to take root, grow in influence, and "flower" into its particular flavor of totalitarianism.
Each chapter then contains a series of anecdotes that describe how the chapter subject was realized in Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia.
In theory, the above structure could work well, but I had trouble with it in this book.
Any overarching thread felt subsumed by anecdotes. Chapters launch into episodes about Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia but without a clear sense of how each anecdote or episode fits into a larger thesis. Some chapters have a closing few sentences that draw back to a central notion, but while reading, I lost a sense of what about a given anecdote was important. And then, without a paragraph to help put the story just heard into a broader framework, another anecdote would follow. So I was left with a collection of stories without a concrete feeling of why each was important or how it fit into a broader picture.
The author has done quite a bit of research and she's eager to demonstrate it through the inclusion of quite a bit of detail. I wish she would have provided more interpretation of that detail to lend the book greater coherence.
I will recommend this book to friends and colleagues because its subject is so important and books about it are so scarce. I will however not recommend it unreservedly.
The narrator is capable and improves after the opening section which is made up of a series of quotes. Unfortunately, her pronunciation of Polish place names is frustratingly mediocre, as though she didn't approach their pronunciation seriously. Aside from that, she improves over the course of the reading and is not unpleasant. This is not an easy book to narrate and the narrator does pretty well to lend shape to text that hasn't much shape on its own.
She deserves 4 stars in general, but her pronunciation mistakes are so careless that I remove a star.
The subject of the book is important enough to lift the "overall" star score though its realization here is imperfect.
It's a worthwhile read.
Simon Prebble is masterful. So much so that I bought "Dorian Grey" just because he's the narrator.
1984 is shockingly apropos to our current media and party dynamics. The tactics to cultivate fear and prevent critical thought laid out in the book have been employed by power so often that they must have thought they were reading a guidebook rather than a cautionary tale.
Again, the narrator is marvelous.
Be advised that there are no end notes in this audiobook. That is a shame as they are absolutely integral to the text. One would think that the electronic format would provide a platform for an elegant solution that incorporates end notes. Some day, but not in this release.
The narrator is quite good, holding my attention throughout the volume. I give him four stars because his French-Canadian accent is horrendous - though the rest of his reading is quite well done.
If you've not read Infinite Jest, I'd call it more of an experience than just a novel. Its non-linear structure populated by dysfunctional characters all lacking any real interpersonal connections creates a sort of impressionistic painting of an experience of depression. Despite the infusion of humor throughout the book, It wasn't pleasant for me. But it's not something I'll forget.
This audiobook is less than the actual text ... it is after all, abridged (though labelled unabridged). But still, it's very worthwhile and can remove some measure of friction that comes from reading a lengthy and heavy book.
I would advise that the listener also have access to the text so that endnotes can be read. The end note numbers are prominently noted during the reading.
This great narrator brings the finely-written prose to life. I couldn't put this book down as the story builds to the climactic crumbling of the republic.
I bought this book after listening to Dan Carlin's fantastic "Death Throes of the Republic" podcast series. This book complements Carlin's narrative so well that each makes me appreciate the other that much the more.
Neville Jason inhabits Tolstoy's characters - old and young women and men alike - such that throughout their evolution, joys and sorrows, they are all very much brought alive.
I laughed out loud many times and laughed yet again at how familiar character traits are.
Jason makes these come alive and brings out Tolstoy's themes regarding our human nature, as well as the natures of truth and history through his timing and pacing.
I am eager to hear additional work by Mr. Jason ... Proust, here I come.
How delightful to hear Mr. Powell perform the various and evolving accents, from Old English to Caribbean English! The Caribbean Poem he reads comes alive with his voice in a way that I never would have felt had I never heard it.
The text does personify the language at times expressing a form of "will" behind English itself. I didn't care for that, but nor did I feel it detracted from the whole significantly as the technique's appearance is brief whenever it occurs.
The history of the language is painted at just the right level for an interested, but casual listener. This is a broad overview but with enough depth to be compelling, from the great vowel shift to why English doesn't have cases to word creation / vocabulary expansion.
I loved the book and the narrator both. And this book, more than any other I've heard, merits a listen rather than just a read.
I wish that Descartes' Bones had greater density of information. Shorto goes on at great length "reciting" dialog from primary sources. The players were interesting to be sure, however, the detail included interferes with the broader point. I feel this book was interesting, but could have been distilled to two hours -- thereby eschewing mind-numbing dialog and retaining a focus on the Faith vs. Reason theme that holds so much promise.
I feel this book was interesting, but could have been distilled to two hours -- thereby eschewing mind-numbing dialog and retaining a focus on the Faith vs. Reason theme that holds so much promise.
I would have limited his focus on detail to that which pushes forward the thesis of the book.
Never by Anthony Pagden ... John Lee ... certainly.
He could have written a history - instead of invented one.
unfortunately, no. When a "history" book misleads - there's no redemption.
The issue is this: Mr. Pagden attempts to create a narrative - the West democratic and the East prone to monarchy and leader-worship. His vision is lovely: that history has been a continuous fight of the Trojan War. Unfortunately, he imposes his narrative upon the history such that he ignores facts that contradicts his desired story line. He never mentions that all histories of the Persian empire that he vilifies were written by Greeks and so shouldn't be expected to be laudatory or unbiased.
This just isn't a history. It's a man's wishful vision of a history - in which he paints a narrative and ignores any facts that contradict it.
If I had never read any other history of the middle-east ... I wouldn't have known that Anthony Pagden stole my money.
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