brentwood, CA, United States | Member Since 2007
Although I admire the intent behind "The Witch of Portobello," I was disappointed that a writer as significant as Paulo Coelho was not able to create what I suspect he intended. I have to acknowledge how hard this kind of book is to write: a "message" book that assumes this kind of narrative structure is just asking for trouble from the get-go unless much more developed. Coelho has an initially unnamed "reporter" collect narratives from several people whose lives touch "The Witch's" and we readers are to believe that Athena (how is that for cliche name!) profoundly impacts life after life when she is depicted as a two-dimensional character whose new age style pronouncements and teachings are meant to stir the reader and those who come into contact with her with soul-moving prophecy and rapture. I think it's possible to write such a book, but it's extraordinarily difficult, and it doesn't work here. The New Age pronouncements come across as thinly-disguised authorial preaching. Messianic characters only work if you believe in them -- okay to dislike them-- but in this case, the entire atmosphere feels so very false. I think Coelho could have taken a more mythic approach and this novel could have worked, he could have made of this novel a much deeper sort of fable or parable, or he could have fully developed a gritty, more fully realized novel. But he didn't take this book in any of those directions. He mixes too much of the mundane with cliche and platitude so that the book becomes to me, a muddle. I wish he would have pushed the book further in one direction or another, but as it stands now it's a raw sketch that doesn't work.
While I was listening to this, I thought-- I've got t re-read Katherine Anne Porter's "Ship of Fools" because this novel reminded me of "ship" in the air vs. sea. So after I finished listening to this, I did listen to "ship" and it wasn't a very good mental comparison.
Some of this repeats what I just wrote about "Ship."
Here's the thing, I've said in reviews before that more literary novels do not always fare so well as "listens." I think of Follet as storyteller, someone like the brilliant Bryce Courtney who puts together a brilliant story, and the story drives all, and the characters are quickly and proficiently sketched and the reader is quickly and professionally sucked in to a compelling narrative, an these books are tailor-madefor Audible. "Ship" is harder to carry off in Audible form -- it's a more psychological novel, and doesn't let you sit back (drive/commute/walk) and relax, you have to REALLY listen (or read). Or listen twice.
Follet as always is sheer storytelling enjoyment, strong narrative, fun, you'll want to speed-listen. Follet is perfect for Audible (or beach-reading) and is story telling its finest.
There are other good/legitimate reasons to read/listen as well, and "Ship" is not for the story, it's for the psychological insight. I love that I can honor two world class writers in one review, and encourage listening/reading to both for different reasons.
"Night Over water" will pull you in and give you great listen/story that you won't want to pause, as I expect from this author and have yet to be disappointed!
I read "Ship of Fools" as a college student and loved it , also have always loved Porter's short stories. I revisited "Ship" because I was listening to a Ken Follet novel-- set in an airplane and chock full of fools and was reminded of this novel, so decided to give it a new listen, was curious how it would compare.
Here's the thing, I've said in reviews before that more literary novels do not always fare so well as "listens." So my 3 for performance is just an acknowledgement of that, the reader is perfectly fine, but given that much of this novel is psychological/interior it's simply harder to carry off a narration. This is NOT a thriller a la Follet. I think of Follet as storyteller, someone like the brilliant Bryce Courtney who puts together a brilliant story, and the story drives all, and the characters are quickly and proficiently sketched and the reader is quickly and professionally sucked in to a compelling narrative.
Porter's book is more complex, harder to sift through the characters, the narrative drive is multi-pronged. It's a GREAT book and good to listen to, but if you listen, listen twice OR read and listen. The time is well-spent. I LOVE Follet and Courtney, but their books are more transient, this is a book that you will think about longer, the characters' motivations and actions will stay with you longer. In other words, you can' not commute or walk or beach rest and relax with this one, it's not 100% storytelling entertainment, but will stay with you longer because it drills down deeper.
I gotta admit -- I was rooting a bit for the "bad" guy here...in other words, he's no so bad. Dan Brown takes on over-population crisis in Inferno, and interestingly tackles Dante (perhaps to one-up Dante's Club...not sure that either author truly succeeds though) . As always the scholarship and art/symbology detail is compellingly rendered to the lay reader.
BUT the story's got a problem in that the villain isn't really....a villain, and the novel's contrivances are, well...contrived. There's a new TV show on that I don't really much care for called "Motive," and the show doesn't in my mind succeed because it sacrifices character and believability and story telling to....Motive alone-- the moving force. Well, the villain's motives here are not as misguided as they need to be in a thriller. In the back half of the book I was thinking...okay...is this really so bad? The book's faults seem to be to echo the television show's faults --that motive is important but just one dimension of a superb story.
So the arc of the book falters. What to do? There's a good message there, but the book as a thriller falls flat in the back half. I'd tell people to listen if they like Dan Brown, the wonderful info he unearths about art history is valuable...but Inferno just doesn't reach the level of his previous works in terms of REAL drama and villainy! There are a few quips in the book about the author not getting books out quickly enough for publisher/contracts and I kind of have a feeling that Brown could have spent few more years shaping this one, and that the pressure was on to shove it into print.
If you haven't read/listened to Courtenay and Bower and you crave a good story, start now, but perhaps don't start with this book. Courtenay is an absolute gem and master, and this novel, though strong in concept, seemed so "sketched" and rushed to me-- especially in the last half. Well, being an American and not recipient of the latest news in the Australian arts community, I didn't realize that this was Courtenay's last novel, and that he died last year. That explained all.
The book is flawed but still saturated with signature Courtenay -- a rags to riches story, messaging around literacy that was a little less subtle in this book but never gets old for those of us who love WORD, a commitment to creating excellent female characters and a true storyteller's understanding of the arc of story and how to deliver upon it.
So any Courtenay lover should read/listen to this, and his personal after-word will make you cry, but if you do not know Courtenay start earlier in his canon and enjoy a true story telling master at his peak!
So, so sorry that we shall no have another work from Courtenay, and thank to Humphrey Bower for delivering an exceptional reading once again.
I've never read or listened to a James Lee Burke book I didn't like, so I come in with that prejudice. This hero, like Dave Robicheaux, is battle-scarred,demon-chased and damaged but not dead yet, still alight with desire for love and justice.
As always with Burke, a solid story, excellent villains, descriptions of landscape and characters that rival any fine writer's out there, notes of redemption. Burke's language is, as always elegiac and my only gripe in listening to it vs. reading it is....come'on what bad guys speak with such poetic erudition? It works on the page, and it's part of Burke's flow but in narration it's just too gorgeous for the down and out. But I like hearing it enough that it's okay. Burke always provokes thought, he keeps us entertained.
The narrator is perfectly paired with the material, and the "Feast Day of Fools" metaphor (there's a bit of a lecture by one of the improbably bad guys about metaphors in the book) is wonderfully wrought.
Probably not! But that's not a slam, it's a saga, but not...an Epic
Excellent command of multiple characters/intonations - superb actor
Wouldn't. It's a good name.
Brought pre-World War II and beginning of World War II to life through eyes and hearts of one family, making what seems already ancient and long ago deeply personal. An excellent introduction to the era from a very American family/set of eyes.
This book would appeal to readers/listeners who like a fine writer who can bundle atmosphere, character development and action -- more like an excellent mystery writer in some ways (Mankell, James Lee Burke) - author has created a haunting/intriguing book. Great delivery by Doyle, and most remarkably-- he pulls off an ending that does the entire book before credit. So many, many books like this end with a whimper, this one does not - the author has crafted a superb ending that does credit to his writing, his characters and the history also envelopes the work. I'm reading more Neville!
A troubled, troubling, stirring, well-wrought end to the Wallander cycle that has me wanting to read and listen to all of them again. I discovered this author on Audible and have savored each book. In this last novel, Mankell has succeeded in what so few authors seem to be capable of, closing his series subtly, beautifully, remaining true to his characters and yet also exploring his terrain with wonderful intuition and character insights, keeping the book moving with compelling twists and turns. Mankell has turned the book, Wallander, and the reader all on their heads and has the reader/listerner looking at everything within (the pages, the plot, the life) in a new way-- sad and glorious. How I will miss Wallander, and how grateful I am that I met him and his creator!
This book oddly combines the successes and failures of her last two novels-- after hating "What Came Before He Shot Her" and Loving "Careless in Red," I had more than one twinge of fear that this was going down the "What Came Before..." path. It didn't. Tough book to review because I don't want to give any hints of the twists or turns and there are some. Stay with the book, it'll surprise you in good ways, characters we know and love continue to develop too. Some scenes tremble a little too close to the disgusting and I confess fast forwarding through at least three ummm...unpleasantries. But in the end a satisfying read, and when as she often says, the other shoe finally falls and the reader figures out where George is going it's a delight indeed!
What's the equivalent of a page turner in audioland...an ear burner? This one's hard to turn off, you want to listen to it in big gulps, so clear off your calendar for a 18 mile walk or a weekend cleaning frenzy. Author has a really unique premise, the core creative idea that drives the story is novel and ambitious. So in terms of plot, and unique slant I'd give this 5 stars. But I gotta knock it down a bit for very stock characters, the protagonist is cliche, the supporting cast...ditto. Don't let that stop you from listening though, still great entertainment and I'm absolutely on to the next one!
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