Mulvaneys deserves more attention and prominence in Oates' oeuvre. It didn't receive a National Book Award (like here 1969 work, them) or a Pulitzer nomination (like Black Water, What I Lived For, and Blonde). It's notoriety came from selection by the Oprah book club and a movie adaptation.
But Mulvaneys is excellent! Oates crafts perceptibly realistic characters, who are as emotionally complicated and psychologically baffling as any real human being. The novel also interestingly forays into religious and epistemological issues; in fact, Oates depicts the religious Maryanne heroically, though she cannot defend her faith against her brother's deep-seeded naturalism.
Oates impinges stirring literary conceits upon this simple story, which she admits is indebted to Shakespeare’s King Lear. The narration, generally linear, features vivid flashbacks. The structure works compellingly well, as the flashbacks provide foil for the proceedings of the novel.
The narration is quite good with one exception. Shina often hints at a rural Southern accent, but the work is set in rural upstate New York. This was distracting through the first third of the audiobook.
Otherwise, it's a great listen!
The Adventure of English is chockablock with intriguing linguistic tidbits. For instance, the distinction between cow and beef comes from the French occupation of England: cow is the term the English serfs used as they cared for livestock; beef is what the French elite called the meat at mealtime. How about this one: did you know "wowser" comes from an Australian political acronym (we only want societal evils remedied)? Admittedly, Bragg is sometimes guilty of information overload, but wading through the details is worth the listener's while.
Powell's performance is remarkable. He quite convincingly vacillates between languages and accents. Usually, I quit thinking about the narrator somewhere in the course of the audiobook, but not in Powell's case. I would consider other works narrated by him.
I recommend this work for logophiles and anyone else interested in language.
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