I've enjoyed reading previous Ann Tyler novels, but this one was like listening to my mother tell me boring stories about old distant relatives I didn't know or care about. It was well read but the story was predictable (wartime couple marry, raise kids, separate, divorce, man remarries, etc.) with each decade and its effects on the family members displayed generically (40s war effects on families; 50s black turtle necks and beatniks; 60s drugs, hippies; etc.) I finally stopped listening a couple hours from the end when I realized I could care less about any of the characters and was feeling punished by having to keep listening to avoid wasting my money.
"I just can't think about it right now. I'll think about it later." Scarlet's little mantra throughout the book is actually rather helpful to use on those worries in daily life. The book was fascinating--so much more than what was in the movie--like 100 times more. It took forever to get through the 49 hours so beautifully narrated by Linda Stephens but was well worth it.
I tried really hard to listen and follow along but gave up, having no idea who was speaking most of the time, and even when I was following along, I was bored. I'm very ignorant when it comes to British history so had no context and apparently little interest in the subject.
The funniest thing about this book is that the British narrator doesn't even try to do American accents. A large portion of the book takes place in New Jersey, but everyone has upper class British accents, including a bunch of guys in a New Jersey motorcycle gang! That's a hoot but the rest is mostly silly and tiresome.
Picoult is such a good storyteller and her format of psychological/sociological study plus legal/courtroom drama is something I always enjoy. But this one was more formulaic than most, and the ending didn't make sense and one must totally suspend belief to even get through the story. Ridiculous fluff but still fun listening.
I began calling this book "Rape, Pillage & Priests" because every hour or so there was another romance novel-style bodice-ripper scene. The obligatory, formulaic sex scenes, especially the ones that tried to pose a feminist perspective are just ridiculous and only interfere with the thread of the story. In the end, I listened to all 40 hours but felt that it was a waste of time. I learned next to nothing about history and way too much about this author's sexual fantasies and his inability to write convincing sex scenes. It's quite well-narrated though, for what that's worth.
I listened to the first half of the book and didn't enjoy it at all so I checked other reviews and many people said the second half was better so I kept listening. Sadly, after really enjoying the Kite Runner, I felt this book was sophomoric and pedantic, and there were many spots where the story where the characters' actions just didn't ring true or make sense to me. Writers are often admonished to show, not tell, but there was way too much telling in this book. Writers are also told to "write what you know" and I'm afraid the author really doesn't know women from the inside out--they seemed like women written by men. Overall it was disappointing. I felt lectured to, instructed, via the use of cardboard cut-out characters who I never came to care about.
I found myself getting annoyed by this story. It was just too ridiculous and the main character was so anxious he was making me feel that way. I tried to like it to no avail and gave up before I got halfway through.
I got about halfway through and gave up. Like other reviewers said, nothing happens and to me, the characters never really come alive. I realized I was bored and it was like listening to my mother on the phone tell me about people I don't know. Sorry...I tried to like it but finally decided I was wasting my time.
Ugh. I listened to the whole thing but by the end cared so little that I didn't even bother to replay the ending with the plot resolution that I missed when I left the room for a few minutes, just glad it's over. The subtext of the story: pathetic, grossly fat, neurotic, Russian young man obsessed with and constantly referring to his damaged cooey (sp?) (Russian slang for penis), his flabby tits, toxic hump, multiple bellies and huge flabby hands, tries vainly to return to America where he went to "Accidental College. The author seems to think this gimmick of constant referrals to his gross body parts are supposed to be amusing, but they're just gimmicky and repetitive and unappetizing. Meanwhile there are detailed descriptions of his sexual activities and, another gimmick, occasional rap songs he supposedly sings as his (another gimmick) nickname, "Snack Daddy." I really wanted to like the book--the concept sounded really funny--but I found it over the top, nothing in the story believable, and the infantile obsession with his body parts puerile.
I have to admit I may be overly sensitive when it comes to hearing about dogs and chimps being killed, left in cages to starve to death, or otherwise suffering unimaginably horrible lives and deaths. And that's just the animals suffering in this book--the people have such sad desperate lives too. It is extremely well written and well-narrated and I wanted to finish it. But I just reached a point where I just couldn't bear to hear any more about the suffering of the chimps, so lovingly described with all their ever so human characteristics. And from flashbacks earlier in the story I knew that things would only get worse so I stopped a little more than 3/4 through. I'm also not sure than the protagonist's behavior throughout the story is very congruent with who she supposedly is. I found myself thinking "Huh? Why would she do that...I thought she was smart and independent, strong and committed...that doesn't make sense..."
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