Final Victory is, as the title claims, an extraordinary tale. It is 1944 and FDR, the President of the United States, a polio paraplegic, at 62 is now clearly very ill. But he is not interested in contemplating his mortality because he decides to campaign for fourth term in office. He fights this election as Commander in Chief in a country at war, and reduces public awareness of his physical limitations by using the power of radio and a limited number of rousing and witty speeches. Imagine being able to have that much control over what is known about the president in the modern world of communications.
The republicans -- their candidate was Dewey -- ran a bitter campaign against him.
Talk about two planets. In the world outside the USA, young men and woman were fighting a terrible war and huge numbers were undergoing unthinkable privations and dangers. Yet, back home, politicians were aware that some of the people at home (well, enough to play to them,) were largely focussing on their everyday lives and -- Dewey really worked on this -- life after the war. He presented arguments along the lines of: don't let us go back to the Roosevelt New Deal era, think about this because the war will soon be over. But what a thing to say: there was hell on two continents to be endured before the war was, indeed, over. He also even blamed Roosevelt for taking them into the war and pronounced the country's leaders to be tired old men.
What a context to be fighting an election. Great scope for cheap shots since national security simply did not, in many cases, allow the Commander in Chief to respond.
I suppose that one romantically imagines that a country at war is united by the common purpose of survival, rather than allowing the surfacing of arguments that sounded pretty treasonous to me. But of course, engagements, for example, in Vietnam and then the current Middle East was, were and are, in far distant lands -- and in fact, so was this war, except for the attack on Pearl Harbour which initiated the involvement. But, in contrast, Britain for example, didn't have an election during a war which was directly threatening the country, and the governments were largely all party war coalitions.
Anyway, listening to this book I kept on wondering if the electioneering vitriol would have been as strong -- or even allowed -- if the USA had been defending her very own borders.
Generally I found this to be a very interesting, well narrated book. Of particular value was meeting various personalities. In this, Weintraub is clearly not without his biases -- he's not too impressed with Macarthur, or Dewey himself, for that matter. And very sympathetic to FDR and Truman. Well, maybe history agrees with that bias as well.
Selecting a reader for a book written in the first person must be like choosing actors for parts in a film or play. The reader's voice makes the text live: the voice reflects the character, the person who is sharing events, thoughts, personality.
Kinsey Millhone is a feisty, highly resilient and resourceful, thirty something detective with a sense of humor and a good serving of empathy. I really enjoy Sue Grafton’s popular series.
But it is really unfortunate when the reading of a book doesn't match what the reader/listener pictures or imagines from the words. And that’s how it is for me when Judy Kaye reads any of this series, including W is for Wasted. Her voice is far from the determinedly light hearted, almost flippantly understated and emotionally honest Kinsey that I feel Grafton is describing.
Furthermore, her voice is that of a significantly older woman who often reads the most amusing passages in a ponderous fashion.
As a result, W for Wasted is one of the least satisfying books of the series.
Listening to Dylan Baker's brilliant interpretation of this classic was an emotional and intellectual journey. The Grapes of Wrath wasn't just about the excruciatingly difficult challenge facing this tough little family. It was also about society as a whole: how it is governed by politicians, manipulated by bankers, dominated day to day by the complacently rich or economically safe, the self righteous, the cruel, the uncaring. And how people with the qualities of decency, love, strong morality try to survive against these monolithic factors.
Because every word has weight and implication, listening compelled a depth of appreciation that visual reading may not have offered: such was my concern for this family that I could have been tempted to skip the superb analysis of Steinbeck's overviews.
The characters are real: they live. It is an extraordinary feeling listening and needing, wanting, to reach out and be right there with them. Help them. Change things for them.
My favorite? Of course, hard to say, but I think it would have to be the Preacher: he is the philosopher, observer of realities but ultimately, in his questioning, hopeful of something better.
The ending: I have never before finished listening to book in tears. But the ending is not a completion: it is a culmination of lives to that point, a blending of the analogies and themes that weave richly throughout the novel.
Among the many emotional impacts for me, was the realisation that this was a novel for today. Written in 1939, it describes key issues confronting my own country, Australia. Our capacity for cruel exclusions, inward looking, complacency, injustice, manufactured fears and prejudices. And the capacity of so many for bravery, compassion, cooperation, fairness, empathy.
Steinbeck was delivering an uncompromising mirror to society, his emotions powering the novel. That it was recognised as such through the accolades and awards that poured upon this book (and him as an author, Nobel Prize included), shows that his message was received and understood by many then, and ever since. He was imploring his American to be a generous and understanding society, to build on the capacity for love and caring that the journey of the Joad family, and many thousands like them, exemplified.
The small town of Neverend, on the Australian eastern seaboard, is where people can relate honestly and safely to each other, have time to value relationships and the environment. It is where school students have the advantage of community life and families are more likely to have fewer economic (and therefore relationship) pressures than those in the more expensive cities. Where there is history and continuity.
Life events propel journalist Chris Baxter back to Neverend where he confronts his role as father to his teenage daughter, is offered wisdom from his mother (retired from teaching there for 40 years and is thus an integral part of the community) and, now unemployed, needs to recreate his role in society. In turn, he becomes a catalyst for his mother to revisit key life events as they dove-tail into the present where their repercussions still lie dormant.
As a background rumble, Neverend is juxtaposed against the violent politics of Indonesia of the 1960s and their implications for the contemporary relationship between Australia and this crucially important neighbor.
Rich pickings here.
Morrissey's invariably worthy themes are delivered with craft and care in her many novels. In The Road Back there is an all pervading feeling that she really wants people to accept her major themes, which she clearly believes are important for the future well-being of the places and people she cares about. As a result she over repeats and reiterates her central ideas. This amounts to something like a lack of confidence which is even reflected in the structure: rather than presenting ideas that will thread through the book and hold the reader: the beginning is slow and earnest and there is little to engage.
But Morrissey’s well deserved reputation will entice the reader to persevere and this will be rewarded.
The experienced narrator, David Tredinnick, failed to lift the slow beginning where his reading was occasionally breathy and with unexpected pauses. He succeeded in creating satisfying voices without excessive tone change but his Australian accents bordered on the patronising. Nevertheless he was a sympathetic reader.
I have enjoyed Jack Reacher sagas before, but this one did not engage me at all. Jeff Harding did well to put energy and some urgency into his reading of it, but even that could not rescue this book. Despite being tempted to ditch Personal, I limped on but the end did not redeem it.
McEwen confronts the reader with a thought provoking issue presented with compassion and skill.
When should the state intervene in a family decision which has been based on strongly held religious beliefs: in this case, Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Adam, almost a legal adult, passionately, idealistically, agrees with his parents that, although dying from leukaemia, he must not accept a blood transfusion. Fiona, a judge, herself caught up in a personal crisis relating to the meaning of her marriage, fidelity and betrayal, must make a ruling on this matter.
This is a dynamic listen, beautifully read by Lindsay Duncan. It is concise, raw, disciplined. The language rich and melodious. The characters live, each travelling paths that the listener identifies with, participates in. What would I do? How do I feel about what happened?
Desite the odd murder and person of evil intent, the Dick Francis books are a consistently and reassuringly the England of a few decades ago: the dramas of the racecourse (never attended one in my life and never likely to, so this is a new world) and traditions of basic decency being upheld.
This book held my interest throughout, the characters are alive and entertaining and it culminated in an unrushed and satisfying conclusion.
And speaking of old boys, I always find the voice of Tony Britton, excellent reader that he is, much older than the late thirty something that is required in the Francis books. Also, his women's voices leave a lot to be desired. But for all that, his moderate and thoughtful tone underscores the world and its values that are being evoked.
Book One, The Cuckoo’s Calling, deftly, convincingly, introduced detective Cormoran Strike and his offsider, Robin (of course). The Silkworm smoothly continues this narrative and with a new ‘case’, though referring to, and building on, the previous one.
This time, the contrast between Robin’s unwavering decency, echoed ponderously by her tedious fiancée, and Cormoran’s life-induced cynicism and capacity for the self sacrificing pursuit of social and legal justice, is further underlined by characters who take these two to the seamy, low life, indecent under-belly of society.
This side of life got to be bit much for me! I’m not a fragile flower: I was just edging on the bored because involving the reader in vile humans can edge towards the gratuitous – and Galbraith was coming pretty close to that line, much closer, I suggest, than in Book One.
But nothing would deter me from following the lives of these two detectives, who were more interesting.
The book was structured with the skill of a consummate and successful author (AKA Rowling).
The reader, Robert Glenister, complemented the material flawlessly: his acting was superb.
Bring on the next book in the series.
I downloaded this novel as the last words faded from Rosenberg's first novel, Death From a High Floor. How's that for a recommendation. The quality reading from Christopher Lane is complemented by co-reader, Kate Rudd. And, so engaged was I with the characters I had just met, I wanted to know more about them.
Bring on book three!
This novel was casually, randomly chosen as an under $10 book to use up a credit. What a find! Upon completing it I immediately downloaded the sequel (equally low cost – goodness knows why – these were quality books).
The reader was first rate – want to hear more from him. The characters strong. I think there may have been too much detail if I had been reading this but listening to it I devoured every word (again, because of the quality of the writing and reading).
Ok Grisham etc, there is a new writer to join your ranks. The writer a lawyer so I assumed the proceedings were soundly presented: Google search shows he was the legal script advisor to three prime time television shows which included my personal favourite, Boston Legal. I am waiting enthusiastically for the third book from Charles Rosenburg.
This has the sedate, carefully structured, beautifully nuanced atmosphere of a nineteenth century classical novel. Appropriate, since that is the setting. This is underlined by the glorious, melting intelligence of the ever-superb reading of Juliet Stevenson.
This is many novels. Broadly, it is about the British dominating the globe through individual strivings, even personal sacrifices, both at home and abroad. It is relationships and dealing with loneliness (the sexual tension was very well done), family, mandated personal self sufficiency. Life and meaning -- where there is no apparent meaning; and the courage to generate meaning. Each and every character lives.
It is also a novel that reaches over time. It visits the theories of evolution. For those who are comfortable with the conclusions of Darwin and Wallace amongst others, it is a journey into the minds of those who walked this path and wonderfully sympathetic to the limits imposed on Victorian women which denied the full flowering of their brilliance; it is an eloquent sharing of these thought processes for those who continue the doubts of those now long distant times.
It is an introduction to new worlds. I now look at mosses completely differently -- and with real appreciation and curiosity!
Report Inappropriate Content