Surely the sign of a really good book is when the last words have been spoken and listeners find themselves disappointed at having been abruptly separated from people and events that have been a real part of their lives (in this case for nearly16 hours). Well, if that is the case then this qualifies as a Really Good Book -- it ticks all the boxes.
The narrator: great voice, acted out the roles very convincingly (change of accents and voices very well done) and, best of all, didn't differentiate male and females voices through changing pitch. The writing was vivid. Elegant and succinct prose endowed each sentence an energy which created settings and personal characteristics.
While this was a crime mystery, that was only part of it. In fact, despite the urgency of the plot, for me the people became the most interesting aspect because The Cuckoo's Calling (clever title) was also the story of the lives of many individuals. Cormoran Strike, for example, is the detective, but he has his own compelling story which entwines throughout the central plot. I found myself caring about his well-being along with the decisions that Robyn will make about her life direction, and I was also repelled by, or drawn to the many other characters that moved in and out of my life through this book.
I had not read any of J K Rowling (Robert Galbraith) before but this book demonstrates what a talented writer she is and why she has been so very successful. I hope this is the beginning of a series.
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!
Roberts is a prolific and popular writer. I was interested to check out some of her work. So, of course, this was a well presented story. But I certainly was not one of her target readers. Rare for me, lots of fast forwarding, well, to see if what happens in the end is what is clearly going to happen in the end! It just went on and on. However it is an optomistic read for women who need the hope imbedded in a saga of tough no-housework, no-children, no-settling-down men being converted into dedicated and skilled family men.
The selfishness of young Dan was almost claustrophobic. I assumed something was going to happen beyond his excrutiating hyper focus on being the best swimmer in the world and his mother's subservience to him (or was it just pure love -- imponderable) and the theme of social exclusion based on class and behaviours. But this young man really didn’t interest me at all.
But I decided to continue because this book has attracted widespread attention in Australia.
Dishearteningly, this was also being read in the context of two key events outside the book. Our newly elected national leader was speaking and behaving in a way that made me ask if his was the voice of an older Dan, modified by time but the core aspirations still there – sport: to be the strongest and the best; leadership: the strongest and the best. Whatever it takes. And not particularly adept when the prize was his.
Secondly, a local television station aired a distressing discussion which included victims, their loved ones and rescuers, about the marked increase in attacks on people, young people, that do not lead to a good old fashioned dust up, but are glassings, and king hits, coming from nowhere. Echoes of Dan. This level is new in Australia.
One has to keep listening to see if this selfishness will be resolved. It is true, there is a constant and almost contradictory underpinning of generosity and patience in Can's care for ill people and this suggests a path that will transcend earlier behaviours. But for me there is a sense of ‘wishful thinking’. This difficult person sweeps past others, not with the power of hope and the holy grail of excellence, but with an urgent self absorbed belief that validates all that he does. The oft repeated mantra of his goal of strength and being the best has unsettlingly echoes, again, in many models of political leadership. Self indoctrination. Indoctrinate the others around us.
So much does the author want to donate Dan a socially acceptable future that there is even a hint that his crime has some justification as a social critique.
I agree that the role of the family as a more selfless decency is a heartening theme and the Tsiolkas effectively bestows on these poor people a positive role amid random acts of violence and personal disorientation.
So, there you go. I have read a book that has offered an interpretation, or explanation, of selfish and singleminded youth (is this a comment on the modern generation?), the school based training of a closed selfish and singleminded upper class, the comforting power of the family, and the acceptance of the fulfilment of homosexuality. OK. Done. But I found the language without music (intentional?) but I thought it was read very well -- with compassion, appropriately paced.
But despite any increase in understanding the human condition I may have gained from it, I really didn’t like the book but thought it had been worth completing.
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