This story, told in the first person, is of a character (Max Tivoli) who ages in reverse. As a baby he looks like a withered old man. He progressively grows younger looking, passing (in appearance) through adulthood, until finally he begins to look like a child. Despite the progression of his appearance from old to young, he matures mentally and emotionally in the normal sequence. The admonition given by his mother early in life is always to act the way he appears. Thus, as a child, Max has to feign the behaviors of an adult. In middle age, his apparent and real ages more or less coincide. In old age, he appears like a pre-adolescent and, tragically, must try to fit into the life of a pre-adolescent, despite having had a lifetime of experience. At first, as I started to listen to this book, I had some qualms about the premise of this book: aging in reverse. It simply seemed to contrived. Once into the story, I began to realize that this plot device served to develop a character who had to behave and live out an identity, not as he wanted, but as others expected. We all have the experience, at one point or another in our lives, of acting as others would have us act, rather than the way we trully feel. What if we had to live an entire life like that? That is the tragedy of Max's life, and the way that Greer brings it to light is palpable and moving. The narration by Brian Keeler is entertaining. Highly recommended.
Years ago, I had seen the movie but never read this classic by E.M. Forster. This is a scrumptious novel that I enjoyed on many levels. On one level it is a romance novel, but there is far more. I also enjoyed the fascinating cast of characters, each of whom was vividly portrayed, well-rounded, believable, and contributing to a landscape of Victorian society. If you have ever fallen in love with Florence, Italy (or any other magical place), this will make you long to return for a visit. The novel is thoroughly engrossing and entertaining. A few times, I found myself laughing out loud. To become acquainted with the protagonist, Lucy Honeychurch, is to savor a rich experience of coming of age. The narration by Wanda McCaddon is superb. The personality and voice of each character are captured with great vitality in her performance. I will surely read (or listen to) this book again! Very highly recommended.
This novel impressed me as intelligent and thought provoking. It follows the life of an art historian, Dominique, from her early days in the university. In these early days, she falls in love with a man, Rex, who brings out her passion. While he is her intellectual match, he abruptly leaves academia, instead pursuing a patchwork life helping various leftist causes. With the same suddenness that he abandons academia, he abandons Dominique suddenly, and without warning...and not just once! She keeps coming back for more, for decades, only to have him disappear, usually without warning. There are other men (one in particular) who are much more generous and caring towards her, but she is always drawn to Rex. Dominique's interior monologue, the erudite commentaries on art and academia, her dry wit, and some of the author's imagery are enough to hold one's attention. I also enjoyed the narration by Celeste Lawson. However, Dominique's repeated returns to Rex over decades strain credibility, as he really does not come across as a likeable or dependable person. Dominique, as developed by the author, is such an intelligent and thoughtful observer of human nature that her lifelong obsession with Rex does not make sense. What I found most lacking about this book was the story line. Despite all the interior monologue and having read about more than 3 decades of her life, I feel as if I really didn't know what Dominique's day-to-day life was like. Except for her academic work and appreciation of Poussin and Goya (described in some detail), much of the rest of her life (friends, relatives, losses, vacations, shopping, neighbors, etc.) is absent from the story. In the end, the book struck me as interesting for some of its imagery, dialogue, and commentaries, but lacking in narrative substance. Not very highly recommended.
This novel about Pompeii begins as a sort of mystery, as the official aquarius (Marcus Attilius)attempts to discover, in late August, 79 A.d., why the springs are running dry and the great aqueduct Augusta has failed in the Campania region of Italy. We observe his gradual realization that the trouble all stems from Mount Vesuvius and see him caught up in the eventual onset of the famous eruption. I thoroughly enjoyed the period detail: the complexities of managing the Roman aqueducts, something about Roman politics and everyday life, as well as the vivid description of how the eruption of Vesuvius was experienced by the citizens in the surrounding areas. Some parts of the plot were gripping. For example, the description of the doomed Pliny the Elder leading his navy to mount a scientific observation and rescue was faithful to the historical record, and at the same time suspenseful and touching. Other parts, such as the descriptions of Ampliatus, a freed slave who had gained power through corruption, were a bit two-dimensional. Despite a few shortcomings of the plot on the human level, I found this book to be a thoroughly enjoyable "read." The reader was excellent, with each character having an individual, recognizable voice.
This book is very different from the kind of fiction I normally read, but I thought I'd give it a try. Above all, I appreciate a book that has believable, well-drawn characters in interesting situations. A good story and clever humor are also plusses. I found the humor in "Hitchhiker" mildly enjoyable as a commentary on modern civilization. However, beyond this, I found the situations and characters superficial, rather than engaging. Ultimately, I did not finish the book. I could see where some others might really enjoy the light, offbeat humor more than I. If you enjoy literature, proceed with caution.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this story about two generations of Bengali-Americans. Gogol, the main character, is born in the United States to Bengali immigrants. We follow him as he grows into a young man. As he grows up fails to understand the traditions of his Bengali parents. He even rejects the name they gave him. He is thoroughly American, but as he matures, his acceptance of his parents, their community, and his heritage grows. In many ways, the theme is similar to that in some of Amy Tan's writings about Chinese immigrants and their American born children. The difference is that the reconciliation between elder and adult child comes not through voyages or fantastic stories, but through the normal, believable experiences of parents and children living in the U.S. The narration is superb, with each character having a uniquely identifying voice and/or accent.
Having read Empire Falls, I had high expectations for Nobody's Fool, an earlier novel by Russo. This novel about smalltown life in upstate New York focuses on Donald Sullivan (Sully), a wisecracking, sarcastic, ne'er-do-well, but benevolent handyman who (at age 60) still has a tendency to drink too much and get into fights. Russo's writing is clever, and a few of the other characters in the book are nicely developed. Overall, however, I found this book to be plodding. Too little happened, both in terms of plot and in terms of any change in Sully's character. I did finish the book, but I sometimes wondered whether it was worth it. The narration, incidentally, was excellent.
This novel follows the lives of three generations of Greek-Americans. The story leads up to the self-discovery made by a child in the last generation. There is a fascinating cast of characters, each of whom is well developed by the author. There is enough history, pathos, and humor to keep you thoroughly engrossed. The reader (Tabori) is expressive and brings each character alive with an instantly recognizable and unique voice. True, the accent that he gives to the immigrant characters does not strike me as authentically Greek. It made little difference in his excellent portrayals of them. This is one of the best books I have read in the last year or two.
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