South Lake Tahoe, CA, United States | Member Since 2007
First of all, the narrator is a real artist, replicating all the voices and singing several songs. He can sound like Paul Robeson, a Russian countess, ordinary Australian blokes, ordinary Americans, Orientals of both sexes and every class from royalty to gangsters, and on and on. For long periods, he doesn't forget that he is one of the secondary characters telling a story. This performance is transparent and seamless.
The events of the book will take you from an island off Australia, to the Korean War, all over the Far East, and to rougher parts of the United States. Courtenay's outlook is global. If you can get through all the mud and blood of the Korean War, including serious wounds and a long time of miserable imprisonment, you will be rewarded with exotic locales and ultimate love and fulfilment. There's never a dull moment. Courtenay knows about race relations. In this story, a white Aussie soldier and a black American soldier become fast friends. They go into business together along with a most mysterious and wonderful older woman. While there are bad characters and bad things do happen, Courtenay is essentially optimistic. Even in prisoner of war camp, there are angels. The book is about brotherly love, excellence, intelligence, business sense. I feel like I know these people; if I could just buy the plane ticket, I could go see them. As my own immediate previous life was as a banker's daughter in China in the early 1900's, I could see, feel and smell the Shanghai and Hong Kong scenarios. The banker's daughter had to support younger siblings however she could. . . . Excellence is sexy; fluency in several languages is sexy; silk cheongsams and exotic cooking are very sexy. Ditto working hard and making lots of money, helping others, improving government policy, loving one another. Courtenay's book is inspiring and entertaining. It has a good balance of colorful description and fast action. It ties up all the tag ends of plot and ends well.
Somehow I had expected this would be simply Tom Paine's writing, not a whole book about him. History, philosophy and politics are not my strengths, but I've lived long enough and traveled enough that I do care about these things. I found another audio book on the same topics, Founding Brothers, very difficult listening, although I believed it was well narrated. This book by contrast is almost suspenseful. The narrator reads with great understanding, but the book is written so as to be interesting. This author has an exciting mind!
Back in high school I didn't really get it about the deists. And who cared about the Louisiana Purchase? Paine was already trying to solve the problem of slavery, develop a plan for freed slaves. Paine even foresaw a need for a welfare system. Well, goodness! It's a most stimulating book. Educational, exciting, most worthwhile.
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