An incredibly enjoyable, if somewhat lengthy historical mystery novel (2 novels, actually) that introduces plucky magistrate's clerk Matthew Corbett. The novel is actually a coming-of-age tale for Matthew, who travels with his magistrate master to a remote town to try a woman accused of witchcraft. She's a total babe (natch) and before long, Matthew's attraction to her sublimates into a fanatical devotion to discovering "the truth" of what is really happening in Fount Royal.
The novel is crammed with historical facts about colonial life in 1699 that appear in the narrative as large as billboards, but are nevertheless totally fascinating. Aside from learning way too much about the scary ickiness of healthcare from that period, I learned that wasps nests were kept *inside* of houses to keep mosquitoes under control...a fact I have not been able to verify by googling, but seems too perfectly weird to be made up.
Matthew Corbett is a great character, a somewhat naive and bumbling nerd who becomes a kind of hyper-articulate and powerful agent of justice once armed with all the facts. I plan to check out his next three adventures asap. For some reason I can't get Elijah Wood out of my mind when I think of him.
A note on the narrator: Edoardo Ballerini, was absolutely fantastic. I plan to listen to, not read, the other entries in the series because he brings the story to life beautifully (and hilariously at times).
Bryson never fails to please me, I loved this as I have loved all of his works. It put me in the mood to go back and have a nice re-listen to all of his stuff.
I gave up on this novel, after reading a review of it on Amazon that basically echoed the negative thoughts I was having about it. When I checked my progress and reacted with dismay to find I was not quite halfway through, I realized this might have been a bad use of a credit.
I don't know if this novel was translated badly, or had not very good writing that was translated efficiently, but it was full of strange, awkward phrasing and characters that somehow managed to be unlikeable and of flat effect at the same time. Aside from translation issues, I found myself saying, "Really? That makes no sense." on a regular basis just at the events that were being described.
It's times like these that I wish I had a written copy so I could quote from the book, but for example: The main character Tobias, convicted at a young age of a double murder, "does his time in the joint" and returns to his hometown. He has served ten years, the "maximum sentence for a juvenile" under the penal code. Ten years for two murders? Wow. The townspeople are heavily invested in making him leave town immediately, despite the fact that he is in fact obsessed with cleaning up his father's dilapidated property asap so he can sell it…and leave town. Instead of just clarifying his plans with him over a cup of coffee, they send three masked thugs to beat the crap out of him and "send him a message". After tying him up, stripping him, tightening a noose around his neck, blindfolding him and then beating him with baseball bats, they paint the word "Murderer" on his bare chest with red spray paint. Despite the gruesomeness of this attack, relayed in great detail, all I could think of was, "wow, it might be easy to spray paint the word murderer on a wall, but across a man's chest? That seems like a fairly delicate operation to accomplish with a can of spray paint. ". But maybe I don't do enough tagging in my neighborhood. But that is not even the nonsensical part.
So this character sustains a beating that should have put him in the hospital, but what happens the next day? He's up and around, with a messed up face, but definitely ambulatory. Mobile enough, in fact, to go out that night and getting roaring drunk with friends. "Friends?" I thought at the time…he's got friends? The double murderer who just got out of "the joint" a couple of weeks ago? The town pariah who apparently everyone secretly hated and envied for his dashing good looks and brilliance back when he was just a youngster with murder on his mind? Not one of his friends visited him in prison except the tomboy that secretly loved him as a girl and is now a famous actress.
This is just ONE part of this novel that left me scratching my head. I won't go on with this review, because in fact, I didn't go on with this novel either. I couldn't even summon enough energy to keep going just to solve the puzzle. When your novel's plot is so dependent on plot reversals and crazy coincidences that it just doesn't really hold together, you have not done your job as a mystery writer, and your readers are the ones left twisting.
Mitford-esque without the anti-semitism, this novel was tons of fun. The actual mystery itself trod over not-very-original ground, but the characters are sharply done, and the wit is sly as can be. I listened to the audio version, absolutely wonderful performance by Katherine Kellgren, the narrator.
I purchased this book partially on the strength of the reviews, but mostly because the narrator is Eduardo Ballerini, who totally captivated me in a historical fiction series by Robert McCammon. As usual, he didn't disappoint, and neither did this novel, which I just adored.
This book is a very gentle but also very funny satire, making me laugh out loud many times. All of its characters are deeply flawed and just about everyone has a story that sets them up for being mocked. Nevertheless they are all very enjoyable satellites revolving around the story between the two most serious and affecting central characters, Dee and Pasquale.
If you love movies, you will love this novel, which hilariously sends up the movie business from the early 60's right up to today in glorious detail. As a film lover myself, I actually spent much of the time casting the film version in my head while I listened.
I will say that there were times when I thought the story dragged a bit in it effort to give EVERY SINGLE character his/her due, but inevitably I would be drawn back into the story and at the end I loved the way it actually wrapped up almost every storyline.
Wonderful novel, awesome narrator!
I thought both narrators did a splendid job. I can always tell when I like a narrator when I find myself googling up any information I can find about him/her.
I feel very ambivalent about Bohjalian's novel. My feelings about this novel moved along a giant bell curve. Despite the excellent performances of the two narrators, I had a lot of trouble getting into it, feeling that it spent an inordinate amount of time re-hashing the minute details of the plane crash that traumatized the sad sack of an airline pilot. I really wanted to be more sympathetic to his situation, but he didn't become interesting to me until he started having homicidal thoughts. But...the author has a great talent for building a delicate kind of jenga-like structure with the histories and motivations of the large cast of characters, and eventually I was utterly drawn in, realizing (with relish) that when the climax came, I had no idea who would prevail. Everyone seems to have a potential to tip the balance of things, and it was very well done. But but...when everything did finally come to a head, it was a crazy messy sprawl in which everyone and his brother ends up in the same location doing all kinds of ridiculous and inexplicable things. And then on top of that, the denouement toppled my own delicate and wobbling jenga-like patience.
I found Alison Fraser's voice mesmerizing, although I preferred Mark Bramhall's performance overall. Both of them did a great job evoking the different characters.
I was disappointed by this book, but I also enjoyed it very much. I just wish the end had carried me through better.
I really love Iain Pears, and have high expectations for this novel. I have really enjoyed it--in all the same ways I loved "Instance of the Fingerpost". I think my only caveat is that the stories told by the three narrators (at least the first two, I have not listened to the whole thing) are told as flashbacks from when they are young men..but the readers are older men. Despite the fact that these readers are awesome, and among some of the best in the business, I sort of wish these flashbacks could have been read by a younger voice--I think it would have given the narrative a bit more zip. I don't know, maybe I am just overdosing on the measured sound of the older British white guy. Again, let me stress.. the readers are fantastic, and I am loving this novel, but wish they could have matched the youthful urgency that the plot sometimes called for.
This first half of this novel is all about two people who need each other that keep missing each other as they work hard at hiding from everyone else. Paloma and Madame Michel are hard to like at first, both very intelligent but alienated and snobbish in their own way as they judge the people around them. It isn't until the second half of the novel, with the appearance of the wonderful and gracious Mr. Ozu, that they come alive and connect-- and so does the novel for the reader.
I really loved this novel, even as I admit that I mentally checked out during some of intellectual discourses of Paloma and Madame Michel. There is a scene in which Paloma is having tea with Mr. Ozu and blatantly mentions to the reader that she is not even listening to what he is saying, but that being with him, the person, is a wonderful feeling. That is exactly how I felt with this book--I didn't always listen to the lecturing, but I developed a huge amount of affection for the characters. I also loved the sound of Barbara Rosenblat's voice and loved her performance, and that of Cassandra Morris. Highly recommend this book.
-1 for the fact that this is actually a drastically abridged version of this novel (not even 3 hours long).
-1 for the fact that there is an Audie award winning version but this is the only one available.
-1 for Audible not making this clear by having the word "Various" in place for the narrators (all two of them) instead of the abridgement cast being listed. This would have saved me a lot of confusion. I still want to hear the version with Jeff Woodman.
+1 for this novel, which (even abridged so heavily) I can tell is a fantastic, unsettling psychological thriller. I have to read everything else I can find by Liz Jensen now.
+1 for the performances on this version, which are fantastic. I was sold within a minute of listening to the sample.
+1 for the convoluted way that a search for books narrated by Jeff Woodman, who did Life of Pi, brought me to listen to this.
My initial misgivings about this book had to do with wondering how I would be able to empathize with a proper elderly retired British major. There is a scene early on in this book when the Major meets his son's American fiance, and has a predictably appalled reaction. But when the author describes the woman's long, pale and (to Pettigrew) scandalously bare legs "flashing like scimitars", I laughed out loud...and I was totally hooked. After a bit more listening I had to e-mail my friend and make her promise me the book was not going to veer into dark territory because I had become completely attached to all the characters, and I really couldn't take a sudden turn into drama. This book grew on me so quickly and so unexpectedly, I feel like Pettigrew himself as he realized he was enamored of Mrs. Ali.
Just great, I loved this so much, please give it try.
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