Did you know that Jacques Pepin is largely responsible for a fact that we all take for granted now? That is, that one can expect to eat just about the same quality of food consistently in any of a chain of restaurants. That used to not be true.
Did you know that Pepin's father was in the french resistance?
Did you know that he was the soup guy before Seinfeld made soup restaurants famous with the "soup-nazi"?
Did you know that he proposed a PhD topic investigating the use of food in literature. And was turned down because food wasn't a "serious" enough topic (or so they said then).
I didn't either, but I do now. And many other interesting bits besides. I have loved Jacques Pepin since his days with Julia Child so I was probably predisposed to find the autobiography interesting. However, even I was pleasantly surprised by this life chronicle. And the narrator is wonderful. He has an unmistakable french accent but his English is very easy to understand and his pronunciation of the various french words (such as names of dishes, for example) adds a lovely flavor to the narration.
The premise of this book is fun - that the characters on a Star Trek-like sci-fi show are real and existing in a parallel universe. Whether you are an avid "Trekkie" or not, surely you noticed in the Star Trek episodes that the color of a character's shirt was a pretty accurate predictor of a his or her fate in an away mission.
Well, the protagonist of this story notices too, only his "Redshirt" colleagues are actually dying. The novel isn't particularly elegantly tied up at the end, but it doesn't really take away from any enjoyment of the story.
Wil Wheaton as narrator is beyond excellent. There is a sort of cynical detachment in the timbre of his voice that lends itself beautifully to this story. His delivery makes a few moments really funny which may not even register otherwise. I loved him in this!
I was looking for a sweet, mindless listen that had something to do with Christmas and a happy ending. This fit the bill nicely. The narration is fine, the story is fine.
The premise of this book, that there is a world in which "Tributes" must fight to the death on reality television, really turned me off. However, a trusted friend LOVED it so I thought I would give it a chance. I am so glad that I did.
Even though the premise as stated above, is absolutely accurate, somehow, the story is so much more than would be implied by that simple statement. Part of that transcendence is the writing of the character Katniss Everdeen. Even though she is certainly flawed, her spirit allows the reader to experience the whole story with Katniss' gentle but firm calmness.
This is a book to be experienced more than once. Once, just for the story and at least one more time to savor the writing and the characters. The performance on this recorded book is excellent. The narrator, while not as adept at creating completely different voices for each character as some of the other narrators to whom I have listened, still draws the listener into the story to such a degree that I never missed the "voice" element. I can only hope that the movie version of the novel will create as compelling a world.
I love Kristin Chenoweth and was really excited to hear in her own words about her experiences on Broadway and in movies and television. She is not an engaging narrator. That was a major surprise. And her memoir comes across as surprisingly boring.
Ordinarily, I would begin a review with an evaluation of the actual book rather than the narrator but in this case, Stevenson was SUCH a standout that I had to begin with her. To say that she inhabits each character fully is to sell her performance short. I remember Stevenson from the movie version of Emma in which she plays Mrs. Elton so wonderfully snarky and politely arrogant. But this narration shows her talents to a greater degree. Not only does each character have a different sounding voice, but one can practically hear their thoughts as Stevenson brings them to life.
What is so perfect about this amazing performance is that it makes a somewhat challenging novel much easier to manage. There are so many characters and so many story lines that Eliot brings together so beautifully (eventually) that a reader can easily lose track. Several of the characters are not easy to like, a few are like-able at first and then become less so, some are not like-able at first and grow on you. It is a lot to keep up with. But the story is well worth the investment. Eliot is wise and funny. Her take on the relationships between men and women is insightful. Well-deserving of its status as one of the greatest books ever written.
I gave the story only 4 stars because there isn't much that actually "happens." It is not an exciting story. The story is really in the every day happenings of the characters. That is where the true genius lies.
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