Tampa, FL, United States | Member Since 2006
As William Gibson says, "The future is here, it's just not evenly distributed", and it's hard to think of another time and place in history when this doesn't seem more true than the turn of the 19th century.
Fever is not only a fascinating snapshot of the seismic demographic and technological shifts that took place during the late 19th and early 20th century, but is also a truly compelling--and at times almost heartbreakingly tragic--story about a woman who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time in history.
Because it becomes clear early on that "Typhoid Mary" was by no means the only one unwittingly spreading the typhoid bacteria around New York City and Long Island.
What made her so special was her profession as a private cook in a modern city, where it wasn't unusual for well-to-do families to hire their help as needed through reputable agencies, and where it wasn't unusual for a cook to work for a series of different employers over the years. And it also wasn't usual for an otherwise meticulous and starchy-clean servant to not make a point of washing her hands after using the bathroom or before preparing food.
Which seems so counter-intuitive today, but even though germ theory and the study of how bacteria and disease was spread were already well-developed fields among academics and scientists --I'm pretty sure Dr. Lister invented his antibacterial Listerine back around 1870? -- for some reason the whole concept of washing hands and sanitizing kitchens hadn't yet trickled down to the immigrant and working classes, even though they a were largely literate population. Like the future, such ideas were obviously not yet universally distributed.
Which was one of the reasons it was so so hard for Mary to believe it was anything but pure coincidence that so many she'd cooked for over the years got sick. Sure, people around her got fevers and some of them even died--where does that not happen? (In Ireland they called that Tuesday, ba dump bump) Throw in some all-too human defense mechanisms and guilt-borne denial (all brilliantly unfolded by the author) and you have a walking time bomb.
Which brings me to what I think made this book such a winner for me--the historical details alone would have been enough to keep me engaged, but Keane's character portrayal of Mary felt so authentic that I had to keep reminding myself this is historical fiction, not non-fiction. (Meticulously researched, no doubt--but much conjecture nonetheless.) Add to that the dramatic tension created by the two men in her life: the Javert-like Dr. Soper, and Alfred, the no-good bum she just can't stop lovin'--and it starts to read like a darned good screenplay.
I have to admit that I wasn't sure about the narrator at first; she started off a bit stiff and rote, with only a barely discernible Irish accent for Mary. But as Mary warmed and opened up to us, so did the passion in the narration. Whether this was a deliberate strategy or just a matter of Thaxton finding her rhythm I'm not sure, but either way it totally works.
Oh, and be forewarned: You'll probably be Googling throughout the book--for images of Mary and Dr. Soper, maps of the East River, the history of typhoid fever--just to name a few--so make sure you have access to an connected device before you start listening!
...But I did. The story is engaging and fairly well-crafted. Not seamless---there are some rough patches--but overall a very satisfying listener experience. You will be entranced!
When a brilliant and talented comedian writes a biography and then reads it to you , in my experience it's pretty much worth the price of admission, no matter what the content.
These are people who have honed their delivery to razor-sharp perfection, and Silverman is no exception. In fact, of my four favorite Audible comedian autobio authors (the other three being Tina Fey, Kathy Griffin, and Chelsea Handler), Silverman definitely gets the narrator's edge for being the most beautifully articulate. Which, we learn in the book, is probably a direct product of her mother's careful movie-listing-perfected elocution.
Silverman's cut-glass, ladylike delivery of often outrageous, disgusting (and otherwise hilarious) material is what makes her so entertaining to listen to, so I can't imagine how the print book could in any way measure up to the audio version.
Not that this book is just a bunch of jokes; this a a real memoir and anyone interested in how successful entertainers rise to the top should find it interesting --and touching-- on its own merits.
I'd read Donna Tartt's Secret History years ago and loved it; I became aware of this latest work via a recent NYT book review by Stephen King.
This is mostly an homage to Dickens, but the layer of art history--specifically Dutch masters--makes it all the more compelling.
Like Dickens, Tartt weaves an epic and sympathetic tale, replete with colorful characters--both virtuous, villainous, and somewhere in-between--(which are, of course the most interesting ones). Dickens fans will love picking out the numerous references throughout the book, but you do not need to be familiar with his works to appreciate this book.
After all, there is a reason Dickens was so popular--he could tell a story and make you love and/or hate his characters, and Tartt is definitely able to weave that same kind of magic.
David Pittu does a masterful job narrating this behemoth of a book. Considering he's carrying the protagonist's voice from age 15 to....late 20's?, plus so many other voices, accents and dialects, I'm not sure who could have done it better..
As is often the case with these long books, we become habituated and truly hate for them to end.
I'm thirsting to download another epic novel--any recommendations?
Actively hated this book; still trying to figure out why...I mean, I was interested enough to listen till the end so I think on some level I enjoyed being annoyed at every turn.
Not sure which is worse, the pretentious writing or the broadcast-school narration.
Either way, the protagonist is a stupid cartoon of what every guy thinks/wants/hopes he is, and the female characters are what every guy thinks/wants/hopes women are. Seriously, this reads more like a first novel (that never saw the light of day) than the effort of an apparently respected writer.
And the narrator is horribly miscast---his growly, trying-to-sound-macho delivery just makes the protagonist sound like more of an a-hole than he already is.
Loved the title. Really, really did not like the book.
On the other hand, Ron Currie's supposed to be a pretty big deal, so maybe I just didn't get it?
Ok yes, it's a little bit dishy and gossipy--that's how you get a book published--but I get the sense Leibovich--an intrenched NYT correspondent-- pretty much burned his bridges to write some of the stuff that's in here.
I downloaded this the day it came out and am honestly astonished there hasn't been more outrage. Seems like Leibovich is trying to make an important point, but obviously the majority of readers are missing it. (Maybe because they're all trying to figure out if they're in the book, or know someone who is?)
I've long talked others in DC who confirm what he's saying . The ruling class in DC is cashing out and "riding it down in style". In other words, they know the plane is going to crash, but not in their lifetime...hopefully...so, yeah, whatever.
Please listen to this book. Yes, its very funny and entertaining--Leibovich is skilled writer--but it also reveals a capital that every US citizen should be aware of.
Full Disclosure: This is my time-machine favorite historical period and place. (You know the question: If you had a time machine, where/when would you go back?)
My answer: New York City, the beginning of the 20th century...are you kidding me?
Laura Moriarty takes us there from the point of view of a midwesterner, weaving real-life characters (and their wonderfully accessible google images) into the story.
Elizabeth McGovern's narration initially and inevitably evokes her character in Downton Abbey, but Cora Carlisle of Wichita, Kansas is clearly different from ex-pat Cora Crowley. (I felt like McGovern appropriately flattened out her accent, but according to Kansas reviewers maybe too much? Either way, her narration is top-notch. Which is pretty much always the case when seasoned actors read books.)
History buffs who love this era will love this book; not sure who else might be interested--maybe early film buffs?
This was a pleasant listen; seems other readers were annoyed with the details, but for me, those meticulously catalogued particulars were what made the book enjoyable.
The plot is as thin as consomme, and the narrator sounds far too mature to be the voice of a young 30-ish protagonist, but I still relished it, maybe because I've personally been the unwitting guest at similarly-situated country house weekends. The author truly does capture the almost-silly atmosphere of high-status people gathered together pretending to be...normal?
If you're as fascinated with social nuances as I am, I think you'll like this book.
But if you're looking for a strong story, or a romance...you'll probably want to pass on this one.
Like it or not, Aslan creates a plausible portrait of the historical Jesus. (Sounds like Jesus's brother James was more Jesus-like than Jesus, but...whatever).
The real question is, how/why did Saul/Paul of Tarsus co-opt this historical Jesus into this new Roman-friendly religion? If anyone wants to argue that there was divine intervention for Christianity at some point, I think you could argue it's through Paul...
If you're a fundamentalist Christian, you'll find holes in Aslan's theories; if you're agnostic, I think you'll find it interesting.
No matter what you believe, I highly recommend this book...you won't be disappointed!
If you loved Little House in the Big Woods or Girl with the Pearl Earring, stop reading and download right now, because you will loooove this. (I'm not kidding--you can thank me later.)
This is not to diminish the unraveling story or real-life plight of protagonist Agnes Magnusdottir-- --which is fascinating and mysterious on its own- but the details Kent provides about everyday life in early 19th C Iceland are, for history buffs, seriously delicious.
The writing is beautiful and the narration is top-notch--I'm guessing Morven Christie put in a considerable amount of time to get the scenes and pronunciation right, and it definitely shows. She's flawless!
This novel transports you to another time and place, while also connecting you to real events and persons.
What more could you want?
I was scheduled to see "Sleep No More" in NYC and felt like I needed a serious MacBeth refresh; so I downloaded this, along with Macbeth: A Novel, which is also narrated by Alan Cummings.
If you really want a Macbeth immersion, I highly recommend both...in tandem.
The play reading has, of course, all of the gorgeous Shakespearean language, but leaves the modern listener with a lot of questions. The novelization takes some liberties and cherry-picks the Shakespeare quotes, but definitely fleshes out the story so it makes a lot more sense to those of us not born in the Elizabethan era.
Either way, Alan Cumming owns the Macbeth narrative and for good reason. He is seriously one of the most talented actors--voice or otherwise--alive today.
Listening to both play and novel definitely plunged me (like a dagger) into the whole story, which allowed me to enjoy Sleep No More all the more...if you're a Macbeth fan you'll definitely want to check it out!
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