This is a good book and, for the most part, interesting about the personal quest to recover a family's history and through them, to understand the lives of Polish Jews from the early 1900's through the 1950's, although some events are drawn from contemporary life. Other reviewers have described its content and some of the details, and I will not repeat them. It is remarkable how many of her relatives survived the holocaust, an abnormally large percentage compared to the three million Polish Jews (90%) killed. Ironically, it probably reflected that many of her relatives were not really part of a closely knit family and often children were eager to leave home to seek their fortunes, sometimes elsewhere in Poland, sometimes further. This was especially true of the 11 children of Daniel and Lieba, of which her father was one.
It is both a tale about various branches of the author's family tree as well as a personal journey to recapture her lost early childhood during the holocaust, having been born in 1939. Who were the people she met and knew at a young age? How have they contributed to the person that she has become? Given the devastation and destruction of European Jewry, it is amazing how many details of her family tree she was able to uncover. It illustrates her journalistic talent and experience.
The book reads like an historical novel except when she is relating her own impressions and experiences. Indeed, many of the specific events and conversations are clearly speculative, although having a basis in fact. This enhanced the reading and made for a much more interesting story than a narrative of the results of her research and interviews. She has a good sense of drama; however, I sometimes wondered whether I was reading a composite of some people who may have existed or descriptions of meetings and events that never really occured.
Her portraits of her near relatives seem realistic. She attributes to them positive qualities, such as generosity or cleverness, while, at the same time, indicating shortcomings, such as jealousy, selfishness, coldness, or miserliness.
On the other hand, the book is a bit tedious at times and could have benefitted from a strong editor. Her story could easily have been told in less than 500 pages instead of 600. Some events and thoughts are repeated verbatim, and some of her introspections are drawn out far too long. For example, her emotional difficulties dealing with the decline of her mother's health and, eventually, her death in Sydney, are not really so different from the experiences of many others who have had to become caregivers to one or more parent. However sad, it is really tangential to the book's thread, yet it drags on and on.
About the audio edition: The narrator did a very good job, given the first person point of view of the author. There are many characters who make appearances or are referenced in some part of the book that it is hard sometimes to remember. The printed book has diagrams of the family tree that the author recovered. Audible was remiss in not making this available to download. It would have helped me avoid a lot of confusion.
If you like folk music of the mid- to late 20th century, you'll probably enjoy this memoir, an insider's perspective of the folk music scene, mostly around Greenwich Village. Mention Dave Van Ronk to someone today and you are likely to get a blank stare. Van Ronk never was a superstar but was well known, especially among other folk singers. The narrative is first person, but this is more like an autobiography of his professional life than his personal life. For example, we learn that he was married twice, but you learn little more about his wives than their names. Wald has done a brilliant job editing the material left by Dave Van Ronk. In an epilogue by Wald, you can tell this was a labor of love.
Although the book was the inspiration for the Coen Brothers film "Inside Llewyn Davis," van Ronk differed in important ways from the character in the film. For example, Dave's first love was jazz, and he never abandoned it. Although he hitched a ride to Chicago and back once in hopes of playing at The Gate of Horn, there was never involved a jazz musician resembling Roland Turner nor the Kerouac-like driver/beat poet Johnny Five.
This was the first mystery by J.A. Jance that I've read, and I am apparently in the small minority who finds the writing lacking. Especially in the beginning, it sounded like a parody of the usual TV detective dialog with hackneyed phrases, stereotypical characters, etc. I knew what the character would say before he said it. J. P. Beaumont seems to be not a particularly bright or insightful homicide detective, so I was surprised later to learn that he is a legend in the police department. The story is engaging, but Beaumont' sudden love interest is a totally implausible relationship, and his behavior is not only stupid but bizarre. The story goes on for a long time with mysterious murders and no hint of why. Beaumont makes little progress and overlooks the obvious until his former partner points it out from his hospital bed. The eventual resolution is not something that could be inferred from the evidence, although I did guess who the mastermind was. Altogether, a disappointing experience--not of the calibre of other detective series such as Connelly's Harry Bosch or Louise Penny's Inspector Gamache. The narrator seems appropriate for the subject, but his sentences are clipped and often sound affected. Reminded me a little of the legendary TV series Dragnet from the 1950's, but it doesn't work in the 21st century.
This book is hard to classify. You might call it a comic mystery, but I didn't find it all that funny. It does accurately reflect a certain time (late 1960's) and place (Southern California beach towns) and the business and brutal side of the drug culture. Various characters, including the PI, "Doc" Sportello, reminded me of an amalgam of "Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers," comic book characters from the early 1970's. At one point, Doc recites their favorite line: "Dope will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no dope." They had no ambition other than to smoke dope and try psychedelic drugs (other than heroin), a little like Doc. He appears to be smart but views the world through a continual marijuana haze. It gets tiresome after a while. There are too many characters and side detours, at least for me, who only listens in the car while commuting or shopping. His dialog with the "honest cop," Bigfoot Bjornsen, contrasts their different life styles and philosophies, but eventually, it too seems to grow stale. One does sense a mutual respect.
The narrator does a pretty good job handling the myriad challenges of the book, but sometimes, I couldn't distinguish a character by his/her voice. Altogether, a mixed bag.
I gather a film of the same name will be released in 2014, starring Joaquin Phoenix as "Doc." It'll no doubt be simplified and easier to understand. It'll be interesting to see whether I will like it better than the audiobook.
I enjoy comic mysteries, so I like the Bernie Rhodenbarr series about a burglar with a complicated sense of justice, who usually does more good than harm. This is a complex story about an author, who resembles Thomas Pynchon, whose novel "Nobody's Baby", meant a great deal to Bernie but who guards his privacy at all costs. The denouement is a scene out of Agatha Christie, in which Bernie plays Hercule Poirot, who has gathered the suspects together to coax out the true killer. Meanwhile, Bernie suffers his usual internal torments, engages in the pursuit of sexy women, and of course repeatedly uses his skills as a burglar to obtain information if not wealth.
Richard Ferrone does an excellent job of narration. He even made some female characters come to life.
This is about a troubled LAPD cop and his similarly emotionally-challenged dog Maggie. Crais introduces the conceit of writing alternate chapters from Maggie’s point of view. Do dogs really think like this? He was consistent in limiting her abilities to reason, but, perhaps for that reason, it just got tiresome. The ending was predictable.
What saved the day for me was the narration by MacLeod Andrews. He was terrific.
This is well-written debut by Rosen; he's a very good writer. I enjoyed the intricate characters and the personality of Henri Poincaré, purportedly the great-grandson of his famous namesake. The story is intricate, with many twists and turns. I sort of guessed where things were headed, but the ending is quite preposterous. The mathematician Fenster resembles Benoît Mandelbrot in several respects, both in terms of his topical focus and in terms of his attempts to extend fractals to a comprehensive world view. A scientific world view is not the same as religion, and the conflict between science and religion are not well-drawn.
Grover Gardner does a good job with the voices of the different characters, and I enjoyed his reading.
The denouement was rather disappointing to me, quite unbelievable in its details and philosophically unsatisfactory (and philosophy plays a large role in understanding the motives of the some of the principal actors.)
The relation between science, mathematics, and religion is not well-drawn, yet it plays a big role in undertanding the motivation and behavior of a number of the central characters, although rather incidental to Poincaré himself.
An aside on the science and math described: The reader will get a good sense of the meaning of the notion of fractals and self-similar systems. The notiion that the world is fundamentally fractal is not unprecedented; again, see the writings of Mandelbrot and, more generally, the approach called cellular automata, such as by Wolfram. Scientifically, this has not met with much success.
As an aside, to the extent that the book touches on the work of the famous mathematician whose name the protagonist bears, it is not quite right. Although Poincaré talked about "relativity," (for example, in his 1904 lecture at the St. Louis World's Fare, he clung to Newton's absolute time and the ether concepts and even rejected the implications drawn by Einstein in his famous 1905 paper about "special relativity." Indeed, Poincaré disbelieved E=mc^2. Rosen states that Einstein owed a debt to Poincaré for general relativity (published in its final form in 1916). That is simply not true. In fact, Poincaré did not accept this as the correct theory of gravity. Although incidental to the plot, I was disappointed that the author did not do his homework on these matters.
I enjoy the Dortmunder series of comic mysteries. This is one of the more intricate plots and more complicated than most. Not that it is believable, but at least, within its own world, it kind of makes sense, which isn't to say it isn't full of surprise twists. It ends in a satisfying way, in which nearly every crook gets what he/she deserves. Needless to say, John Dortmunder is never going to make a huge financial killing, but he'll never be without his group of friends and admirers. The narrator, Michael Cramer, does an exceptional job giving individual voices to the characters and adds enormously to the pleasure of the story.
This is the only book by Shute that I have read besides the celebrated "On the Beach." The story was a mixed bag; the first part concerning Jean's capture and treatment at the hands of the Japanese in British Malaya is interesting and well-told. I found it easy to identify with the women prisoners and their children and admired their perseverance. The second part of the book concerns Jean's quest to find Joe, an Australian stringer whom she had come to know during their mutual imprisonment. Although there is some interesting history and geography, this part of the book drags along soporifically toward a predictable and idealized conclusion.
I don't understand why this novel remains so popular; the characters seem quite dated to me. I might even have given up finishing except for the marvelous narration by Robin Bailey, whose brings the characters to life through his imitation of their dialects, their gender, and style of speech.
I like the Lomax-Biggs duo. The plot is a bit of a stretch, but this is just "light reading" and, while it isn't likely to win any awards for great writing, the dialog is believable and often witty. There are several twists and turns that will keep you guessing, but the story moves right along. This is on a par with #2 in the series (Bloodthirsty) and better than the first (Rabbit Factory.) I look forward listening to the fourth. Tom Stechschulte does a terrific job giving voice to the many, varied characters, making it much more fun to listen to than to read.
I like Craig Johnson's series about Walt Longmire and have listened to 8 of them. This novella is a kind of "Christmas cheer". If you like the series and are familiar with Walt and his friends and family, you'll probably enjoy the book. There is no suspense at all, because the story is a flashback. Despite its attempt to build tension and excitement, it fails as a thriller, since the introduction in "present time" tells the reader how it is going to come out. The writing is as good as ever, and the narration by George Guidall is excellent, as usual. Thus, I rate it as just "ok", as if the author had to satisfy a contract without putting much effort into the story line.
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