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.
I like Hager as a science writer. I had not known much about the Haber-Bosch process or its developers. It illustrates that, as usual, scientific and technological progress is a double-edged sword with potential for both good and evil. Of the two main characters, I found Bosch the engineer/businessman to be the more admirable, however brilliant a chemist Haber may have been. The narration is good, except that certain scientific or German words are completely mispronounced.
I liked the concept of the book. Chapters alternate between the PoV of the German boy and the French, blind girl, whose destinies ultimately intersect. Events were not presented chronologically but were also not simply a flashback or two, so it was sometimes hard to follow. After a certain point, the story kind of dragged. I have the feeling that the emotional impact of the book would have been greater if it were shorter. Nevertheless, the painful experience of growing up during the late 30's and 40's comes through clearly. The prose is very good; descriptions are vivid and lifelike. I could have done without the fantasies and dream sequences.
The narrator did a very good job. I wonder whether I would have finished without it.
I am far from being a YA, but I was sucked in by all the hype about this book even being a pleasurable read for adults. I have mixed feelings about it. Some of the prose is very good, and some of the scenes and dialog are funny. However, I felt the plot was by design manipulative of the reader's emotions, so much so that it was often hard to take seriously. Do teenagers today really talk like these protagonists? The plot was so predictable. It reminded me of the hugely successful "Love Story", a 1970 novel and movie by Erich Segal, from which my title was taken. When I read that book, I thought that it was a parody of romance novels, and, in fact, I recalled reading that some thought that was Segal's original intent. (Searching the internet, I find no evidence of that. Trick of memory?) I'm sure that John Green did not intend this to be satirical, but it was so overdone....
Had it not been for Rudd's excellent narration, I probably would not have finished it.
This is the second attempt at reading Green, the first being "An Abundance of Katherines." This one is better, but I doubt I'll try any others.
I enjoy the recurring characters, and this followed the usual pattern of earlier books in the series. I like Andy Carpenter's sense of humor, but I'm sure it is not for everybody. This is a better mystery than most, but I found the ending contrived. Still, it was a fun read (listen).
You will either like these corny mysteries and characters or you won't. I do, and I found this to be one of the funniest in the series. Richard Ferrone does an excellent job of giving voices and accents to the different main characters.
Molly Antopol is a wonderful first-time author with a clarity of expression and insight into human behavior that is astonishing. Time and again I was surprised by the unusual degree of self-awareness shown by her characters. This collection of stories mostly take place between about 1943-1953, long before she was born. Their locale varies from San Francisco to Jerusalem to Belarus. Although her themes surround WWII and its aftermath, especially for Jews, the stories encompass universal issues. The title refers obliquely to the House UnAmerican Activities Committee, whose activities in the late 1940's resulted in the creation of Hollywood blacklists of professionals in the movie industry and the jailing of 10 men. One of her stories deals directly with the personal consequences of this tragedy.
Jennifer van Dyck's reading is good, but she makes no attempt to speak in character or to use different voices. It took me a little while to get used to men speaking in a female voice, and her range of emotion is limited. The strength of the writing comes through anyway. For those of you expecting more from a narrator, I encourage you to read the book instead since the narration adds little.
Finishing the book, I wanted to know more about this author. She wrote an interesting commentary on her namesake village, Antopol, in the New Yorker's Page-Turner blog (Jan. 29, 2014). There are interviews with her in "The Times of Israel" (Feb. 15, 2014) and The Rumpus (Feb. 17, 2014). She divides her time between San Francisco and Israel, when she isn't traveling elsewhere. I look forward to reading her first full-length novel.
This is an amusing story, but satire is difficult medium to sustain for the length of a novel. The protagonist, Allan Karlsson, is a lot like Forrest Gump, with similar attributes other than being mentally retarded, bumbling into situations in which he is regarded as brilliant. The style is also similar inasmuch as it is episodic. The author alternates between the present time (2005) and earlier periods of Allan's life, and it works for a while but also gets a bit stale. One difference from Gump is Allan's capacity to drink unlimited quantities of vodka and other forms of alcohol, but that is in character with his being Swedish, I suppose. In order to appreciate this book, you need to approach it like a cartoon or comic book, totally unrealistic machinations and unbelievable coincidences. I enjoyed many of the characters but after a while, I was ready for the book to end, and it took longer to get there than I expected.
I love McKinty's writing, and I thought this was the best of the Duffy series. It's quite a complex mystery, and you have to wonder how he manages to survive the situations he gets himself into. I enjoy listening to Gerard Doyle reading; a perfect fit.
As clever an author as Block is, his narration leaves much to be desired. If you can stand his reading, some of the stories are worthwhile. This is a case where I'd recommend reading them instead.
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.
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