This audio book has the rarest of all combinations. . .an outstanding story and, not one, not two, but three extraordinarily talented readers.
Philipa Gregory's art lies in drawing the reader into the danger, the lust, the scandal and the pathos of the women at the court of King Henry the Eighth.
The pleasure of hearing the three readers voice the three central characters is second only to the fantastic tapestry of the story that Gregory weaves around the reader.
I cannot say enough that Gregory is a master story teller. Her portrait of Jane Boleyn as a woman scorned, and the depth to which a woman scorned will sink to have her vengeance is very well done.
Her portrait of Catherine as "stupid" as everyone calls her, yet much too knowledgeable for a child her age is brilliant, because she captures Catherine as selfish, self centered, yet naive, almost to the very end. Although she was a character I wanted to dislike, Gregory's brilliant writing and the very talented reading, made the character sympathetic and engaging.
My only regret is I would liked to have seen the Duke voiced as well. I only saw a glimpse of humanity from him at the end, and that was also very, very well done. The Boleyn books are my first Gregory books, and I am hooked.
Ann of Cleves, perhaps the most difficult character to make interesting is Gregory's biggest accomplishment in a book of accomplishments. Anne's quiet grace and courage in the face of the King's madness is a wonder to behold and a delight to hear. The reader who voiced Anne's part was excellent at drawing out the character's fear and her quiet elegance and her unique way of rising above the horror of King Henry's court.
Gregory transports you amidst the swirl of glamorous gowns, and beautiful castles.
My only caveat is I strongly recommend reading The Other Boleyn Girl first. It will give you a deeper appreciation for this story line, although this book is fine as a stand alone story.
The story of War and Peace is an amazingly colorful and exciting story. It's almost a thrill a minute. But some thrills are quieter than others. The way the drawing room and the battle field start to become parallel in the reader's mind is brilliant. The narrator makes the story a pleasure to listen to. This book isn't meant to be gulped down or swallowed all at once. It's meant to be sipped and enjoyed, like a fine wine.
This book was supposed to be a cliffhanger. A book with a cliffhanger can't be this contrived. The way he tied up the loose endings at the end really, really irritated me. After nine hours of listening . . . it wasn't worth it. It was a lazy ending, that smacked of Deus Ex Machina. The ending made the whole book unreasoning, unintelligent, and flat out not worth it. After building so many twists and turns that really made me wonder how in the world the main character was going to stay out of prison, the lame back yard barbecue with family, friends and friendly cops in attendance, plus a newspaper article didn't do it for me. For that, just write "The End" on the last page, and don't yank my chain.
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