This is a great story of an Australian Olympic swimmer who overcomes many obstacles to win gold in Athens. The story itself is inspiring.
However, the story is told in two voices, one is the first person voice of a woman (representing Petria) and the other a male voice giving a third person point of view, as well as speaking for the many other people in her life (her sister, mother, coaches, therapists, husband, etc). I personally found it distracting to have the narration jump between the two voices and many viewpoints. I was probably 3 - 4 hours into the book before I grew used to this. I suppose this technique was meant to give us a more complete picture of Petria, but in an audio book I found it distracting.
The book stands alone. Obviously Victor Hugo is a masterful writer, and with Hunchback, he wrote a masterpiece. The characters are complex. The story is compelling. If you think you know the story from the Disney movie or some other Hollywood version, trust me, in no way can any movie capture the depth of these characters and this story.
If I had to pick my favorite chapter from all the audio books I have ever listened to, it is a chapter from this book.
I walk while I listen. My walks take about an hour. One fine fall day I set out listening to a chapter called "A Bird's Eye View of Paris." It was purely descriptive, the kind of chapter I may skim if I were reading a hard copy of the book -- but that's not an option with an audio book. I walked, listening, as Hugo described the different burgs of Paris, the streets of Paris, the homes, the buildings, the churches. Quite frankly, 45 minutes into the walk and the chapter, I was getting a little tired of description.
But then, the glorious conclusion. Having built a city of stone with words in my imagination, he began the chiming of the bells in all the steeples across the whole city -- small bells, medium size bells, and huge grand bells of Notre Dame. Hugo describes as "a tumult of bells and chimes," "a furnace of music," and a symphony.
I heard a symphony in a audio-book and it was one of the most beautiful things I have ever heard.
Lynda Bellingham does a nice job reading the story and giving life to the characters. There were a few times, however, when her voice dropped to a whisper and it was hard to hear in the car.
The book made me laugh and cry. It was a sweet, sweet story of a little girl overcoming many trials, including the death of her grandmother and racial prejudices because of her gypsy heritage. Ultimately, she finds a family and a home.
The story was a little predictable for me, because I've read many books, but listening to it with my two daughters, age 11 and 8, allowed me to enjoy the story for the sake of the story and not be critical of things like predictability.
Even though I knew who broke the four minute barrier, I still was anxious to hear the outcome of each of these three runners.
As a coach, this book is so full of lessons to pass on to my athletes! Lessons like perseverance, no excuses, the importance of good sportsmanship, the ugliness of bad sportsmanship, self-sacrifice, and hard work.
I highly recommend this book for anyone who has ever put on a pair of running shoes or watched any kind of race.
I'm usually a purist and read the book before I watch the movie. However, my children persuaded me to watch Andrew Lloyd Weber's "Phantom" and I found the story to be haunting and unsettling, so much so that I decided to get the book.
This audio book was fantastic! The reader did an outstanding job infusing emotion into the reading. Leroux develops the characters so much more than a movie is able to. I understood so much more of the emotions, character backgrounds, and even the plot than I had with the movie. I ached for Christine Daae with the decisions she had to make and the final outcome of the story.
If your only exposure to Phantom of the Opera has been either Weber's Phantom or any of the other movies made based on this story, you must read (or listen to) this book. If you've never been exposed to any version of the Phantom, you must read this book. It is Beauty and the Beast set in an opera house. In the end, the only thing that can defeat evil is love.
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