This is a wonderful classic that brings you into the world of rural peasants in China at the turn of the 20th century when some things are beginning to modernize. I am going to go fairly deeply into the plot so skip this paragraph if you don’t want to know more! Our hero, Wan Lung is a poor peasant farmer devoted to his land. Too poor to find a good bride, his aging father purchases a slave woman – O-Lan – from a wealthy family to be his bride. The couple is happy though silent with each other. O-Lan is a devoted worker in both the house and field and they prosper enough to buy some more land from the wealthy lords. O-Lan is fertile and they are blessed with sons and a daughter (daughters are considered slaves because they will eventually move into the house of another family). But their prosperity is halted by a terrible famine. They come near to starvation when they decide to migrate south to a big city just to survive. O-Lan gives birth to a dead daughter (or perhaps strangled) and the family sets out. They encounter the railroad for the first time. In the big city they struggle by begging and manual labor just to have enough to eat. The youngest child – a daughter – seems to never recover from the starvation and is mentally retarded but Wan Lung loves her and refuses to sell her to survive. When an instability arises the poor peasants storm a great house and Wan Lung and O-lan find enough valuables to let them go back to the land he loves so much and farm again and again he prospers. But when floods stop all work he becomes bored and spends time in the town at the tea houses and becomes mesmerized by a lovely prostitute named Lotus and eventually buys her to be his concubine. O-Lan is heartbroken but says almost nothing. The two women live tensely in the different sections of his house. O-Lan’s health is failing from hard labor and many pregnancies. She dies just after the eldest son takes a city wife who is more like Lotus than O-Lan herself. Wan Lung prospers and continues to buy more land. He becomes so rich that eventually he takes over the house of the wealthy family and can rent out his land for others to farm. His sons become educated and live like rich men with no attachment to the land except to take the money it brings in. Their wives fight and there is little peace in the house. Grandchildren continue to come. In his old age Wan Lung finds a lovely young slave girl and takes her to him causing more conflict. In his old age his sons run everything and Wan Lung stays with his slave girl and his retarded daughter whom he eventually entrusts to the slave girl. In the end he is very old and still loves his land but his greedy sons are talking about selling land as soon as he is gone.
The writing is lovely, the characters real and easy to keep track of. For example, instead of confusing us with many Chinese names, she refers to the sons as eldest son, second son, etc., and the other relatives as uncle, etc.. This really helps. The reading is beautifully done. It is mesmerizing and I loved it.
Written back in the first half of the 20th century, this slow moving but powerful story tells of a rural family facing a death of one of its members. It starts out very slowly but soon it completely hooked me and I found it hard to put down. Not a whole lot happens but it is nevertheless completely absorbing and true to life. I highly recommend it.
This is a beautiful and engaging book about a family’s tortured history with meth addiction. Actually, it is several books in one: first, the mesmerizing story of their young teenage son’s falling into a life of addiction and the horrible consequences and long struggles for recovery; then the author has done extensive research on addiction and particularly meth addiction and so he gives us a great deal of that; and then just the daily life of his family over the years. For a family struggling with addiction, it will all be very helpful but for the (fortunate) rest of us it could be trimmed down a bit. For example, the very detailed and lengthy descriptions of their daily family life – when we are dying to get back to the addition story. Nevertheless, it is engrossing and well written and well narrated. It certainly expanded my insight into such issues and I truly admire this family.
This is a delightful book and just wonderful to listen to. It is the memoir of a midwife in London of the 1950s. It is hard to believe that before the National Health Service came into being in the late 1940s and made free healthcare available to all, maternity care for the poor was practically non-existent in Britain. But by the mid 1950s nurse midwives were bicycling around the projects of London giving prenatal (the Brits call it antenatal) care and handling home deliveries, or even hospital deliveries for complications. Each story is more delightful or amazing than the others. My only complaint is that I never wanted it to end. The author, an experienced nurse, signs up for midwife training and thinks she is being sent to a hospital but instead it is a community of nuns who lovingly care for their patients and train other nurses to become experienced midwives. Britain was still recovering from the privations of WWII and there was an immense shortage of housing. Poor families lived in incredibly crowded and primitive conditions. Many of the old condemned buildings did not have running water for each flat but were still full of families because there was nowhere to move them. Into this comes all the drama of birth and death and family and money issues and even racial issues (Britian was just beginning to get immigrants of different racial backgrounds). It is just beautifully written, beautifully narrated (the Cockney voices will haunt me) and I cannot recommend it highly enough.
I have always wanted to read this book but put it off over the years. I knew it would not be light reading and since I am definitely a speed reader, I knew I would be tempted to skip some of the philosophical stuff and concentrate on the plot. So having it read to me was ideal – no speed reading (oh, except that on my iPod I could speed it up, but I never did!). This is a well-known and highly reviewed book by the Czech writer Milan Kundera. He uses the stories of two couples to inject his philosophical musings about Prague in the 1960s and 1970s particularly during the period of the 1968 Russian invasion and the damping effect it has on Czech society and on our couples in particular. The main character, Tomas, is a womanizing surgeon who goes from one lover to the other until he stumbles on Tereza who totally confuses him. He doesn’t give up his other affairs but she has a definite hold on him. The author compares the ideas of “lightness” – we have one life to life and this is it – to “heaviness” – life is an unending cycle of repeats. It is much more complicated than that, of course. Despite the “coolness” of the narrative, you get attached to the characters as you follow them from youth to aging and see the deadening effect of totalitarianism on individuals and effects their choices have. It is very definitely worth reading and because it is not light reading, it is an excellent book to have read to you. I am very glad I finally know what it is all about.
This is a delightful book and it is read just beautifully. The plot focuses on the recent death of the patriarch of a Jewish family and how all his grown children come home with their families to sit Shiva for 7 days. There are all sorts of dynamics among them – adultery, anger, whatever – and it all gradually comes to the surface. The book is hilarious (would make a great movie) and the one liners are priceless and yet there is depth (not too much but enough to be touching). Once I really got into it I couldn't put it down and seem to walk around all day with my iPod trying to see what happens. I highly recommend it.
Somehow I had never read this classic so it was refreshing to have it read to me. It is beautifully, beautifully read – almost perfection. And the story builds in suspense to a point where it is hard to stop listening. It is a first person narrative – an impoverished, naïve, timid young woman who marries the widowed owner of a magnificent estate and then tries to fill the shoes of his beautiful deceased wife. The narrator – whose name we never get except when referred to as Mrs. de Winter – always talks of how she feels and sees in a situation. There is great detail about her surroundings, from the gorgeous flowers, the weather, the other people, and how they all affect her. I am a speed reader and am tempted to gloss over such details when they slow down the plot but having it read to me forced me to take them one at a time and they deliciously added to the building tension. It was hard to put down my iPod when my walks were over and encouraged me to not skip a day of walking! I highly recommend it.
This is a delightful book! Written in the first person it chronicles the life of one Moll Flanders – not her real name but useful to sum up her life. She was born in London’s infamous Newgate prison where her mother was under a sentence of death for theft. Our heroine struggled on her own to form a life for herself and goes from one adventure to another. She tells us she was married 5 times and was a whore many years (by that she means what we would call a mistress, not a prostitute). Her “voice” in the book itself is enchanting and the reader does a beautiful job of portraying her and all the other characters. I will not give away much of the plot but reading it will give you great insight into the struggles women faced over the past 200 years. I found the part when she herself was in Newgate prison for theft very touching. How easily they executed people for petty crimes – awful to think of. Anyway, the book is wonderful and I highly recommend it. Don't miss it!
It seems a lifetime ago that I first encountered Camus in philosophy classes. I was haunted by him then and the effects have remained with me all these years so I was delighted to have an opportunity to go back to "The Stranger" and read/hear it again. It is fiction but as Camus said (loosely), the novel is just philosophy expressed graphically. It was written in the 1940s when the European world was embroiled in terrible conflicts that called into question all previous beliefs. The Existentialists like Sartre and Camus asked tough questions and this novel expresses those questions in the life of one ordinary man whose life has lost meaning. It is beautifully read and will haunt you.
This is delightful listening, and even if you are not familar with Hitchens, this is a great introduction to his thought. I think I took him for granted while he lived and now that he is gone, I was grateful to get these insights into his thoughts. He makes you think. He doesn't ask you to agree with him but you had better be quite logical in defending your ideas. And, he can be so funny. We are poorer without him but at least we have his writings. I highly recommend it.
This is really very well done, beautifully read and yet it can be tedious at points because it covers so much. It is more a lesson or a lecture than entertainement but quite worthwhile if you want to refresh your knowledge of Greek Mythology. It is very detailed (more than I wanted) but very well done.
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