Chosen a different book.
The entire final act. It had nothing unexpected, and degenerated into a pit of unpleasant cliche.
How this book got high ratings is beyond my comprehension. The story is nothing more than a glorified Lifetime or Hallmark network movie of the week. The characters are weakly developed and almost cartoons except there is no humor in the book at all. Not one thing happens that isn't telegraphed, and listening is like some sort of water torture where we're just waiting for the next painful drip. There are some small vignettes of good writing in terms of observing and documenting some of life's little conundrums but beyond that this story has nothing to offer but an unpleasant, dour, finger wagging moralistic lesson on infidelity that we've heard a million times before.
I've read Ruth's other books and enjoyed them. I listened to this one on Audiobook and I did not. The writing seemed really pedestrian and the story came off as amateurish - as if written for, or by teenagers with a taste for romance novels. Very few plot points and story elements were even close to believable or plausible. This, despite knowing that the author did in fact work at Gourmet and was likely drawing on life experiences. Unfortunately, fiction just isn't Ms. Rechl's strong point.
I learned a lot about the restaurant business and business in general from this book. And from what I can tell from listening to it, the writing, if I were to have read it in a book in print instead of listening to it, was probably surprisingly good. However, enduring the audiot performance by the author was really difficult. He should have taken a cue from Keith Richards and had a professional read this audiobook because his presence is a severe detraction and distraction. He often is a lifeless monotone, and comes off as an angry unpleasant person who has all the charisma of an index card - this is hard to believe because as someone who has spent a great deal of time in the front of the house with customers, one would think he would have to possess some sort of charm in order to have succeeded as strongly as he has. Unfortunately he is, or comes off as very unlikable from both a tone of voice standpoint and his unseemly insistence upon crowing like a rooster to take credit for much of the restaurant world's positive trends for the past 20 years. On top of that, there was was sounded like genuine apathy towards the performance that permeated it in a negative way - he was clearly reading, and not well mind you, and the sloppy edits stood out like skips on an old vinyl record further destroying any semblance of flow. I would, in this rare instance, recommend buying the print version of this book instead. There is some very interesting things to learn about the business and the restaurants discussed in this book, because regardless of what kind of personality the author is, the restaurants are world class. And the group running them clearly is at the top of their profession. So the cringe inducing bragging bluster is entirely unnecessary - they've created culinary and business brilliance in their restaurants (and Eataly) and this book seems like the writing (aside from the bluster) is surprisingly good.
I gave it four stars for the quality of the writing. Not the level of enjoyment I got from listening to it - that would be one star. The writing is stellar - JK Rowling is one of the greatest writers of this century, and I do not say things like this lightly. However, I did not enjoy this book. There is a huge difference between great writing and being entertained and I'm going to draw that line here. There are some people who's talent is so great it must be acknowledged, yet I do not care for their work. Thankfully JKR wrote the Harry Potter series so I do in fact enjoy her work - just not this book.I In fact it was a very unpleasant experience to listen to it. The subject matter was dour, dark and depressing. I got the feeling that JKR wanted to prove she's a "grown up" yet it was entirely un-necessary. Anyone with two IQ points to rub together can see the deep sophistication of the Potter books - who cares if children like them too? The audio version of this book was much better than the print version, which I gave up on after chapter 5 and never finished. The narrator did a terrific job. That said, I can't recommend this book to anyone who wishes to be entertained.
I'm writing this review mainly to praise the narrator. John B. Hickey's performance was nothing short of brilliant. His voices and characterizations brought each of the characters to life in a way that was incredibly compelling to listen to. I still can here him saying "aaaah well...." Mr. Hickey was able to channel a clear personality and sound to each character and brought each one to life that sounded absolutely genuine to the listener. This is a huge achievement and Mr. Hickey is obviously a tremendous voice talent. As for the material I'm a big fan of John Irving's works, and this story is good. I suppose one could say that he was courageous in a way to attempt to write this book, but his usual literary tools stood out as such and overall lacked something intangible that makes his writing attain the greatness he's had so many times.
I'm a huge fan of Pat Conroy's work and have read everything he's written. But this book, just wasn't his best work. There were formulaic elements that were obvious "Conroy" tools but they stood out as such. The narrator did a very good job and but the flow of the story was not optimal, and the characters, despite how long the book was, were not developed enough to take this book to the usual level of Pat Conroy's usually brilliant works.
What disappoints me the most is how so many people can give this a high rating let alone anoint it "Audiobook of the year." There is literally no new take on the subject matter and no new insight being offered. And as far as the listening experience goes, it is akin to having a rash that starts out small and then takes over one's entire body. The fact that so many people can derive any sort of pleasure from such a long painful flow of misery that does nothing but get worse and more painful as the story goes on disturbs me in terms of what it says about people. This book/audiobook is the highbrow equivalent to staring at road side car wrecks.
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