I know that this book is not meant to be Serious Literature, and I was searching for something casual and easy when I purchased it, but...
Did Alyssa Maxwell do any research when she wrote this book? It reads more like a guidebook (for children) to Newport than historical fiction. The author's perspective seems an attempt at describing the past from a present (tourist) point-of-view instead of historical fiction written with integrity, which at its best should pull a reader into a time and place so that it almost feels lived. And appropriate linguistic details are lacking: I am sure, for example, that no heroine--spunky though she may have been--would have said "Oops" in Gilded-Age-Newport.
Eva Kaminsky's narration takes this experience from bad to worse: her always-slightly-ironic-and-smug voice makes the characters sound like millenials (but not even real ones--just the kind of stereotypical millenial the media love to lambast).
I am returning this book so that I can use my credit more wisely.
Crispin's writing style is superbly witty and his sentences are so effectively put-together that one feels cleverer and more intelligent just for listening. And the level of knowledgeable detail for all aspects of the characters' interests and idiosyncrasies--butterfly-catching, church and organ music, English literature, the Anglican Church--assures the reader that Crispin was one of those supremely well-educated English Renaissance men of the 20th century.
Even though Stephen Thorne's narration was quite successful and entertaining, I enjoyed this so much that I ordered all of the treasury editions of Crispin's mysteries. I hate to miss one (I'm a reader who likes to go in order) and Audible is missing some of the novels.
About halfway through, I started to wonder how I could possibly have fifteen more hours to go. The historical detail was wonderful, the story was an interesting one, but it just went on too long. There were several times when the book could have been wrapped up, but instead the author just provided a new twist that ended up being fairly meaningless to the overall story. Also, characters appear to add intrigue or some development, but then they disappear and their importance to the plot is never explained (or realized).
Summary: it was good and it was interesting, but it was far too long.
This was boring--slim on plot and characters with any personality whatsoever. I find it hard to believe that it is only one of a forthcoming trilogy. If it is meant, as I suspect, to appeal to "Downton Abbey" or "Upstairs, Downstairs" fans in the "off-season," then editors are either severely underestimating the fans' intelligence levels or I am overestimating them. I hope the former, but fear the latter.
Do your brain a favor and use your credit on Edith Wharton or Henry James. If you want to know more about servant's lives, read any of the well-researched books or memoirs: "Up and Down Stairs," by Jeremy Musson, or "Below Stairs," by Margaret Powell.
Winter of the World explores the events leading up to/during WWII using perspectives from characters representing the main players (U.S., U.K., U.S.S.R., and Germany). Follett clearly did a lot of research and even teases out some of the less-popularly-explored parts of the War (for example: the Battle of Cable Street, an East End protest against a British Union of Fascists march in 1936). The storylines are good--some of the torture scenes are (I think unnecessarily) graphic, and there are a few too many gratuitous sex scenes for my taste. The way the characters' stories intertwine is perhaps a bit predictable, but I suppose that is how epic drama genres generally work.
In the end, though, I think the main reason I was even drawn to this book because I miss so much Herman Wouk's The Winds of War/War and Remembrance. Where Wouk's characters were deeply developed, Follett's seem contrived. Wouk's writing, though just as gripping (perhaps even more so, because of the wonderful characters), is not sensational or trite in the way that Follett's can be. John Lee, though certainly a good and well-respected reader, has nothing on Kevin Periseau: when one has had the experience of listening to Periseau's remarkable character studies and even singing, Lee's narration (though good) seems a little empty.
I have enjoyed both this book and its predecessor in the quartet, _The Light Years_, for its range of characters--mostly sweet and kind people who are flawed in relatable ways. The narrator is excellent. These are books that I don't have to tune into every day, as the plot continues gently and is more about the thoughts and feelings of the many characters than about exciting development, but I find myself becoming more and more drawn in as the books proceed. I feel connected to the characters and think about them, almost as real people, even when I'm not listening.
I am looking forward to the final two in the series.
I haven't even made it to the end and could not stop myself from commenting on the narrator's flat, lackluster performance and many, many mispronounced (English) words. I am enjoying the story, which is the only reason I predict that I will make it to the end (that, and the fact that I paid for this one, having used all my credits for the month).
Pick this one up in paper form from the library or bookstore.
Kevin Pariseau has done another outstanding job in this sequel to _The Winds of War_, bringing to life each character and connecting each narrative thread throughout this long and involved history. There are so many aspects of the story and history that are enhanced by Pariseau's reading; his singing of Jewish songs (in Yiddish and English), for example, made me feel a much deeper connection with the story that I could not possibly have created for myself while reading from a printed page.
I have enjoyed the story so much: Wouk combined interesting, engaging characters with fantastically well-researched historical information, described in an approachable way. The narration takes this production to the next level, though; Kevin Pariseau gets the accents, personalities, and even the songs down pat. Wonderful. I went through the first 24 hours of the book in no time, shocking myself every time I reached the end of an 8-hr section and had to download the next!
A good choice for menial household tasks and trips to the dog park--not too much thinking required. I'm not too disappointed, as that's what I was doing when I listened, but wouldn't have kept me going on a long road trip.
Predictable characters, each with predictable stories and dialogue--even a few lines I found myself saying out loud before the narrator read them. But an easy overview to some of the political and military decisions made during WWI, and a useful illustrator of some of the feelings that contributed to WWII. The gratuitous sex and its description was unnecessary.
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