I've always been fascinated with young revolutionaries who dare to challenge the system. The book captures the spirit of the times, and the participants zeal, well and sympathetically. However, after listening to screams of 'pigs', 'pigs', enough times, I found my thoughts drifting off. Except for few characters in the book, most are merely there like slogans.
In 'Forces for Good' the authors discuss at length six practices that they believe are essential for organisations to have high impact. The book gives examples after examples of how these practices have contributed to the success of the 12 high impact non-profits. Most of these non-profits are well-known. (Except for 'Share Our Strength' and 'Self-Help', I was informed of the work of other 10.)
The book contains many interesting nuggets that could get non-profit leaders thinking. Though be prepared for a lot of repetition; and bombast.
From my own experience running a non-profit and a foundation over the past seven years, I have come across many non-profits that start with good intentions but very soon get bogged down due to involvement in multiple (often unaligned) programmes. Many of these programmes may exist sheerly by habit, for their own sake!
On the negative side, I cannot help but feel the authors' definition of impact to be limited or self-serving, like in the case of growth companies during their bubble phase. What kind of impact are these organisations having on their target groups in the long-run? The book has little to say.
The Little Stranger, a Booker shortlist, is told by one Dr. Faraday, a medical doctor of limited success -- for which he blames his humble background and lack of connections -- and anxious about his prospects in post-war England. Throughout the story we encounter his class resentment. Faraday is both reverent and envious of the Ayers, a grand family now in decline, whom he befriends. Midway through the novel we begin to suspect that he could unreliable, and his narration could be self-serving.
The novel is marketed as a ghost story, but I think one may also read it as a mystery novel, as I did. The story lacks the tricks and plot twists that so captivated me in Sarah Water's earlier novel, Fingersmith; nonetheless, I was hooked almost from the word go.
Simon Vance's narration was almost perfect, and makes this a five star listen instead of four.
I listened to 'The Heart of the Matter' because: 1) I wanted to get acquainted with Graham Greene's writing; 2) it had won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for 1948; and 3) it was also included in both Modern Library and TIME lists.
It is a straightforward enough story about the unravelling of an honest and upright colonial police officer, Scobie. It revolves around events taking place in wartime Western Africa; in truth, however, it is more about Scobie's struggles with his own demons, his perceptions and fears, and his, ultimately futile, quest for happiness. Strangely, it seemed to me, Scobie the good hardly ever thinks about his work, except in relation to his own piety and damnation. It was as if the natives didn't have any agency at all, as if they existed merely to serve or to corrupt the White colonists.
Nonetheless, I enjoyed listening to the book for the most part. The narration, by Michael Kitchen, was also good. (It may not, however, be suitable for listening while driving -- Kitchen whispers too often.)
Though abridged, the book manages to make a reasonably convincing case as to why the 20th Century was so bloody. Ferguson's theory is essentially this: hatred (of others) is an integral part of being human; so when peoples of different ethnicities living in close proximity experience economic instability, and when established order (or Empire) is in decline, the killing urge rears its ugly head waiting to be set free in the name of a war.
The World Wars, including the Cold War, are old subjects. However, Ferguson's writing throws out fresh perspectives, which alone will compensate for your valuable time.
The narration of Sean Barrett was excellent, as well.
I enjoyed listening to Clinton telling his story; however, the abridged version simply didn't do for me. The coverage was too superficial. Again and again I was gasping for more -- for details ... for depth. Consider getting the audio book only if you are already persuaded with his politics, and merely want a general overview about the man, his rise and time in the White House.
The story resonated well with me, with my own experience growing up in small town Malaysia. It aptly captures the ambivalence of identity, the rage and the hope, and pretenses, that we, too, at newly independent Malaysia felt (and, in a way, continue to feel) and exhibited.
The narration of Tania Rodrigues was excellent, although it took me a while getting used to her pauses between sentences. Some familiarity with Kalimpong, its surrounds and the insurgency of the 1980's will enhance the listening pleasure.
Bottom-line: a highly intelligent and engaging post-colonial novel.
Midnight's Children isn't an easy book to listen to first time around; and it certainly took me many hours of listening before getting a grip (that, too, somewhat tenuous) on the story line, which is full of twists, and exceptions, and clarifications, and which jumps back and forth in time and points of view.
Nonetheless, it is a really funny story. I must have laughed out loud at least few times. The text and the narration easily capture the irony and hypocrisy one finds in India (and Pakistan).
As to the narration, well ... I think Lyndam Gregory has put in a lot of effort to get it right. To bring the text to life. Unfortunately he didn't succeed. He simply couldn't pronounce any of the Indian names or terms properly. At times I had to refer to the text (which, thankfully, was available for download online) to understand what was being read.
I plan to listen to again.
I enjoyed the book immensely for the most part. The Vietnam era war story was full of suspense, and was so well narrated by Will Paton that I was completely hooked to it. And then ... and then, the story turned to Malaysia ... and everything fell apart; because the author's ignorance and prejudice suddenly began to show all too conspicuously. Totally anticlimactic. In the whole, I was disappointed.
'Restless' is an enjoyable listen that's fast paced, even gripping at times, although its 'final analysis' was somewhat unconvincing, and perhaps even shallow (for an award-winning novel). Nonetheless, I'd gladly recommend it to anyone, particularly those who enjoy spy novels. And, as others have noted elsewhere, Rosamund Pike has done an excellent job narrating the book!
By the way, I chose this version of 'Restless' over the other version by Macmillan Audio as it was a lot cheaper, and I have no regrets.
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