Even though I ratcheted down the hype I've read elsewhere on this book, I was unprepared for how deeply, truly, dreadful I found it. The narrator, Tara Sands, handled the various character voices well enough, and the audio quality is fine. It's the text I found objectionable.
Very little in the "The Language of Flowers" rings true. Most of the characters are one-dimensional, and that dimension is preternaturally saintlike. The dialogue bears no resemblance to the way people speak, nor does it have any engaging quirks to compensate for lack of naturalism. While one or two scenes have some grit and are vivid, the rest of it reads like a poor excuse for a fairy tale. Using the language of flowers as an organizing principle of the plot may be good marketing (ooh, pretty, pretty), but it is, I think, the source of what's weakest in the book. I'm not going to give plot spoilers here, but most of what happens is a little too neat and tidy.
While themes of parenthood and childhood drive some very powerful literature, including fairy tales, don't bother with this one unless you like the taste of those cheap frosting flowers they put on grocery store cakes.
Mary Beth Hurt's narration elevated this material and was the only thing that kept me listening, even though I was good and sick of Hildy Good by the halfway point.
Ann Leary knows her small New England towns, and their inhabitants, and I enjoyed those elements of the novel. Kudos, too, for depicting a character of about 60 as a real person with a life, not just a grandmotherly appendage to younger more important characters. However, the first person narrator is depicted as an alcoholic in deep denial, in a convincing and at times harrowing, at times humorous way, so I found the ending a bit pious and forced.
This is one of those books that I think I may have enjoyed more in printed form, as the character's voice was quite clear, and I could have flipped over the tedious and annoying parts more easily.
After just having listened to a couple of adrenaline provoking titles, I really wanted to hyper down. So I turned to the ever delightful and calming Miss Silver, as read by the delightful and calming Diana Bishop.
Decades come and go, but Miss Silver does not change. She is the ultimate "stealth sleuth"--a highly observant, intelligent, and commanding detective she appears to be only what she, in fact, is--a retired governess.
In this case, a blackmailing rotter convenes a house party of victims, and guess who ends up murdered? Miss Silver, working with Scotland Yard, figures it all out. Yes, these books are comedic in that they usually end with the engagement of the ingenue to the young male lead, but they are not silly or farcical. And the steady, thoughtful presence of Miss Silver in the background is very, very reassuring.
Many recommendations for this series from friends. Very enjoyable, if you enjoy something that gets your adrenaline flowing. I liked the world of elemental magic created by the author and Kate Reading, the narrator, is a real pro, handling the shifting points of view and the wide range of voices with ease.
I'll definitely try the next in the series, and see how well the storytelling is sustained.
I usually detest books in which animals are characters, so I'm not sure why I chose this, but I really liked it. Decent police procedural, well-read (especially the male characters and the dog chapters), but what elevates it is the growth of the relationship between the police officer and his dog. Both are scarred veterans (he from the LAPD and she from the Marines) and I found the chapters written from the dog's point of view fascinating.
Violence was not gratuitous and there was no torture or serial killers for which I give it high marks. Good potential for what I assume will be a series.
Juliet Stevenson is a real pro, and I always enjoy her narration. In this case she elevates a rather pedestrian story to the point where it was a tolerable listen.
Maybe there comes a point when one has read one too many modern British novels, but I often feel that I have heard the same story one too many times. (Oxbridge graduate smartens up and faces the real world, the real world consisting of spies and bureaucrats.) Yes, this one had a couple of twists and turns, but don't they all?
The stated protagonist of the novel is a woman, and it is nice to encounter one who is as selfish, misguided, and dull as any modern male:) As for the main male literary character, I found him just plain unconvincing, and the denouement of the story reeked of chick-lit (post modern version, of course.)
For me, the most enjoyable parts of the novel were the very witty takes on post-WWII literary figures, most of them named by name.
If the narrator hadn't changed, I wouldn't have bothered to listen. I found Len Carriou painful to listen to with his gasping and wheezing, so the current reader, bland as he is, is easier to take. In the absence of a skilled narrator and a dynamic plot line, however, all of the pedestrian qualities of Connelly's writing are on full display.
But it kept me entertained enough while knitting a scarf and cleaning out the closet:).
Low level royal takes on investigations, back in the day (1930's). Amusing writing, decent plots, and the requisite romance. Light and entertaining.
Kellgren's narration is a plus--she is vocally nimble and it really elevated the material.
Orson Scott Card began his writing career as a playwright, and it shows in his fiction which is dramatic, fast-moving, and full of the best sorts of conflict. The themes of xenophobia, child soldiers, government manipulation of information, social control mechanisms, and others are very current. There is absolutely no sentimentalizing of children, either, and the denouement is heart-wrenching.
I loved reading this book when it was first published, and I loved listening to this audio version. There are multiple voices, and bonus material includes Orson Scott Card talking about his start as a writer of SF, and a chapter from another novel dealing with the same story from a different point of view.
I don't always love Stefan Rudnicki's choices as a vocal actor--some of them seem a bit drab--but at least he doesn't do "funny voices" for the sake of variety.
Although this novel has some structural problems (which are understandable since the serial publisher put constraints upon Mrs. Gaskell, she then reworked the novel before it's non-serial publication, and all this was happening near the end of her life) this is a fascinating book. Yes, there is a marriage plot (full of pride and prejudice on both sides) but there is so much more--and the more is something that is still timely, while also being of historical interest. The thematic material includes gender, class, geographical distinctions, and religious beliefs. Please, my list might sound tedious but the novel is anything but.
The narration by Juliet Stevenson is lovely, revealing the humanity and intelligence of the writing, and an array of smart, articulate characters in many walks of life.
This is my first Mrs. Gaskell foray, and it won't be my last.
P.S. I am not demeaning Austen, but because this was written at a later date, under different circumstances, and with a somewhat wider social view, there is a bit more meat here for the modern reader.
Also recommended: Anthony Trollope's The Way We Live Now.
This was the first Phryne Fisher mystery I have read or listened to, and the series won't be at the top of my list for a re-visit.
I found the main character a bit too smug, and there really wasn't much to the plot. If this is any indication of the rest of the series it is just Nancy Drew with sex:) Nothing wrong with that, however, if you are in the mood for very light entertainment.
At the same time I ordered this from the Audible sale, I bought one of the "Royal Spyness" series, which is just as silly in its own way, but I think it was better read and had a bit more charm.
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