This is a beautiful novel. I was struck by how perfectly the writer conveyed a moment or a feeling with a few stark words, and there is an honest and organic feeling to the story so that the reader can't predict where it will go. Between listening, I could not wait to get back to it, and when it was finished I spent a good, long time thinking about it.
I am usually kind of a literary snob, and I would probably be embarrassed to be caught listening to this book, but I really liked it a lot. Sometimes I lose my place and go back too far, and with this book I didn't mind listening to the same passages again. It's a good story, plainly. I am sure the blended old and new language and the historical portrayals and accents would be laughed out of the room by other snobs, but this audio book was so entertaining!
The sex that some reviewers are complaining about is the easiest thing to defend about the book. Sex is such an important part of life; why shouldn't it be included in our stories? I didn't think it was too graphic and I found it pretty fresh and real, although I (unfortunately) don't "read" a lot of books that deal with this part of life.
The end is clearly not the end, and I am going to buy the next installment. (I may hide the title while listening to it...)
I have listened to hundreds of books and have never before written a negative review. I held my nose through the first two parts, thinking that surely she could not end up the same pathetic human she started out as (plus, I paid for this book and I was going to listen to it). She treats you to at least an hour (and then comes back to the subject several times) of why it's OK she doesn't want a baby. We're all HAPPY you're not having one, OK? Move on, already. She falls apart over the most minor, self-inflicted, personal problems, and treats listeners to repeated dissections of them. This is juxtaposed with limitless descriptions and examples of her otherwise fabulousness. I am almost to the end, and I quit listening when it struck me that she was not going to grow or change during the course of this book, even though that is supposed to be the point of her travels. It is, unfortunately, about a trivial and self-absorbed year in the life of a trivial and self-absorbed icky person.
I was so enthralled with this book that I really felt I had discovered something great myself. I love Bryson's humor, which consists of pointing out the truth and how strange that truth is. It's hard to imagine anyone tackling this subject and doing well by it, but he truly does. It's his best book to date.
The pain of the history and hatred exposed by this beautiful story are juxtaposed against humanity and wisdom. And bees. After listening to this story, every jar of honey has a little extra mystery and meaning.
This is a beautiful story, beautifully read. At the end, I felt I had just listened to a work of art.
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