I had always been curious about this book, which I understand is the first mystery novel. It was very good, though marred a bit by time, especially in the way the women characters are drawn. But what made this a great listen was the way the several narrators brought the characters to life. The best by far was Patrick Tull's reading of the butler obsessed with "Robinson Crusoe." Definitely worth listening to if you are a fan of British lit - just let yourself get lost in the performances and don't worry about the silly women or the improbable plot.
I am a huge fan of Masterpiece Theater's "Brideshead Revisited" and have tried to read the book at least twice. Just could not get through it. But this Audible version is the next best thing to the television production. In it, Jeremy Irons channels all his co-stars from the BBC series - my favorite is his John Geilgud impression - bringing the whole series alive again. He brings Waugh excellent prose to life in a way the physical book just couldn't for me.
What a great book! Read a glowing review of it in the NYTimes and the audio book did not disappoint. The story is a continuation of Grenville's "The Secret River" - also a great listen - and I really recommend reading/listening to that first to get the full impact of this story. What a compelling character Grenville has crafted in Sarah - I rooted for her, my heart broke for her and I was uplifted when she was uplifted. Emma Fielding does a top-notch job of capturing Sarah's unique voice and making it her own - no play-acting here, just real feeling. Excellent all around.
This was really a wonderful listen. The book plays with the idea of class and what people will do to rise. In this case, the main character, William Thornhill, is London's lowest of the low. But when he is sent as a convict to Australia, he discovers a class of people even lower than he is - "blacks," the aboriginal people. Through really complex characters and a well-developed story line, Grenville looks at what one man is willing to sacrifice to climb the social ladder - a question she is asking of Australia as a whole. In Thornhill's case, the price is high - very high - and the payoff not as sweet as he thought. I loved this book, especially Simon Vance's narration - he is just excellent and really brings to life every story he reads. Now, on to download "Sarah Thornhill," a continuation of the Thornhill family's story.
This was another of those books rich in atmospherics and poor in plot. I made it well into the 9th hour before I gave up. Why are so many books like this? Who praises them in the first place? Is it enough that an author is of a certain background or ethnicity? Should not he or she also know that a story needs A STORY. Conflict! Characters who WANT SOMETHING AND CHANGE!!! Ugh.
If you loved "Let the Great World Spin," as I did, this is an interesting read because you can see McCann work out some of the themes of that book here. I did not love it, but it held my attention and got me thinking and I was completely wrapped up in the characters and their story. The narrator was really excellent - acted the parts without seeming fake or forced. A good listen - but go for "Let the Great World Spin" first.
I had very high hopes for this listen, as it seemed to promise what I love most in a summer read - historical fiction rendering a place I have traveled to. Alas, I had to stop listening after the first five hours. Bryce Courtenay really needs an editor. He has apparently never learned one of the first rules of fiction - show, don't tell. And for God's sake, how many times do I need you to tell me the same thing - the main character is cheap, we know already! He's a coward - yes, you told us that about 40 times rather than showed us once. Mostly, this was just one long narration of the actions of characters whose brains you never got into. And when they did speak, it was like some bad parody of Dickens. Courtenay says in the beginning that he wrote this over a long period of time, and it has the feel of some amateur author's book pulled out of a drawer and worked on at odd moments. I thought the narrator did as good a job as he could possibly have done with such mundane junk.
I was drawn to this book by two things - the tremendous enjoyment I got from "The Given Day," also by Lehane, and the very intriguing, spooky trailers for the movie of "Shutter Island" which I did not see. I was caught by the gloomy and suspenseful atmosphere Lehane paints from the get-go, and very quickly got consumed by the plot - what's really going on on this island? Who is the creepy German doctor? Where did Delores go? The plot very rapidly picks up speed at the same time the writing becomes deeper and richer and more full of images that stick to your brain like tar. I was hanging on the narrator's every word, right up until the last sentence - only then do you really know the full story. Lehane very skillfully plays with our sense of what's real and what's not, leaving us guessing right up until the end. I think I may become a Dennis LeHane addict.
This audio is one of the best historical fiction books I have ever read or listened to. It has the best of what the historical fiction genre should be - a great point of view, well-imagined historical figures who are fleshed out to become real people, thorough research that doesn't get in the way of the story, broad sweep that also narrows down to individual stories. The narrator was excellent - his female characters were good, too - and the story was gripping, causing me to gasp aloud a few times, even though I thought I knew the story of Julius Caesar quite well. If you liked HBO's "Rome," you'll love this - it's like getting the backstory. Just a great example of historical fiction - I'm on to the rest of the series and looking forward to reading more Conn Iggulden.
I really enjoyed this listen - great performance by the narrator and a great yarn. It travels all across the globe, is filled with characters I cared about and told a story I became wrapped up in. One warning - you have to adapt yourself to the mind frame of 1939-1941, especially where women are concerned. Particularly hard to swallow is Rhoda, the main character's wife and mother of the other main characters. She is shallow, vain and does nothing but complain about how bored she is. It is the men who have all the fun here, and the women who wait in the wings for them. One other piece of advice - if you are familiar with the major players and acts of WWII, you can skip the "book within the book" chapters called "World Empire Lost." I just got vaguely annoyed with them because I was always anxious to get back to the story of the characters.
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