I am a big Edith Wharton fan, and I love The House of Mirth. Eleanor Bron's reading is extraordinary, and brought a whole new dimension to this masterpiece. Fair warning: this book is anything by mirthful. It is a very sad, but very thought-provoking exploration of ethics, morality, and personal responsibility,revealed through the life story of Lily Bart and the people in her circle of the New York elite in the early 20th century. I defy anyone to listen through to the end of this book without being moved. Well done!
I am astonished at all the great reviews of this book. I thought it was terrible. The characters are cardboard and cartoonish. The good people are really, really good. The evil people are totally evil. And there is no one in between -- the place real human beings inhabit. The plot consists of an endless series of contrived catastrophes which befall the good people, usually at the hands of the bad people, with no apparent point other than to prolong the book.
The characters do no behave or have world views that are remotely like people of the middle ages. Maybe I'm too picky about this, since my undergraduate degree was in the history of medieval England. But anyone who thinks they are getting a genuine understanding of the medieval world is being sadly misled. For example, there are characters who say they don't believe in God. NO ONE in the middle ages did not believe in God. The entire concept of atheism would have been completely incomprehensible to the medieval mind. The endless talk about all people wanting "freedom" from kings or noble overlords is equally absurd.This kind of thinking comes from the 18th Century Enlightenment. People in the 12th Century just didn't think this way. These characters talk and think like 20th Century Americans, not medieval Europeans.
And, as others have mentioned, the long graphic rape scenes were just disgusting. Certainly a rape scene may be legitimately included in a book for artistic or plot reasons. But Follett goes way overboard. He tosses in multiple graphic rapes, plus an interminable and very graphic bear-beating scene, and a long scene where the bad guys try to stone a cat to death, all of which are completely unnecessary to the plot, and seem to be there simply to satisfy the author's interest in sadism.
Because of the glowing reviews, I kept listening in the hope that it would get better. By the time I realized it was not going to improve, I was so far in that I decided to just finish the thing. I wish I hadn't.
I love the In Death series and have read, and now listened to, all of them. This one was just way too implausible. This is especially true as to the attack on the second victim, for which no explanation even attempted. I don't read these books for realism. After all, they are set in the future, so by definition they aren't "realistic." But this one just goes way too far over into the implausible or (in the case of the second victim) into the impossible.
The narrator, Susan Ericksen, is wonderful, as always. And there is enough banter between the characters to make it worthwhile for a fan of the series to read or listen to. But the plot problems make it one of the lesser entries in the series.
The author says in his preface that this book does not contain any original scholarship and that it is designed for those with no memory and very little knowledge of the Cold War, so I probably shouldn't complain that it is so simple and basic. But I am old enough to have lived through the later years of the Cold War and while I am no historian, I do have an interest in history. There was literally nothing in this book I did not already know -- and on most topics I know far more than was in this short book. It is a brief summary of major Cold War events for beginners, and should appeal to such persons. I do have one big criticism, however, which is that the author seems to regard Ronald Reagan as some sort of genius who single-handedly ended the Cold War, while Gorbachev is dismissed as if he were a simpleton. This is far too simple-minded a view of the end of the Cold War.
The narrator has a nice voice, and did a nice job of holding my interest.
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