This was my first Audible purchase. The rest of my book club was reading it, but I think I got the better deal. Frank Delaney's Irish accent makes you feel you are sitting at night in front of the fireplace of some old cottage as a storyteller entertains. Yes, the pacing is not fast. It isn't meant to be. But each Irish tale -- they are presented in chronological order -- is its own tasty dish. The stories and descriptions are to be savored. I enjoyed learning some Irish history this way. Our book club was not completely happy with the female characters in the framing story. But we had a lively discussion about the nature of truth and legend, myth and history. The book is a love letter to Ireland that will make you want to travel to see for yourself. And as it is about an oral storytelling tradition, it is an excellent choice as an audio book.
If you prefer an enjoyable linear tale told in inventive language from the single viewpoint of a well-developed and beloved protagonist, this book is NOT it. It is a mental workout both in the complexity of the narrative and the number of characters.
It is in many ways a portrait of a group of connected people in antebellum Manchester County, Virginia. If you can take notes while you listen, so much the better. This is one case where I wish a .pdf of the dramatis personae were included in the download, because there are many, many characters and it is important to keep track of them and their relationships to each other. If you do listen, pay special attention to William Robbins in the beginning, Henry Townsend, and Moses at the end.
While I didn't enjoy the book, mostly because I had to work too hard and would get confused about character relationships, it did generate good discussion at our book club. There is much here to consider about the practice of slavery and how it varied based on the behavior of the masters as well as the slaves. There are racial and class components to the story, and it is very interesting how the characters of African ancestry had their own stratified society. There is plenty of complex human interaction worthy of discussion.
I am guessing that part of why the book won a Pulitzer Prize is the subject matter, number of characters, complexity of relationships amongst those characters, and non-linear mode of story-telling. The book did not contain surprising turns of phrase or intriguing metaphors. In fairness, the simplicity of the language is in keeping with the subject matter and time period of the story. Much of the story is told in flashbacks and flash forwards and tangents. This non-linear quality also makes following the story difficult. Again, you feel as if you need to take notes.
I liked Kevin Free's performance very much and would gladly listen to him again. That said, the book itself is written from the perspective of a disinterested observer. While at least some of the characters are interesting, I didn't find myself connecting emotionally with any of them. At least that level of disconnect made it easier to listen when the inevitable bad stuff happened in the story. Since I tend to prefer books in which I strongly care about a beloved main character, plots I can follow while I listen and go about my day, and intriguing language or word choices that are aesthetically delightful; I'm not inclined to purchase other works by Edward P. Jones.
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