An intricate web of storytelling that brings an understanding to a part of WWI that has received such little attention. I am in awe of Louis De Bernieres' ability to impart through dialogue so much of the feeling, with such authenticity, the perspective of characters who are so foreign in every way. The one perspective that is not foreign, though, is their humanity, that which is common to us all. It is through the eyes and ears and hearts of these characters that we see the world in which they lived, the community that they shared, and the sometimes improbable lives that they led. De Bernieres weaves a complex story whcih demands much from his reader. If you can commit to that demand, he will deliver an unforgettable tale full of history, humanity, and humor. A masterpiece!
An excellent collection of interviews from NPR. Segments include interviews with experts on Autism and Asbergers, as well as people who have these disorders. Well worth the listen. Informative, insightful, and sometimes humorous.
The story is entertaining and filled with interesting facts and anecdotes about elephants and the mahouts who handle them. It perhaps foreshadows O'Brian's later writing, but the similarity ends there. It's a long, involved, whopping good tale. The wonder is that it was one of his earliest books, the first fiction published by the centuries old Oxford Press, and the fact that he never set foot in India before he wrote the book. Read it for the story, it's worth it. Read it also for a glimpse into the early development of the craft of a writer.
I grew up in Trenton. Growing up there, I played at many of the battle sites. I learned the history through my school years, went on school field trips, and had a comfortable understanding of the Battle of Trenton. I've returned many times and taught the history to my children. Reading this book was like watching a small plant suddenly grow in fast motion. I knew the routes the columns took from the Crossing to the Battle, but now I know what happened along the way, what they faced and overcame, what they felt along the way. I knew there was a storm that night, but David Hackett Fischer made me feel the weather. I crossed Jacob's Creek countless times, but now I can imagine Washington's horse losing his footing in the icy ravine while Washington grabs his mane and pulls his head up by brute force, enabling the horse to catch himself and stay up. I can hear the men who watched it happen, and understand how that small story spread and instilled faith in Washington and the Cause. That was one small anecdote in a book that is filled with them from beginning to end. Don't miss the conclusion and the lesson to us all, we Americans who were shaped by all that happened back then. Thank you, Mr. Fischer.
I did not take my own advice on this one. I have come to rely on Audible's customer reviews to make my book choices. They are, by far, the best guide to book buying. You can't trust a book jacket that is selling itself. You can't identify with most of the book critics in the Sunday Book Review (they're off doing their own thing for money and presenting a perspective that is alien to most readers, while still trying to sound profound enough to land their next job). You can trust the customer reviews. You can sift through them, find out why the reviewer liked or disliked the book, and most often find a common thread that reflects your own interests. I have bought books I wouldn't have bought, and not bought books I thought I would enjoy, all based on customer reviews. It works for me. I thought I would enjoy this book. I read the customer reviews. Based on them, I decided I would not like this book, so I didn't buy it. Then I heard this book won Publishers Weekly's Book of the Year Award. Maybe I missed something. So I bought the book anyway. Wrong decision. Trust the customer reviews. End note: Today I read that Publishers Weekly has fired its editor and is revamping the magazine. There is some justice in the book world.
I read The Number One Ladies Detective Agency and I was hooked. I read the next and the next and the next. When I was browsing in a bookstore and came upon the last, The Full Cupboard of Life on audio CD, I bought it immediately. It was even released before the print version, which astonished the bookseller. It was a total treat. A fine end to the series. The narrator cemented all that came before. Her voice, her pronunciation, her narration was music. When I think back through all those books it's hard to distinguish one from another. They were all pretty much the same. It wasn't the plot of each that mattered. It was Mma Ramotswe, Mr. JLB Matakoni. It was all the characters, the new and the renewed. It was Botswana. It was the feeling of it all that mattered most, and I would read the next one if it is written. I was curious then, when I read that the next one was actually going to be a whole new, totally different series. The Sunday Philosophy Club. It's not Botswana. It's not the same feeling transposed in a new place. It's. It's. It's boring. Totally. Totally, totally boring. So what's he to do? If he pays attention to the reviews, he knows of his own success with Botswana. He also knows of his readers' response to this new series. Should he go on anyway? What would you do? Maybe go back to what worked? Or plod on for whatever reason? Such a quandary he must be in.
How did Charlie Wilson do it, and how did George Crile do it? Those are the two burning questions. Was it all true? How would we know? We don't. We know it's true because George said it was. The media was not covering it when it was happening. There is no real trail, other than the one George Crile uncovered. Or created. Or maybe a little of both? What we do know is that this is undeniably an incredible book, be it fiction or non. Charlie Wilson emerges as a larger than life anti-hero and George Crile the fortunate reporter who stumbled onto Charlie's path. Or was he enticed onto it? We are so quick to question the media's reporting of events, often rightly so, and again so quick to accept as truth something of which no one knows anything about, except for a privileged few, or perhaps a chosen few. Curious. I was struck by the comparison of Charlie Wilson and Lawrence of Arabia. While the two men are opposites, the comparison is valid. Read the book! Try to decide for yourself, but beware of blind acceptance. Keep an open but skeptical mind. That is something the author, publisher, and all others involved might find most unsettling.
What surprised me most was to see this book listed in the NYT top 100 books of the year. Then again, that's not always so surprising. I admit that the idea of this book, as well as the publisher's description, had me excited about reading it. I have raised and trained two falcons so there was also a personal interest. You can't fault a publisher for promoting their own book. After all, they have an interest at stake. It would have been worthwhile though, if the publisher had an editor. Who would have immediately edited out about seventy percent of the words. That would have made it much better. Perhaps I'm not being completely fair here. I will admit it. I did not finish this book. I just couldn't. It would also have been a benefit to the book if the author wrote less about himself and more about the bird. The little about the bird was far more interesting. He also should have let someone else narrate it. That would have helped too. Need I go on?
Years ago a read a book by Jimmy Buffett. I was intrigued that a singer was also a writer, and I wanted to find out. It was okay. A year or so later I noticed that he had written another, and so I tried it. It was okay. They were both good for beach reading. Nothing more. Funny at times. At times he delivered a taste of island life that was refreshing. His characters were outlandish at times. Most often, though, it seemed too contrived. I guess, based on past experience and the promise a new book can generate, I bit on this one as well. It was, well, okay. Or a little less so, given the drone of the narrator. It put me to sleep quite a few times. A few times I did not bother to rewind. Once, I debated on whether to finish it or not. Sleep won out, so I plodded through in those tired times when I really did not want to listen to a book in which I did not want to miss any parts. So, if you're sleepy a lot, and you just want to be entertained while you nod off, this is the book for you. And one more thing. If you like contrived coincidence, this one is masterful.
With all the literary and cultural references to Macbeth I felt as though I had read it at some time in my life. Not so, and I decided that I probably should. I purchased Macbeth and not very far into it I realized that I had not a clue as to what was going on. Back to Audible to find a "guide". A Study Guide to Macbeth is a remarkable book. Mark Breitenberg brings to life not only the play itself but brings to the reader a unique insight into the time of Shakespeare and the time the play was first performed. Even if you are familiar with Macbeth, you will learn so much more from this book. After reading Mark Breitenbeg's book, I returned to the play and what had at first been a jumble of incomprehensible chatter turned into a literary feast. Treat yourself to this one!
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