I knew next to nothing about Mozart, and this offered a good overview of his life and music.
Though it is the furthest thing from exhaustive, the narrative is largely told through the correspondences of Mozart, his father, and various other figures, giving it all an intimate tone and leaving the listener with a feeling of having at least gone beneath the surface of things.
At first I was wary of a biography interspersed with music, but I couldn't have been happier with the execution and the result. Short, quality recordings of his pieces blend smoothly into the narrative, giving immediate illustrations of what was just read.
In the end, this audiobook aims at nothing more than to give a very broad overview of an endlessly fascinating life. But it achieves that admirably, and for the casual listener it serves as a fine starting point for further exploration of his life and music.
First of all, I would recommend this book for anyone interested in a point of view on how the U.S. has arrived at its current state of foreign relations.
Having said that, I would have preferred a hard copy so that I could follow its extremely labyrinthine path. I can't recommend against buying the audiobook, because it is very cheap, and in my opinion it is worth it for that reason. However, the book is read at a breakneck pace, and I found it very difficult to keep up.
The overriding thesis seems to be that American foreign policy since World War II has been run by what the author calls "the Deep State", instead of by "the Public State", which should of course be calling the shots in a democracy. The author goes into great (Deep) detail but never gets bogged down in them, and he presents a clearly organized and lucid account of how the CIA and top officials have, both wittingly and unwittingly, steered foreign policy towards disaster and what would end up being 9/11. He also seems to attempt to be relatively unbiased and focus mainly on facts. (I am admittedly no expert in geopolitical matters, so I could be wrong about this. I am speaking about the overall tone of the presentation.)
Now, the narrator is a fine reader. He has a clear voice and does a commendable job wading through the quagmire of foreign names, place names, organizations, etc. But the simple fact is that the reading is far too fast. I am aware that this may be required of him by production restraints, etc. And I believe at least part of it is due to the editing, which splices everything into an unbroken word-fest. So it's not that I didn't like the narrator, it's simply that for whatever reason, the reading was too fast to comprehend.
In order to understand a book like this, with its never-ending intricate webs of secret memorandums, spy rings, military leaders, officials, organizations, and political atmospheres, I would need either a slower reading, or a hard copy.
I certainly cannot offer anything new to all the praise this book has received, but I will say that I found it very well-deserved. This is a long audiobook, but it constantly kept me interested, and I felt that pang of sadness that comes when a great book ends. It's something I can see myself listening to again in the future.
Anyone with an interest in American history, WWII history, the origins of the Cold War, and a just plain interesting man, will be sure to enjoy this. If you find yourself hesitating, don't. It is entirely worth the credit and then some.
I can't tell you anything you don't know about the story either. Harry Truman was raised as a simple, but by no means simple-minded farm boy in Missouri. After a series of failures into his early 30's, he gets in to politics, and his road to the White House and beyond is told in fascinating detail here. David McCullough tells a great story, and though the feeling in the end is that he very much likes Truman, I always felt like I was getting a balanced, unbiased account.
The narrator is superb. When he spoke in Truman's voice, it's exactly as I would have imagined it. At first I was slightly annoyed at a habit he has of drawing out incredibly long pauses. You start to think that the editor simply put in too much audio between sections, chapters, etc. But then you realize that it is actually live. The reader is there, poised to speak, but waiting. By the end of the book I appreciated this technique and had learned to like it. There were also some mouth noises that were somewhat distracting at first, but I got past those pretty quickly too.
All in all, this is a big winner. One of my favorite audiobooks so far.
I have somewhat mixed feelings about this one, although in general I rate it highly.
Let me get the bad out of the way:
First, when I started listening, I was immediately dismayed to hear an echo in the recording that I had not noticed when listening to the sample. But with decent headphones in my ears, it sounded like the narrator was in a cavern, or perhaps a high-ceiling house. Also, you can hear the faint chirping of a bird in the background. I marveled at the fact that the engineer (or the company behind him/her) could allow such unfavorable recording conditions. Can Naxos not afford studio time? Can they not think about putting the mic a bit further away from the bird? Or, bear with me...what if we put the birdcage in this house over here, and record the 52-hour audiobook over here in this recording studio?
My first instinct was to try to return it and get another version, but I kept listening, and to be honest, after a while it didn't bother me at all (probably because of the reader's jaw-dropping performance).
Second, it took me a very, very long time to finish this audiobook. Although the story is much revered as a classic, and, in my opinion, rightly so in many respects, I found certain stretches to be interminable and boring, laying down an unbelievably intricate web of intrigue that sometimes seems to have nothing to do with what went before, and only has its payoff much later. This is why I gave the story 4 stars instead of 5. However, once the various threads started to come together I was drawn back in and riveted to the end. I have heard some people say that they prefer an abridged version of The Count of Monte Cristo, and I suspect I agree. Alexandre Dumas is one long-winded dude.
Granted, the book was originally written in serial form, printed chapter by chapter over time and devoured by an eagerly awaiting audience, just as we might do with the latest episode of our favorite TV series. And that helps explain its length and intricacy, I suppose. But it also makes me wonder if some of it was written in order to fulfill that demand, and not necessarily because it was essential to the story.
I will also say that despite these two shortcomings, the overall experience is very gratifying, and I'm glad I pushed through to the end.
Now the good:
The narrator, Bill Homewood, is quite simply phenomenal. His ability to create nuance and breathe life into the book's huge assortment of characters is just outstanding. I was stupefied throughout by the subtleties in and mastery of each character's voice. In short, I can't imagine a better reading. He deserved better recording conditions.
The story, apart from the monumental digressions, the seemingly unmerited attention to certain characters or details, and the florid prose and dialogue, is a spectacular adventure that touches on all sorts of universal themes. Love, patience, murder, betrayal, and most of all revenge, to name a few. The characters all seemed very much alive to me (and I grudgingly admit that the extreme detail probably helps in that respect), and it's easy to submerge yourself in the story (though you might have a nap during the more tedious parts).
Having read over this review, I now realize that some of Mr. Dumas' wordiness might have rubbed off on me, so I'll leave it at this: Overall, I would recommend this audiobook to anyone considering it. My only advice would be to have faith that, although the story lags, it will come back around, and things that seemed almost entirely unrelated will make sense in the end. Just sit back and enjoy a master performer reading a classic. Oh, and don't mind the chirping bird. After a while you get used to it.
I bought this very cheaply on sale, so I wasn't expecting much. But in the end I couldn't stop listening.
The narrative deals with various white Indian captives and how their time in captivity affected the rest of their lives. It's also a poignant glimpse into a dying age. By the time some of the captives reached old age, the days of the free-roaming plains Indians were long gone. It's very well-written, and I found the story consistently fascinating.
Grover Gardner is the reason I chose this one, and he does a great job as usual. His voice is perfect for this book, and the audio is very good.
Overall, if you're interested at all in Native American history, or even the frontier in general, chances are you'll love this!
I had tried to read this book before but didn't finish it. However, it always kept coming up in my thoughts, so I decided to get this audiobook and read along, and I'm glad I did.
The reading is fantastic. Janet McTeer does the bulk of it, and she is immensely talented, deftly weaving through the voices of men and women, young and old, passionate misanthropists and semi-literate zealots. David Timson has a less challenging part, but also does an excellent job, and I'm looking forward to some of the Dickens books he's done.
My only gripe would be the characters themselves, who are vile and selfish almost to a man. That's not to say they're not compelling and very vividly written - they are. But the famous misanthropy of this novel was one of the main attractions for me, and, having previously believed that I was something of a misanthropist myself, I left this book feeling like a positively sunny optimist! Sometimes it was all a bit overwhelming, but in this case it's also a testament to how powerful the novel is.
If you're interested in reading Wuthering Heights, this audiobook is an excellent way to do it.
This is such a well-regarded story and it's offered so cheaply that I found it hard to pass up. The audio is fine and the reader does a fair job, though I sometimes felt the tension in his voice was a bit forced. I think the story could have benefitted from a somewhat graver, perhaps gruffer, voice. But that's nitpicking really.
I might actually prefer to read the paper version on its own, but for a couple of bucks there is nothing to lose here. It's a tense outdoor survival story and I certainly feel like I got my money's worth!
It's hard for me to overstate how much I enjoyed this audiobook. The story is always intriguing, even surprising at times. Even someone not much interested in history will find a lot to enjoy here. It reads like a thriller, despite the fact that the whole world already knows how it ends. And the narration is superb.
In fact, if I had to find a fault with this performance (and this would be nitpicking), it's that the narrator is almost distractingly good. He has a perfectly clear and commanding voice. The book requires a wide variety of accents, both male and female characters, and a general late-nineteenth-century tone, and he handles them all with an impressive fluency. So much so that I sometimes found myself marveling at his skills instead of paying attention to the story.
And when I got back to the story, I marveled again at the author's remarkable knack for knowing exactly which direction to take, which details to mine from what was surely a huge amount of research. It feels like not a word is wasted, and nothing significant is missing. The language is straightforward but not artless, and the overall result is completely satisfying. In short, this audiobook is just downright excellent.
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