First of all, for your information, this book's intended audience seems to be readers under 14. Which is fine!
The story is a Faust variation (a popular plot for several centuries), full of supernatural wonders. The Book of Dead Days is full of unusual and interesting environments, objects, and entities. However, in spite of its title, it is not very scary. It is also not very novelistic, in that there is little psychological depth. The author tried very hard to create morally complex characters, but ended up with mud-grey rather than sympathy-inducing shading. The villians are not uniformly Evil and the heroes are not uniformly Good; however, the one prominent female character suffers the Victorian ailment of being a self-sacrificing Angel. Being a smart cookie only modernizes the stereotype. Ick.
The pacing is uneven, the writing is cliche-ridden, and the plot recycled - but it is actually a fairly engaging tale nonetheless. Also, the reader is pretty good; he makes the best of the material.
I am in an agony of disappointment that ROY DOTRICE is not the reader! It's really, really, really sad. It doesn't make sense that they would change all of the sudden. This guy...just doesn't cut the mustard.
Well, I'll grit my teeth & do my duty & listen to it anyway.
Collins can certainly turn a fine phrase and construct a gripping plotline - but the story of "The Woman in White" depends entirely upon the "natural weakness" of women. The female characters are appallingly flat. Those on the side of "good" are either beautiful and virtuous, or ugly and virtuous. Never do these women show any internal conflict or growth, even regarding their virtuousness! The women on the side of evil, in this story, are depicted as too weak (or too vain) even to be virtuous, or as too stupid to distinguish right from wrong. The real tragedy of this story is that the female characters buy right into the justification of their powerlessness. Ugh.
All that being said... it's a good example of a popular (in its day), melodramatic Victorian novel, and the readers are very good. I recommend it only to those with an unquenchable thirst for nineteenth-century English literature, no matter the type. Otherwise, read Eliot or Austen or Dickens, who provide much greater depth as well as realism.
This is an amazing book - informing and inspiring. DuBois masterfully combines history, sociology, music, and poetry. His descriptions of the lives of Black (and White) people in the nineteenth-century U.S. are poignant and compassionate, his critiques are brilliant and courageous. His predictions of social injustice unrest arising from the failures of Reconstruction and continuing racial prejudice, were particularly wrenching. My only complaint is that Walter Covell read a little too fast - DuBois' prose is complex, as is the subject matter, and I got lost several times.
Pirates! is more a feminist nautical yarn than an historical romance. I think "bodice ripper" is inaccurate - there's no sex at all, and the female characters are brave, smart, active and politically correct to the modern standard. These personal qualities were doubtless in very short supply in actual seventeenth-century ladies!
There are plenty of fairy-tale elements, so your belief will need some suspension. However, the story is engrossing, the writing fine, the historical bits informative, and the narration top-notch.
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