This book takes a very interesting premise and turns it into evenly paced irrelevance. It is pleasant, but absolutely not worth 17 hours. It could have made a great, much shorter story, but it does not sustain this length.
There is hardly any arc, story or character wise - with the exception of getting older, neither Clare not Henry change very much at all during their relationship. Or if they do, we wouldn't know - there are no choices for them to make, so personal growth wouldn't be discernible. The premise of the story, though fervently denied, is predetermination. There are no difficult decisions to test them.
Yet the book does not deal with the existential questions it poses, the way good science fiction should, but stipulates them away. Clare and Henry rebel once, early on, but pull back at the last minute. We are mysteriously warned of a huge calamity averted, but we never find out what that calamity might be. So why care?
The novel turns out to be a series of vignettes which may be moving, funny, sometimes sad, but you don't look back and see a masterful whole. The time travel doesn't propel the story forward at all, it is random and the episodes hardly even tie into each other. So much time is spent on establishing its marvel, yet, most of the time, it is just a prop, a nuisance they live with. And that's what the book feels like - "living with it". Shrugging along.
Even the characters' unquestioned love for each other, which is at the center of the book, seems to have no basis in their characters or personalities. It was (pre)determined by Henry's travels to Clare's childhood while he is already married to her... and this loop settles it. Their love is beautiful and convincingly written, but in its essence, it remains a random, meaningless coincidence, because there is no alternate path, but no discernable design either.
The narration though is absolutely EXCELLENT and the split between the two voices works extremely well.
(Minor point, the books is completely PG-13, except for a number of entirely unnecessary vulgarities. I have no problem at all with strong language, but here the author uses four letter words suddenly and without any reason, where something more poetic would have been much more appropriate and consistent with what we are to believe of their relationship.)
They are essential listening!! And only ten minutes! You can fit them in! Please bring them back!!!!
Also, please bring back the overview in the beginning - it gives a better sense of what the stories are about and it's helpful to have a sense if I'll be interested in the whole issue or just a part of it from the outset.
Bad narration is a small price to pay for an unbelievable, profoundly inspiring story that will probably stay with you long, long after the narrator's voice has faded.
But seriously, Hachette, are there no Texan narrators? Or Southerners who sound at least vaguely Texan? Or really any narrator who can do a Texan accent that will not sound like he's constantly making fun of his war hero subject? Apparently Mr. Collins is from New Jersey. If there's ever a second audio edition, I nominate MacLeod Andrews.
To my surprise, this turned out to be a fairly boring book. Schwartz does little with all the literary fodder Las Vegas of the 60's and 70's provides and largely stays on the surface of his characters, their relationships and all the political tugs and pulls. While he certainly does a fine job recounting the life of Jay Sarno, it's all just information, and often too much of it. Where are the major themes, the connections, the grand whole that modern biographies paint so magnificently?
This may very well be valuable reading if you are a Vegas expert already and Sarno is a missing piece of the puzzle for you. But if you, like me, know very little about the town, this is too specific and narrow a book to open it up much.
The book is set up as a long series of Frequently Asked Questions - sadly, the answers don't extend beyond the typical FAQ format either. It is a very basic bird's eye view of some of the history, religious tenets and practices in Islam.
Given Professor Esposito's resume, I was hoping for a deeper and more coherent religious and sociological perspective. Instead, he remains at the very surface of belief and history.
In addition, he weaves in a steady undercurrent of perhaps necessary, but just very tired-sounding affirmations of the peacefulness of Islam and of the overwhelming majority of those who practice it. That's all well and good, and probably can't be said often enough (even within a single book), but that can't be ALL everyone needs to know about Islam? I, for one, would like to know more.
(Perhaps this is just not meant to be an audiobook... the questions do not build on each other very much, so a lot of information is repeated in various spots. Maybe a good book to have on the shelf for the odd Islam question that might come up, not a very satisfying listen though.)
Jim Norton takes this classic to a new level. It's a pleasure, likely even a welcome aid in understanding to first-time readers and an exquisite, enriching new experience to those who are well familiar with the text. Think of this audiobook as performance rather than mere narration - much like reading Hamlet will not keep you from enjoying it on stage, prior study of Ulysses does not make this audiobook any less worthwhile (quite the opposite).
At its most basic, The Feminine Mystique read today is a reminder of how fundamentally our society has changed in two short generations, how many perspectives, mindsets and ambitions we take for granted today that might have been deemed actually harmful or even dangerous only sixty years ago. (Of course, it is equally stunning how many of the questions Friedan poses remain open today, though that is more general knowledge.)
Sadly, the narration is not up to par. I wish they had chosen a professional narrator instead of a celebrity. Ms. Posey's voice lacks inflection and is often too casual. A few odd direction/editing choices don't help either.
No matter how often you have read the book, watched the movie, seen the musical - your "The Color Purple" experience and appreciation cannot be complete until you have listened to Alice Walker narrate her own work. The skill with which she captures her characters and their times and the subtlety with which she conveys the changes that define them, make this performance a work of art in its own right. The novel got under my skin all over again.
For linguists, I am sure this is well worth the five hours - for me, it was tough to get through. McWhorter digs deep into a large variety of old European languages and nuances of vocabulary and grammar that go well beyond what I was looking for.
The narration by the author is a huge bonus though because pronunciation of so many very foreign or old words is crucial, I doubt another narrator could have performed this nearly as well. His occasional laughs at his own jokes are unnecessary, but forgivable.
This book goes far beyond what we generally learn about what America looked like "under the hood," especially around Independence, and provides insightful cultural explanations for so many of the inconsistencies and conflicts that plague us today.
Woodard backs up the lines he draws among the various groups of early immigrants with so much background and so many interesting facts that I have been able to impress even astute students of American history with this book. In his persuasive view, our many modern divisions are the harvest of seeds sown long before the Constitution (about which I also learned some surprising facts). The seeds include not only religion and slavery, but fundamentally different views on freedom, wealth and democracy, and even very different experiences as colonies. The differences between New Englanders and New Yorkers, the cultural nuances among the Western states, the kinship between the Coasts, even the regional differences in unionization make infinitely more sense after listening to American Nations.
If you have any interest in how the patchwork that is America came into being, you will devour this book.
Walter Dixon's occasional use of regional or foreign accents are misplaced and sometimes borderline offensive, especially as none of the 17th and 18th century persons he narrates with a neutral accent would sound neutral to modern ears either. He is such an outstanding, funny, intelligent character narrator in fiction, non-fiction just seems to be a waste of his talents.
What distinguishes this book from others is its first-person perspective - on occasion, you realize that the guy talking to you is, in fact, a psychopath. With the behavior, the narcissism and the expectations of one.
That he can explain the workings of the brain as an expert provides a valuable theoretical backdrop. But this book stands out because we start out rooting for the author because we are embarking on a personal journey with him, until his choices leave us disappointed over and over again - just like we are dealing with a psychopath.
If you are interested in the subject matter, do not miss this book.
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