What to say? I am thinking. I know I really liked it by the end.....not in the beginning. In the beginning and even in the middle I was often confused. In the beginning all that lured me was learning about the horrors of the civil war raging in Sri Lanka at the end of the 1980s and beginning of the 1990s and facts about the country - physical and cultural. By the end I knew who was who. People are not simple, and this writer does not make it easy for you. You jump all over the place, from one place, time and person to another. By the end I was enchanted by the lines. By the end I cared for several of the characters. By the end I understood the message and agreed. Is it best to drive for truth and clarity, if this will just bring more suffering? And yet some people are who they are and have to behave as they do.
The narration by Alan Cumming also annoyed me in the beginning, but by the end it was just fine. In the beginning there was questioning tone, a tempo, an inflection that bugged me, but that just disappeared by the end!
I have no doubt that extensive research lies behind this book. I do not doubt its accuracy. It is filled with details about the growth of antislavery organizations, but as the book clearly states the Underground Railroad was in reality an "umbrella association" of independent, sometimes competing groups which very much relied on the efforts of single individuals. It was not controlled from the top. The book focuses upon the antislavery proponents that lived in New York. This is partially explained by the fact that New York was home to the North's largest free black community, but New York plays such a prominent role that this should be indicated in the title. In addition the Underground Railroad was not hidden; everyone knew of it. The title is misleading, and it implies that you will be given a more exciting story than what is delivered.
The book description goes on to say that "...the city s underground-railroad agents helped more than 3,000 fugitive slaves reach freedom between 1830 and 1860. Until now, their stories have remained largely unknown..." The central focus of this book is not the plight of these fugitives. Their stories are primarily collected in one chapter, chapter seven, near the book's end. No, the main focus is instead a plethora of historical details of the growth of the movement, its weak organization, its factional divisions, its agents, funding and slavery’s ties with business. Relevant laws and to what extent they were actually enforced, court proceedings and supportive publications are covered in detail. The book is rather dry.
The book lacks structure. It would be easier to remember all the laws, fugitive cases, leaders and controversies if the text had been better organized into a more cohesive structure. The details become a jumble in my head. There are quotes that are of little importance and other superfluous information too. Better editing please.
So the Underground Railroad saved about 3 to 4000 fugitives, the numbers being extremely hard to verify, but the slave population was 4 million in the South. 0.1 % benefited. Of course it was still important, but it was weakly organized and depended to a very large extent on the efforts of private individuals. All of this is good to know.
The narration of the audiobook, by J. D. Jackson, was clear and easy to follow, as long as I didn't fall asleep.
This book is a collection of several volumes originally sold separately. Portions of these have been abridged and additional information has been added. All alterations were done by the author herself, in an effort to improve the content. Thus the book is split up into different sections, each having a specific theme. I liked some sections and disliked others.
The first part is about her childhood and familial relationships. This part was excellent. You see how Eleanor develops from an insecure and naive girl into a strong, independent woman. Watching this transformation is inspiring. You come to understand how and why she changes. You understand how she came to marry Franklin. You also understand the family she married into. This shaped her too.
Then you follow her years with Franklin. He establishes his career, becomes president and dies. How they influenced each other is covered, but historical events are skimmed over. This is not the book to pick if you want the details of Franklin’s political decisions or the war years. There are huge gaps in both historical events and personal relationships. This is an autobiography and clearly Eleanor is telling us what SHE wants said. There is no mention of either her own or her husband's extramarital relationships. It is not just the relationships that are lacking but also Eleanor’s support of Blacks and Jews is scarcely dealt with. I was disappointed that so very much was missing. I wanted to hear more about her efforts to coerce her husband into helping these groups. Oh, and it was strange how she spoke of her husband not as Franklin, but as “my husband”!
After the death of Franklin her role as a UN Delegate and Chairman of the Commission of Human Rights is meticulously covered, but here the writing sounded like a political speeches selling her views against the prevalent beliefs during the Cold War period. This section felt dated and extremely repetitive! I would mutter, "OK, here we go again.......another speech with the same message for the fifth, sixth time!" "Old truths" are proclaimed. This was the part of the book that was most thoroughly covered. She traveled all over the world speaking to political leaders. Much of this section reads as a travelogue recounting all the different places she visited. She worked as a columnist, a speaker and a radio correspondent. She never stopped working; the book follows her through her 75th year, as an activist and speaker of human rights. Her death, three years later, is not covered.
The audiobook is narrated by Tavia Gilbert. This narrator has a young voice, and it worked well for the young, naive Eleanor. As her self-assurance grows it felt more and more misplaced.
ETA:I always forget something!!! So, I am adding this. There is more humor than just that of the different opinions of Rodin's artwork, its sexuality, its cut morceaux and interchanged titles. In one of the studios Rodin had no doors on the apprentices' rooms. Pets were free to come and go. What about a Newfoundland sleeping next to you in your bed?! This was a huge surprise to one new apprentice. There is no way this book can be judged as a textbook, even if it is chock-full of details. These details are what make the book good. You see I am still thinking about this delightful and informative book.
I picked up this book because I wanted to understand the personality of the sculptor Auguste Rodin (1840-1917). I definitely got that from this book. I also got a comprehensive study of all his busts, monuments, drawings and sculptures. The book is filled with quotes, which are extensively noted. (In the audiobook these notes are read as they come up.) You hear both complimentary and negative views on the artist and his artwork. The story moves forward chronologically, thus you see how his personality changed with time. You see how his artwork changed and how the world around him changed. You learn what it was that made Rodin Rodin and which aspects of his personality never changed.
There is humor, particularly when you listen to the different views voiced. Night and day. Lovers and haters. The author rarely comments on what others say, but both positive and negative views are voiced.
I don't know where to start. It seems hopeless to say in a few words what makes Rodin Rodin. He was a man that saw the beauty of women and he appreciated their sexuality, though the word “appreciate” is just so lacking in passion! Rodin further convinces me that although artists are wonderful, they are impossible to live with. All his life he had affairs with numerous women, but he never left his first love Rose. He married her on his deathbed..... and within a year both were dead. He never acknowledged their son.
The techniques Rodin employed in producing his artwork is also discussed. When he drew his eyes never looked at the paper; they were glued to that being drawn. He added pieces of clay more often than extracting pieces. He constantly altered. He wouldn’t stop until he was satisfied. He loved nature and saw it in a finger, a hand, an arm, in movement and stillness; in shadow and sun. And the names of his artwork, he changed them over and over again. The name was not the essential.
This book is for me a clear four star book. I don't see it as a text book; it is too interesting and too amusing. Parts are scandalous, and the uproar that ensues is exciting! BUT, the book is extremely comprehensive and much is illustrated through copious quotes. The book not only teaches about Rodin but also the entire art world of the latter 19th Century and the first 17 years of the 20th. Very many artists and musicians and authors are covered - just about all the ones you can possibly think of and then add many, many more which you have never heard of! At times I got lost, when I didn't recognize enough of the names. As usual, the more you know before picking up a book, the more you will enjoy the details. You have something to fasten on to.
Now a word about the narration by the famed Simon Vance. I thought Vance could read anything. Here his narration was a total disappointment. In fact I was often extremely annoyed. His French just plain sucks. Sorry for being so darn blunt, but there is the truth. He mispronounces French words, and there are lots of them. I would have to try and guess what he could possibly be trying to say. Cities and known artists are almost unrecognizable. Maybe I would have recognized more of the artists if I had been given proper pronunciations. Reims sounds like "reams" rhyming with "seams". The correct pronunciation is closer to "ranse". I am just mentioning ONE example! Rodin spent seven years in Brussels. Vance's pronunciations are so incorrect it totally threw me. I know Brussels! I have lived there. He also uses different pronunciations for the very same word, so it is difficult to "translate" what he could possible mean. I absolutely hated the lousy narration. I will never listen to another book by Vance if he has to speak French words. Never. Do you hear how annoyed I am? IF you want to make an audiobook version of a written book that has many French words, then get someone who speaks French properly! Four stars is for the written book, not the audiobook narrated by Simon Vance.
Too complicated. Too unclear. It is pretty meaningless to say that life is totally subjective.
Narration by Roger May fine.
Let me explain my rating. This book was extremely hard for me - all the way through. I knew if I took a break with another book, I would never pick it up again. Nevertheless, the book IS informative and I AM glad I read it, but:
-Books of non-fiction do NOT have to be this hard to get through. It is non-fiction books like this that make people think the genre is difficult. I protest. It need not be so, and say this with my one star rating! (Later changed to two because I did learn about the city's history. It was not a total waste of time.)
-The book is extremely dense and portions should have been cut by the editor. One example: the very end, the “lyrical” ending of the epilog, which otherwise rapidly recounts all the historical events from the Six Days War to the present.
-There are numerous derogatory statements that are completely unnecessary. These sweeping judgments are not suitable. Just one example: Truman is introduced as the "mediocre senator" from Missouri.
-The author's personal relationship to characters of history should have been better clarified and irrelevant people with family connections to the author removed. I am not reading this book to learn about the author's family.
-History's violence is on the verge of being graphically depicted in the book.
-Even though this book is so extensive, it is best understood if you know a lot before you even open its covers.
A word about the audiobook's narration by John Lee. I have absolutely loved Lee's narration of other books, but his narration here was a huge disappointment. The pacing is wrong, and by that I mean that the words in a sentence are not correctly emphasized. It is easy to follow, yes, but it is almost sung! So strange and so inappropriate for a book of non-fiction. In that every single sentence holds so much information, it is a book hard to listen to. I didn't need the pictures or maps included in the paper book since such is easily found on the internet. You do need access to internet when listening to the audiobook.
It seems to me that the book's presentation of the three religions (Christianity, Judaism and Islam) is balanced. Perhaps I am not the best judge since I read this book to learn.
Yes, you have to be a martyr to get through the whole book. It is over. Thank God, which ever one you happen to choose. I personally adhere to no religion. Look at the problems they cause.
This book is d-e-p-r-e-s-s-i-n-g! Must it be SO depressing? It doesn't help that the end tries to close with a hopeful note.
The book is about death and illness and how some people demand so much of themselves that they are doomed to fail. It is also about the importance of stories, our stories. There lies the wisp of hope embedded in the book.
There are some beautiful lines, lines that perceptively reveal human relationships and some of descriptive beauty. I did feel the drumming of the rain on the skylight above Ruth's bed.
The book is written for bibliophiles....maybe. I love books, and I have read a large number of the many referred to, but still this book was not for me. The central character, Ruth, is a bedridden girl of 19. She has decided to read all her father's books, the point being to discover who her father really was. A person's books do say who you are, don't they? She refers to these books by their number in her father's library. Yep, they are all numbered, and they are in the thousands. Poetry and classics. Mythology and history. Dickens and Edith Wharton and Faulkner. Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy too, of course. I objected to how she refers to characters/events in theses famous books as quick explanations for events and characters in her story. (The book we are reading is Ruth's story.) But you can't do that. The situations are not the same; the details are not the same, and it is the details that make a story. It all becomes superficial and cursory. For me this was a disservice to the original literature. In addition, the numerous references to the books' titles, date and city of publication made the writing disjointed.
I didn't feel engaged in the lives of her father, her mother, her grandparents or great grandparents. All are quickly covered. There is too much in too few pages. Her relationship with her twin brother, yes, there the story came alive. Only here did I feel the love that bound these two.
There is humor. Maybe half of it made me laugh.
The setting is Clare, Ireland, after the bust, but the stories of her ancestors go back to the First World War.
The narration of the audiobook by Jennifer McGrath was lovely. Her Irish dialect is beautiful, lilting.
The gossip drove me crazy. A good book, but you have to be interested in all the gossip that always surrounded Bertie. The narration enhances the gossipy tone.
Don't make the mistake I did when choosing the book. There are two Berties. One was the great grandson of Queen Victoria, but this one is her son!
The basic problem for me was that the central character, an author in Christiania (Oslo), Norway, just didn't convince me he was really hungry. I guess he was, because his hair was falling out in clumps. At the same time he had such pride and this stopped him from accepting any help offered him. If you are really starving do you refuse food? One thing is clear. He was ether hallucinating, due to a lack of food, or he was quite simply crazy. I couldn't figure out which.
The author, the Norwegian Knut Hamsun, was one of the first to use stream of consciousness writing, but since the central character's thoughts are so delusional I wasn't interested in getting inside his head. His thoughts are confusing. I hardly even felt pity for this guy, who seemed more worried about what others would think of him than figuring out how to solve his problems. I am being harsh.... Virginia Woolf claims one needs a room of one's own to write. Well, first you need some food and a bed and a lamp to write by. A brain does not function without glucose! This book will appeal most to those who are interested in reading about the delusional. I simply wasn't convinced he was really starving.
You don't get a feel for Christiania either.
The narrator of the audiobook was Kevin Foley. I have no complaints with that. He does women’s voices remarkably well.
The ending annoyed me -he finally does something constructive. At least he was on the verge of doing something. My response was: “Why didn't you do that earlier!” Hamsun did not make me feel for this poor, starving author! THAT is the biggest problem of the book!
OK, here is why I did not like this book:
This is touted as a book of fiction with strong autobiographical elements. So if Orwell is presenting a book of fiction I want characters who engage me. I want a bit of a story. I want good descriptive writing. This novel fails on these points. It reads as a report. It is instead the direct retelling of Orwell’s experiences when he was down and out trying to survive in the slums first of Paris and then later in London. Probably the 1920s.. He had no money – at times, not even a few centimes. No job, no home, no clothes, no sleep – only hunger and cold and bugs. I am telling you his situation was m-i-s-e-r-a-b-l-e! He delivers a minute by minute account of his days as a dishwasher and as a homeless bum when he didn’t even have dishwashing. I do sympathize with him and his comrades’ plight, but if Orwell wanted to present this as a novel then the characters should draw me in. This is not the nature of the book; it is a report of what he saw and experienced.
So, if this is a report then I must judge how that report is delivered. I disliked elements of this report:
-the author’s anti-Semitic views
-the concluding analysis of how the homeless’ situation should be improved
-and in a report one need not include numerous verbatim emotional outbursts filled with expletives.
I do believe Orwell’s experiences could have been turned into a novel about the life of people working in restaurants, cooks and waiters and yes the dishwashers too. The homeless and the foreign exiles. It could have made a marvelous novel, but what is delivered here is half novel and half memoir, neither one nor the other.
Jeremy Northam narrated the audiobook I listened to. Set in the slums of both London and Paris there are numerous foreign exiles and thus numerous dialects. The only dialects that felt genuine were the British ones. The Russian dialect was ridiculously fake. The French was off too, and half of the book is set in Paris!
Really, I did want to give this at least two stars because the plight of the lowest of low in the slums of Paris and London is clearly depicted, but my honest feeling toward this book is one of dislike. So one star it is.
Read Homage to Catalonia or Animal Farm instead. They are better.
No, I did not like this book. I disliked the intertwining of its two central themes, one being a criticism of French Bourbon society after the fall of Napoleon and the crazy, unbelievable love affairs. The writing becomes more and more absurd the further you progress into the novel. The language is old-fashioned, formal, complicated and wordy. I was bugged to no end by the excessive use of etcetera and etcetera over and over again. Perhaps that was a translation problem? I am not sure.
The book is extremely slow, even if it does pick speed as it nears the end only to fall again to turtle velocity at the conclusion.
This is a book of satire and by the end the author's "message" has been pounded into you. Events become absurdly ridiculous. I preferred the more subtle humor at the beginning. The question is - did I ever really laugh? No.
I must repeat my earlier statement found below: if this is a book that is supposed to offer a psychological study of characters, why are my feelings toward Julien, the main character, only lukewarm?
The famed actor Bill Homewood narrated the audiobook I listened to. The French pronunciation was fine but I disliked his added dramatics, even if perhaps he was merely exaggerating what the author intended to be exaggerated.
So I did not enjoy the humor, or the wordy writing, or the incredible romances. I will neither be listening to Homewood again nor reading more books by Stendhal.
Two-thirds through the audiobook:
This is v-e-r-y slow.
Be prepared for a multitude of pontificating old men.
The language is old-fashioned and formal; it was written in 1830 and is concerned with the upper-classes of French society after the defeat of Napoleon.
What is important above all else is your class. Will Julien Sorel be able to escape his class? He is intelligent. He is ambitious.
And then there are scandalous love affairs....involving not only Julien but an older woman who really ought to know better because she at least has the experience of age! More importantly, the author's lines do not make me feel either Julien's or her passion.
I do not empathize with any character. I do not dislike Julien, but I dislike what he is aspiring to. In addition, if this is a book that is supposed to offer a psychological study of characters why are my feelings toward Julien only lukewarm?
I am not done, and I will continue, but.....
Keep in mind when you look at the rating that MANY people close the book before completion and thus do not rate it.
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