I've listened to the story twice (have read it maybe a half dozen times over the years), and each time I get a bit more from it. Sometimes it is insight into the era, sometimes the characters, sometimes for its lessons on how to write. As time goes by and my perspective changes, so do the characters.
The story is more a collection of character studies--to me--then about any of the particular events related. Hemingway's ability to paint a detailed setting and then overlay the character's dialogue so that the two are utterly separate yet equally interesting makes the work worth the reread. That said, I find most of his work to most remind me of the Seinfeld series: stories about nothing, and everything.
Hurt's performance put me off at the start. Too staccato, I thought, and found it annoying. The various characters, though, were clearly defined by either accent or style, and I never once had to wonder who was speaking. Eventually, I accepted the staccato voice of the protagonist not as a shortcoming on Hurt's part, but rather, as the personality of the character.
Just like the antisemitism in the Merchant of Venice, and the racism in TKa Mockingbird, the oft-recurring thread of Jew-hatred in this story is hard to take, and listening to it evokes a stronger reaction than just reading the words on a page.
The narrator, who obviously felt a deep understanding of the author's intent made this book one to relish and even to listen to a second time. His ability to differentiate the characters by subtle verbal tics: excellent though not 100%. I sometimes had to reorient as to who was speaking. Guidall made each character distinctive, it's just that too often the bits were jammed too close together (poor editing), without a moments pause, to allow the switch to occur seamlessly. Excellent story, well developed, complexly layered with enough depth to oblige the listener/reader to consider the social, personal, political, philosophical aspects. Human nature - its moral and ethical dilemmas regarding compassion and responsibility, romantic vs. platonic love, free will vs. enslavement, faith and altruism, all these issues are lightly brought to fore as the characters play out this tale. I would credit the narrator's skill on par with the author's. Inflection and emphasis are delicate components in advancing both the character's personality and the author's intent and Guidall hit that nail on the head. Someone used the word 'savory' to describe his voice, that's dead-on, too. I don't normally enjoy fantasy--much prefer non-fiction, really, but this one was so tightly woven-- and so well read-- that I just could not put it down.
Rabbi Meyer, a well-intentioned man who, like most scholars, thought too much and acted too little.
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