Rated by the NY Times as the best American novel of the last 25 years, I decided to try *Beloved* by Toni Morrison. I had serious difficulty liking this book at first. It seemed to me that in the first hour or so of this book, the narrator *told* me how the characters felt. I thought, "Wouldn't it have been better to *show* me, rather than *tell* me?" I thought to myself, "Either Nobel Prize winning fiction is not what it used to be, or I am seriously deficient in my literary appreciation." I suspect that my own lack of appreciation was at fault, but I would be remiss if I did not mention that I frequently had difficulty staying awake, especially in the first half of this novel. "Suspense as taut as a rope," to quote the publisher, would not have been my tag for this book. Some friends told me, "Yes, Toni Morrison takes some getting used to." Others said, "Yes, I hear it's problematic to read. That's why I decided not to read it." Ultimately, I am very glad that I finished this book, because it had a powerful effect on me. The characters and the dilemmas they faced were fascinating and gripping. Be forewarned, however, that this novel requires active participation of the reader: it's some work to read it. The best way for me to describe it is to say that the novel contains a series of fragmentary episodes, often incompletely described. You, as the reader, have to try to piece together the events. There are abrupt shifts of time and place. Again, there is often no explicit guidance. The reader must infer where in time and place the narrative has jumped to. Perhaps, as a reader, I found it to be rather too arduous. However, in the last third or so of the novel, when all the pieces start coming together, the novel's accumulated effect was riveting. Now that I understand more about the novel's structure, I wonder whether I might enjoy re-reading (re-listening?) to it in a few years.
I'll try not to reveal too much. This story centers on a group of adolescents and young adults conceived and raised separately to provide a "benefit" to modern English society at large. They live at a separate boarding school whose purpose is to cultivate them and protect them for this function. Ishiguro creates a world that is for the most part quite believable. It includes the daily activities, inner thoughts, dreams, and tragedies of these young people, as well as some of the conflicts felt by their guardians. From some of the other reviews, I guess this novel is not for everyone. I found it engaging, thought-provoking, suspenseful, and compassionate. The questions raised for me by this story are "What if a modern society conspired to use people this way? What is the value of a human soul?" Uncomfortable to think about...but fascinating at the same time.
Nothing in the summary hints at the sucker-punch that this book delivers in its heartrending conclusion. The frame of this novel is the love affair between an older college professor (David) and his beautiful student (Consuela), who is many years younger. The themes of this book include the struggle for meaning in life, loss of youth, mortality, connection, sexual fulfillment, familial loyalty and disloyalty, and honesty with oneself. The themes are developed by the primary story, as well as by a series of remembrances that David narrates from his life. Yes, there are quite a number of scenes of explicitly described sex and sexual fantasies. Gratuitous? No. Pornographic? No. Stick with this short novel to the end. It is well worth it. Very well narrated.
This novel is loosely based on the life of artist Paul Gauguin. Fascinating story narrated superbly by Steven Crossley. A nice read!
Perhaps not one of Richard Russo's best, but fun to read nonetheless. If you know and love Cape Cod, you may experience an added layer of enjoyment.
I actually learned a lot about agriculture, genetically engineered crops, and potatoes in this unique novel about family conflicts, reconciliation, deception, and grassroots protest. Through the voices of some of the protesting characters, this novel can at times be a little too preachy. At other times, some of the situations and portrayals seem more like the 1970's than the 1990's. The superb narration of Anna Fields gives life to the story.
I have listened to the first 45 minutes of Villages, and as of yet, I haven't come across anything in the way of interesting plot -- or *any* plot for that matter. So far, it seems to be just tedious exposition. I can see why people speak of Updike's keen observations and his poetic use of language, etc. However, this book is not my cup of tea. My interest in the characters, places, periods described simply has not been piqued, not after nearly an hour of listening. This will be one of the rare pieces of literature that I shall leave unfinished.
5 stars are not enough for this collection of short stories, whose effect is hard for me to describe. The landscape of these stories is the middle class life of first generation Americans (adolescents and adults) and their Bengali parents. The events in their lives seem strikingly ordinary: no different from those that any of us may have experienced. And yet, the way that Lahiri conveys the characters' pleasures, desires for human connection, losses, secrets, and nostalgia are the real subject of these stories. My favorite stories were the three inter-related tales centering on Hema and Kaushik. They know each other as children; have a brief, but distant re-acquaintance as adolescents; and re-connect with a profound love as adults. You might want to listen to this book in private. Like me, you might occasionally find your eyes getting moist as you listen. Superb narration, by the way.
This is the story of a young Jewish man who grew up in Newark and who seeks to expand his world by going to a private college in Ohio. The characters (his parents, other students at college, a supercilious dean of students) are fascinating...as is the glimpse of life in the 1940's and early 1950's. Great narration.
This novel has several narrators and a number of inter-related stories. I was drawn to this book because the town of Slonim (Belarus) is one of my ancestral towns, and some of the characters similarly emmigrated to Chile and the U.S., just as in my family. The separate, inter-related stories and characters were intriguing. However, it was just a tad confusing at times to keep them all straight! Worth the effort, and the resolution was satisfying.
This is a rather intriguing collection of inter-related stories that take place in a small town in Maine. We see the human growth of Olive Kitteridge, a retired schoolteacher and a fascinating character. She is the focus of most of these stories and at least makes an appearance in every one of them. The stories and the excellent narration give a vivid sense of life in this small town. Marital and inter-generational conflicts are portrayed with believable honesty. In general, the female characters are better developed than the male ones, but that is presumably the point of view of these stories. Quite enjoyable.
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