Judged on standards of quality of writing, narration and psychological coherence (the weak link), I would rate this collection a 4.5.
Eventually, though, I gave it 4 overall. The reason being there is little sense of joy; on the contrary, there is an ironic, mocking tone and questioning of human frailities throughout. You are confronted and often you cringe. All the tales are set before 1950 and may seem old-fashioned and slow-moving. They are best savoured over a week or two.
Now the good news!! None of the stories are duds; several are outstanding, as is the narration. The Yellow Wallpaper, a description of slow disintegration into madness is mesmerizing in its detail, focus and imagination. It was written quickly and from the heart over two afternoons, I believe, by Charlotte Perkins Gilmore. I suspect that feminists love it (men are ambiguously and indirectly maligned ... or maybe not, that is its charm). The Gioconda Smile by Aldous Huxley is another great yarn. Set in the 1920s, it depicts a conceited, supercilious Englishman who betrays women seemingly without damage or remorse until everything goes pear-shaped with a vengeance. It is beautifully written, well-crafted and excellently read by Michael York I think. Unfortunately, no acknowledgement is ever given. The outstanding narrator of The Yellow Wallpaper is likewise snubbed - an avoidable annoyance.
A final recommendation: I liked this collection on the first listening but I enjoyed it wholeheartedly the second time around. It is quality material. Give it a whirl!
Having already read Barry's "The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty" and finding it pretentious and verbose, I expected little. Wrong!
This is great stuff on many levels. I was flattened by the realistic description of the battle scenes, the mustard gas, the machine guns etc. but most of all by the courage and bravery of the poor mutts that endured the carnage. Of course, they vaguely thought they were fighting for king and country (Ireland?) - at least at the start - but disillusionment quickly set in. This gradual enlightment is subtlely sketched. A powerful anti-war manifesto with especial relevance to to-day.
Brilliantly read by John Cormack. The language is beautiful and poetic. Upon checking, I discovered that Sebastian Barry has authored several books of poetry...and it shows.
I'm Irish, so know that the historical details are accurate (and conveniently forgotten until very recently) although admittedly the plot itself is contrived to augment the story. No matter.
In summary, a beautiful book which repays some small latitude as it takes time to hit its stride. One of the unexpected bonuses that make life so rewarding.
Extraordinary! An amazing confection of beautiful gothic writing, fast-paced story line, outstanding narration by Robert Whitfield ... and sheer terror.
When heard in the dead of night, this book encourages the imagination as no television adaptation can. Take in small doses for maximum effect. It pulls the veil from hardnosed modern indifference to expose atavistic superstitions lurking in forgotten recesses.
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