Massachusetts | Member Since 2012
The author spent two years in China during the early 1990s while serving in the Peace Corps. He lived in the remote town of Fuling, in the middle of China's Sichuan province, amid the terraced hills of the Yangtze River valley. When Peter Hessler arrived as a Peace Corps volunteer, it was the first time in more than half a century that the city had an American resident. Hessler taught English and American literature at the local college, but he learned as much as he taught, simply by connecting with the residents in the town and with his students. Hessler doesn't hesitate to turn the magnifying glass on himself and the funny situations he stumbles into as he tries to understand a completely different culture and how he can fit into it.
This is a funny, and touching book that makes China come alive for the reader in a new way.
After listening to the life of Queen Victoria by A. N. Wilson, I decided to see how Bertie, her son who became King Edward upon her death in 1901, had fared. His mother and father, Prince Albert, treated their eldest son with such contempt and disapproval that his life of whoring, gambling and partying is understandable. In the end, the author avows that he did become a monarch more accessible to the English people than his mother, the widow forever draped in black bombazine, ever was. But the book moves chronologically in a way that I found dull and uninspired in the end.
I've been a huge fan of Ben Macintyre's books since I first read AGENT ZIGZAG, and this is the best. Everybody's heard of Kim Philby, but the author shows so clearly what a divided and dishonest man he was, one who betrayed his friends, his country, his many wives all for the Communist cause. And yet, in the end, he betrayed himself as he lived out his last years in Russia, longing for his old club pals and a good whiskey and a cricket game. Nobody shows as clearly as Macintyre (and John le Carre, of course), how destructive the British class system could be and nowhere did it do more damage than to the country's own secret intelligence service. As the daughter of a wartime decoding agent for MI5, I was especially fascinated by Macintyre's brilliant dissection of the difference between MI5 and MI6. Highly recommended.
The story of Huguette Clark and her solitary and very long life was fascinating. Rather than feel sorry for her, I felt she made the most of her gilded cage even though she chose, in her 80s, to reduce that cage to one hospital room while maintaining the grand houses and apartments that she no longer inhabited.She was a remarkably generous person not only to institutions but to the people who remained near her bedside. The narrator did an excellent job, had a passable French accent which was important to the book and brought the characters to life without insinuating herself too much. An added bonus of the audio book was the occasional "live" tapes of Huguette's voice. I wonder whether she knew that her relative, Paul Clark Newell, was taping their phone calls.
Goodwin brings out the interesting tale of TR's great friendship with William Howard Taft. They complemented each other perfectly, and turned to one another on many occasions for advice and support as they each battled corporate interests in their own way. But in 1912, when TR decided to run on the Progressive ticket, the friendship soured to disdain. It wasn't until years later that these two men connected again in the years before Roosevelt died. The other fascinating part of this book is the description of the "muckrakers", Ida Tarbell, Ray Stannard Baker and Lincoln Steffen and their connection with S.S. McClure who brought them to print in his magazine, McClure's Magazine. Goodwin does an excellent job weaving all these characters together and Ed Herrmann is the perfect reader for this history. Highly recommended.
If you found JAWS scary, don't listen to this book. The shark attacks along the eastern seaboard in the summer of 1916 were terrifying and the author does an excellent job of making you feel as if you were in the water with the fish moving swiftly toward you. Sharks are actually wonderful creatures and I'm only sad that this will scare more people than it needs to.
This story of the crew team who won the gold medal at the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany is moving and engaging. The author brings together the individual stories of the team members while at the same time giving us a clear picture of Berlin in the months leading up to the Olympics. Hitler, Leni Riefenstahl on one side and the heroic dour Dane rowing coach, Al Ulbrickson, and George Pocock, the perfectionist builder of the red cedar boats, on the other. You root for the good guys who learned that depending on each other was the surest way to win. Excellent narration by Edward Herrmann.
I would read anything Egan writes. His research is meticulous, the story well told and the subjects always of interest. He does not disappoint in this tale of the man who immortalized with photography the ancient ways of the Native Americans. A true hero although he rose from poverty to die in obscurity. Without Curtis, so many of the traditions and portraits of the native people the European settlers trampled, killed and scattered would be lost to history. The reading is clear and modulated.
Simon Callow does a wonderful job of bringing this mad, impulsive, energetic and thoroughly eccentric writer to life. Both a writer and the reader, he adds great depth to the story since, as he points out in the Prologue, he has played so many Dickensian characters during his acting life.
The things we didn't know about Chanel... her dark side. Well told and well read.
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