Yes, I KNOW "Big Rock..." is fiction. But it consists almost entirely of events in Stegner's life, even actual conversations (Jackson Benson's "Wallace Stegner, His Life and Work" is highly recommended as a companion piece). Heartbreaking. Riveting. THIS is the Stegner book that should have won Pulitzer. Narrator Bramhall deserves 5 stars, too. He uses a good variety of voices for the many characters in the story (he's especially good with foreign dialects).
I bought this book because: 1) one of the narrators is Mark Bramhall, and 2) the story was touted as a Southern Novel.
Bramhall didn't disappoint. He NEVER does. The 5 stars in the review of Performance are for him. Unfortunately, his character speaks less than any of the others.
But the story - while it had its moments (more than a few outstanding, compelling moments early on, as a matter of fact) - ultimately it didn't deliver on what those opening scenes had promised.
There was too much about the boy Jess. Yes, his POV was integral to the plot, but we were forced to go down too many childhood rabbit trails with him. Or maybe it was that, combined with the fact that the narrator of his voice was my least favorite.
Finally, the ending ruined the experience for me. It seems ideally suited for a TV movie.
The book may be set in the South, but it's a long way from being a Southern Novel.
The plot development in the first of three parts held my attention. But in Part Two, the trite southern characters arrived: the sociopathic, racist Arm of the Law, the honest, good-looking, WW2 hero with the charming, smart wife who wants to Do The Right Thing (but is he TOO ambitious?), the "wise" town leader-turned-crafty-politician, and the too brave black vet who wants his rightful place in society. Oh, yes, and lurking in the background throughout the story is the psychopathic mass murderer who walks among them.
I didn't listen to last half.
Narrator Hammer has a very pleasant voice and used just enough variations in his tone and mannerisms to convey the differences in characters.
I usually avoid dog books - typically, I'm depressed for days afterwards. But Enzo's story sounded unique, so I took a chance and was glad I did. And, while I found Enzo's best friend/owner Denny a trifle too good to be true at the end of his Job-like ordeal, I even bought into the happily-ever-after contrived ending. Enzo would want me to.
Narrator Welch is a perfect low-keyed Enzo voice.
I was intrigued by the plot and completely bought into it throughout the book, so that's not the reason for my criticism. The story was good, very good in spots. It was the writing that disappointed - about halfway through it turned amateurish in far too many places (if I notice such a thing, then it's BAD).
One has to wonder what happened to the editor, especially during the 2nd half of the book. At least an hour, maybe two, of repetition could have been excised, and the story would have been better for it. Also, has anyone counted how many times King used "the past is obdurate" or "harmonic" ? It was so many that they became groan worthy towards the end.
With the exception of his Stella Voice, Narrator Wasson was excellent (however, the fact that he based some of his characters' voices on the likes of Burt Lancaster, Jimmy Stewart, John Houseman & Nixon, while amusing, was slightly distracting).
I listened every chance I got - the characters lived! the dialogue was clever and smart. And I DO hope the story is true, or almost true! Mary Doria Russell's thorough research was clearly evident, and she's a superb author
Also, Mark Bramhall was already my favorite narrator, but this reading moved him to a higher level in my opinion. I don't think I've ever heard him use so many voices and accents, and all were excellent, adding a great deal to the flavor of the story.
This "book" was a major disappointment. But NOT because of Banks' writing - in my opinion, his work was butchered when it was squeezed into an abridged version. Here and there were interesting vignettes and glimpses of what a fascinating talent Banks has to offer. But this chopped-up "book" was a waste of time.
Narrator George DelHoyo's voice -- which appears to be affected, and annoyingly so -- may fit the character of Owen Brown. But listening to it for hours and hours added to the negative experience.
I rarely watched Cavett's show (he always seemed TOO full of himself), and yet I've seen brief clips of many of the shows I missed and have thoroughly enjoyed them. Maybe that's the answer...Cavett in small doses is manageable. At least I found MOST of these columns to be either interesting, humorous (the ones about Richard Nixon, George Bush) or downright poignant (the one about Paul Newman brought tears). I DID NOT enjoy learning he was not only friends with - but GOOD FRIENDS with - the irksome William F. Buckley. And Cavett seems to get far too much enjoyment remembering tales of his childhood/teen vandalism, minor though it may have been.
His writing skills are exceptional, and he's a pleasant narrator
I give Part One five stars - it was as emotional, as riveting as some of Oates' best fiction. And my heart ached for her because of what she was experiencing.
Yet Part Two deserves only three stars. Besides being full of redundancies, Oates' stream-of-consciousness writing - along with her attempts to share every positive aspect of her husband's life, along with her every suicidal fantasy - gave the last half a whining quality. Though I was glad to see she'd found a light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel at story's end, I was also relieved to have reached the end of book.
Narrator was superb! Five stars for Ellen Parker!
There's no question that it's an intriguing story in spite of it being at least two hours longer than it should have been.
SEMI SPOILER ALERT*** However, what ruined the book for me -- with several hours left to listen to -- was when the damaged protagonist (with almost no motivation) not only forgave the two people who had most grievously damaged him and his hometown and who had indirectly been responsible for his brother's death, but he APOLOGIZED TO THEM!
BUT it's not QUITE as dark,either.
So, if you like stories with intense character studies in the Faulknerian style,this story will appeal to you since Clinch allows each person -- whether living or dead - to speak for himself. That device makes the audio version especially effective because all the actors are ideally suited for the characters they portray. PS: be sure to Google "Ward Brothers Syracuse New York" before listening. The story is based on fact, and that background information is a great preface.
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