This book is really quite amazing. I constantly found my own assumptions about modern society turned on their head. I was amazed at how readily issues like coporal punishment by parents, or atheism were discussed. I've always taken for granted that liberal views on issues like these were recent developments but I'm obviously mistaken.
Aside from all its social commentary, though, this book is fabulously entertaining from beginning to end. It doesn't feel the least bit dated at any time.
The one thing that holds this back from a 5-star rating is the narrator. This is a love-or-hate guy. He is unquestionably talented -- able to maintain a seeming endless array of character voices in his head, which he switches between effortlessly, even in conversations involving four or five people. The problem is, his voices, including his normal one which he uses for the non-conversational narration is foppish, pretentious and obnoxious. He also has a tendancy to make his protagonists sound like wimpy little pansies.
The book is so good, though, that you will find yourself not even noticing the narrator (or maybe you'll love him -- lots of people do). I take some comfort in the fact that I listened to his reading of David Copperfield and by comparison this narration is spectacular. I nearly gave up on David Copperfield halfway through deciding that I'd better just read the book myself rather than having a classic ruined for me by this guy.
I don't know how this audiobook is getting such high reviews. It just ain't that good. It would, I think, be a better read, though. The narration is awful. The narrater inflects his voice upwards about every two or three words, putting emphasis on words that were not meant to be specially emphasized. Unless the author randomly italicized every third word in the book this is just unacceptable license and interpretation. It comes off like it's being read by a "valley girl", popping her gum and rolling her eyes. It's not all narration problems, though. The author came up with a bunch of "clever" devices that he uses (overuses) every chance he gets, such as stating a character's name in a, "he's so crazy..." tone of voice any time they do something sweet or cute. Or insisting on having the main character say, "I love making (fill in the blank) smile," every time he makes someone smile. Most of these devices are canned to begin with, but the fact that the author found himself so clever as to repeat them over and over and over, ad nauseum, speaks to his ability.
Anyway, to sum up, the audiobook is broken up into two parts. The first part is horrible. On several occasions I considered cutting my losses and giving up. It is better once you reach part two (or maybe I'd just invested so much already that it was easier to be carried along for the rest). It's not the worst I've read/heard, but it's not worth your money either.
Pimsleur French for English Speakers does a supurb job presenting french in an accessible way. The pace is impeccable, with new material being presented just as you are beginning to grasp the last material. Previous material is briefly revisited throughout the lessons to futher solidify the information in your memory. Very well done. I recommend listening to each lesson twice. Do not expect to be speaking french fluently at the end of this audiobook; this is only an introduction. That said, it is done VERY well and I hope there are future releases in this series.
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