Detailed, very detailed
One, and I stress only one, of the most memorable descriptions is that of the execution of Marie Antoinette. Little snippets, like having had her hair dressed up and off her neck because she anticipated that it would be necessary, the executioner hacks it off to the required length anyway - and burns it, so that it will never become a relic.
This may be how it was for Madame Guillotine, or it may be the author's detailing, but this happens over and over again.
I don't think I could read the book. It is, like Hilary Mantel's two and soon to be three historical books on the Tudors, a meandering tale that moves from past to present tense; in and out of dialogue; with many characters, each of whom Jonathan Keeble brings to life using a different voice/ accent.It is the narration that gives life and colour to this edition; and helps to sort out the very many characters along the way.
Lucile Desmoulins, wife of Camille Desmoulins - a clever and observant woman, much underrated initially, as Desmoulins' first love was her mother and he only married Lucile because Annette/Anne would not consider divorcing her husband. Lucile was in the midst of the group - Robespierre, Danton, Desmoulins, Marat and the many other men who drove the French Revolution with their commitment and foresight.
If she was not available - and she was executed before him - I would invite Maximilien Robespierre. Mind you, I doubt if he would accept - he wasn't quite a recluse, but he was not a social adept. Kept his energies focussed on the task in hand, which for him, was to improve the wellbeing and lives of the poor people of France. I liked his gentility and kindness.
4 sections and almost 34 hours - the book takes some commitment to read/listen to. And that is one of its remarkable virtues - imagine having written it! It is very detailed and the point of view changes a lot, making it a challenge to keep up with the characters and scene, never mind picking up the thread if you have to stop listening for any length of time.
The writing is so very good. Very Hilary Mantel. It is worth bearing in mind that this was her first - that's right - first novel and was written when she was 22 years old! In the interview that she does at the end of the Kindle version, she tells the interviewer that it nearly killed her; that she put it onto a shelf for decades before it was resurrected by new circumstances in her writing career.
In a word of warning, if you know nothing about the French Revolution, this is not the best book from which to increase your knowledge. It helped that I had some idea of dates and times and events and, to a lesser degree, persons from that cataclysmic time in the history of France. Get out your encyclopaedias, your Baroness Orczy and Jean Plaidy, and there is always good old Google.
Then come to Hilary Mantel, for an entirely new, and surprisingly intimate, perspective on The French Revolution.
It is a long book. Within it there are 3 sections in each of which a significant crime is committed. This is a great structure. But the book is filled with back story and explanation of character's observations and responses. Personally I think it needs a very severe edit in order to bring the focus much more clearly onto the crimes and their intentions and results.
Less words. Too many descriptions and backstories.
None of the scenes was particularly memorable to me. In spite of all the explanations and descriptions, the characters did not come alive to me. Having said that, I still think the concept in the book is terrific - that of elderly people grabbing life by the throat and shaking the gold from it.
I haven't started planning a crime spree, but I think I will be very vigorous in editing my own writing.
So - I think - listen to this story when you need a long and meandering tale that has excellent concepts in it - grey power and the Zimmer Frame Gang standing up against the inequalities in their world - and told in a slightly amused, slightly ironic voice. But don't expect anything profound.
I haven't read this book, I have only listened to it.
I don't think it is very easy to slip this book into a genre.The story is horrible, macabre, bizarre - in the class of weird that I put M J Hayder - but it is not only that. It is more; and more important.The motif of unaccompained children being taken by someone that they know, rather than a stranger is very, very unsettling. All the more so when the listener realises the reason behind the kidnappings. What happens to the children is not dealt with in any detail, and if it were, it would be unbearable. BUT - This book is written by a man who clearly understands the machinations of the Public Service, in particular, its awful failings and bureaucracies. He very cleverly juxtaposes these with what is happening to the kidnapped children and how The System fails them. And fails them very badly.He also shows how the system, being amoral, can never be changed nor overcome by an individual; and so, in the greatest irony of all, the listener discovers that Norman, the Children's Czar without a job but who cannot be removed from his public service post until he transgresses the public service codes, Norman then enters that other massive and amoral bureaucracy - the Roman Catholic Church!
No favourites, I just found it very easy to follow the book because of the clarity of David Timson's characterisations
No Picnic For Teddy Bears
Only to a friend who a) really liked drawn out mystery/thrillers; b) needed an audio book that lasted a long time - ie someone who was travelling a long distance/time; c) had a lot of patience and d) is very open-minded about sexual dysphemisms.This is because this story, although filled with murderous and ghoulish twists and turns, moves remarkably slowly - and this is different from your average thriller book. There is a lot of backstory in it, which is interesting and to some extent useful, but it seriously interrupts the flow of the front story.Amy, the female protagonist is a particularly nasty woman with a sweet affect and a pitch black soul. Her various sexual images is disturbing and, was for me, unpleasant.
Amy's plot(s) were ingenious. Amy's back story was almost irrelevant.
The interview that Nick does with Rebecca in the pub.
Not without a lot of editing and shortening of the story. I don't think it has enough to carry a TV series, other than a 2 or 3 parter that tells the story in some detail.I am not very au fait with current stars, so am not able to comment on who would be good currently. From yesteryear - I think Amy was almost written for Joan Crawford and the hapless Nick could be played by James Stewart or Kevin Spacey.
The essence of this story is excellent. The twists and turns were not easily predicted, usually, and there were a lot of them. My difficulty was that it went on and on, and much of what was told did not take the actual tale any further forward. It was a lot of reflecting by one unreliable character about the other, equally, unreliable character. The opinion of one of them about the other was not often helpful.
The format, of Nick and Amy speaking in the first person was very good. Neither of them are reliable narrators, both of them lying frequently but undetectably.The readers were very good. They brought the characters to life vividly.If you have a long time to fill in, or simply enjoy an almost neverending story - then this would be an excellent choice.
Using the audio edition meant that I could have the programme running more than I would be if I were reading. However, when using audio, it is much more complicated to turn back/go back to something that is referred to in an earlier chapter.
I think that the listener/reader will have to choose according to their personal situation.
There is no story - this is a book about psychology.
I thought that she read very well. Her voice was clear, her pauses were enough to allow me to absorb the information.
This could only be made into a documentary and as such it would be terrific with the name and tag line that it already has.
It's immediacy.And it's sadness.In doing what was his passion and his purpose, Salman Rushdie was condemned, not just by the fatwa, but by many colleagues and countrymen who accused him of doing it for the publicity!
The decision to have a baby and then the birth of that baby - Milan. It spoke of hope in a very hopeless place. A place that then grew more hopeless as the marriage that produced Milan broke down. Yet Rushdie expresses an eternal hope in the love that he bears for both his sons.
Salman Rushdie himself. Resenting being called Joseph Anton and yet thinking how clever he was to have devised it- too clever for his minders, who then called him Jim!
His patience with his situation and the occasional outbreak of frustration. His bewilderment as other people seemed to misunderstand and to resent what was happening to him and how much it was costing to maintain 24 hour protection for him.
His personality glows softly in every word.
Both. But neither in an extreme way.
I certainly felt outrage towards those who condemned him for The Satanic Verses without reading it - and that included Ayatollah Khomeini.
I was also very annoyed by the attitude of the Iranian government who prevaricated about removing the fatwa, even going so far as to say that because Khomeini was dead, it could never be removed. It reinforced my opinion of that regime.
This is a long and very interesting book.
It has to be as the fatwa lasted from 14 February 1989 to a nominal withdrawal 24 September 1998.
Rushdie still receives cards on the 14 February every year from hardliners who declare their intention to carry out the fatwa. He describes this rhetoric rather than a real threat.
The prose, the prose, the prose. Salman Rushdie has a poetic style throughout this book that is fable and mystery and historical novel in every sentence.
Yann Martel's Life of Pi. Maybe because they both encompass something of the subcontinent that as a Western raised Anglo, I cannot quite hold, but which enthrals me.
Myth of any culture is a fascination to me, and both these books have a quality of myth and parable. They demand that I look deeper into everything I know.
I have never listened to this narrator,and I thought he was excellent in portraying the various characters so that they were instantly recognisable each time they appeared.
If I had a choice, I would like to eat a meal with all the characters and to watch the interplat amongst them. I didn't feel drawn to one in particular.
I may read/listen to this Booker of Bookers another 199 times, and always there will be another layer to peel back. I will not live long enough to know that I have grasped it.
The anecdotes from the life of Hilary Mantel that are then reflected upon by the author and placed into the context of her whole life. It is a complex book, but there is a simplicity about it that is very graceful.
Clearly, by my plagiarism of his title, C S Lewis' book, ' a Grief Observed'. Although Lewis is writing about the death of his wife, and his responses to it; and Mantel is writing about her never-born child, to me they are very synchronistic in their integrity and openness.
I did not think either wrote of raw pain, but rather of observed pain. They were able to experience and then describe an internal feeling.
No, I have watched innumerable 'Midsomer Murders' though.
In this book, I found her voice sympathetic and expressive. It told the story without being in any way obtrusive to it.
I do not think this could be made into a film. It is too intimate and inward looking. The actual story of the author's life is not remarkable and would not really make for good watching.
What is remarkable is how Hilary Mantel focusses on her emotional responses to the events of her life - and that is something that can only be presented in words, not pictures.
The book is complex and rewarding. It is short and beautifully crafted.
I think it speaks to all of us, as each one of us has had a deep loss at sometime in our lives.
It is important to say that such a complex book will not satisfy in a single listening/reading. There is too much in it to take in. However given its brevity it is easy to listen to a 2nd and even a 3rd time with as much interest in it as was there the 1st time.
Raw, real and succinct
Without any doubt, it was Mary's description of the crucifixion of her son.
Meryl Streep has a soft and deep voice that is very easy to listen to. She is also a consummate performer and uses her skills to bring this suffering woman to vivid life.
...suffering so great that even speaking the name of her loved one is unbearable...
Don't listen to this book if you do not have some idea of the life of Jesus and, to a lesser extent, his mother, Mary. Most of the events referred to in the story are not explained, clearly it is assumed that the reader knows them.
Don't listen to this book if you want to find a kindly mother who is coming to terms with the death and loss of a son - that is not the Mary of this Testament. This Mary is truly suffering, not only the loss of her son, but from her own actions, her own responses to him in life and death.
Don't expect to understand the characters, or even to know who they are, when you listen for the first time. I have listened to it and also read it three times, and each time I uncover more. I am still not sure of whom Mary is speaking at times.
This is a gut wrenching, heart tearing book; but it is so alive, so real, so beautiful.
Don't be afraid to listen to it.
I would certainly recommend this book as an audiobook. It is very well written and read. It is detailed without dragging, and is also very human in the way it talks about these two giants of mid 20th Century America.
In a biography I do not find it possible to choose a favourite character, as there are no 'characters'. Each person written about existed and contributed to the story of Franklin and Eleanor.
I have not heard Tavia Gilbert before, but she did not intrude into the reading in any way and I would be happy to listen to her again.
I was always reluctant to stop the reading when the time came to go and do something else. I had it loaded to my iPod and so was able to take it with me most places and during most activities. Listening as continuously as I did, made the people in the book much more real.
What a remarkable pair these two were! And how little I knew of them - I am not American, and so am not as familiar with the folk who peopled and contributed to the history of the USA.
I was engrossed in their story, and very impressed with the work they did, both of them, their commitment to the things they believed in and, not to make them into angels - their foibles and faults.
They became so human.
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