I'd heard a lot of very good things about this one, and it mostly held up to them. It's the latest in a line of recent "fantasy for grown-ups" books, and it falls between Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell and Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore -- to pick a couple at the extremes of quality. This has all the ambition of the books of its sort -- a clever setting with the addition of some thoughts on the nature of immigrant life almost a century ago -- and it's solidly written. Parts go on a bit long, and it doesn't resolve itself with quite the satisfaction of the best in the genre, but it's still fun. It falls short of The Midnight Circus, say, but so do most books. I'd like to have seen it move more quickly once it established its characters (and there's an overly neat coming together of seemingly separate threads) but I do recommend it.
Burke is a well above average talented writer, and this is interesting for its glimpse at the young novelist figuring it out. There are some nice passages, and you get that there's really something at stake: the tough-guy protagonist has some real decisions to make about where his allegiance lies and how much he can tolerate in the face of deep corruption. I can't help reading it as Burke himself trying out different aesthetics for his own work.
That said, this doesn't age all that well. The protagonist's narcissism gets old. The reconciliation of an early 1970s counter-culture sensibility with 1950s noir shows its seams (and feels forced). The maybe-interesting-for-her-day love interest gets reduced too quickly to arm candy after a promising beginning. And the climax resolves less than I'd like.
I enjoyed parts of it a good bit as a flashback to an earlier time, but it didn't hold up for me through the end, and I found myself dragging for the last quarter.
I may be the last hardboiled fan not to have seen much of True Detective (it's hard to watch when you have younger kids around), so this is all I have to go on from Pizzolatto. I've read a few genre novels recently, and this is far and away the strongest: he writes with real skill in contrasting periods, and he creates a character who seems haunted in the most interesting of ways.
As far as the plot, it feels like an update on Les Miserables, but -- trusting that isn't a spoiler -- you don't notice until it's all over.
The reading starts out a little slow, but the voice is overwhelming: Orson Welles with a trace of a Southern accent.
I've withheld a fifth star only because the ending is a bit abrupt and, to my taste, a little out of step with the flavor of the rest of the novel. Still, this is a very talented guy, and I'll get to True Detective as soon as I can get those kids to sleep.
This is solid stuff with a newspaper reporter detective who sits at the center of everything and has more of it his own way than is good for anyone. It has a few twists and turns (and leaves a few loose ends open) and I enjoyed it to the end as I guessed some and got blind-sided by others. The Providence details definitely add to the whole, but I'm not burning to read any next installments.
That said, the reading is exceptional -- just the right hint of a New England accent and a good, engaging speed.
This book turned out to be exactly what I expected: a well-written, deeply imagined Napoleonic world that explores the what-if of dragons serving as an air force in the time of Nelson's navy.
That said, this book was not quite what I hoped for: something that would offer surprises beyond its clever premise. Novik writes with impressive economy, but it too often felt to me as if, knowing she had a winner of an idea, she stretched it out too thin. In other words, the plot moves remarkably slowly -- not in itself a bad thing -- as if it's trying to beguile you into sitting down for the second, third, fourth, and who knows how many subsequent volumes of the series. I enjoyed it, but I'm not hooked enough to sign up for another ride.
I thought I knew where this was going at the start: in what seemed an interesting but conventional experiment, Fowles used the form of the Victorian novel to encompass the unspeakable passions of an early Modern one; that is, it felt like Jane Austen meeting D.H. Lawrence.I liked that part of the novel well enough, and the narration -- crisp and formal in an upper-class English fashion -- complemented it. I'd just finished reading Austen's Persuasion, so it felt all of a piece.
Then, and I do not want to spoil the wonder with too much detail, the novel turns into something altogether different. It leaps stylistically from 1840 to 1915 to 1970 in massive strides, and it rips you from one aesthetic/moral frame to another. It's disconcerting in what it asks of you, but the effect is brilliant: you're asked as a reader to experience the disorientation of its point-of-view character as he too confronts a radically transforming Victorian world view. And Paul Shelley somehow (and subtly) captures that transformation. I think the speed of his narration picks up, but I can't be certain even there. All I know is that his voice ceases to be as comforting and, at the same time as the bottom of the novel drops out, something in the overall sound becomes more insistent, harder to turn off.
As brilliant as all that is, the novel grows even more complex in its multiple attempts to answer the central mystery confronting that character. The book is both provocatively feminist and misogynistic at the same time; it feels as if it's anticipating your responses and then subverting them, too.
I knew the reputation of the book as one of the major accomplishments of the later 20th century, but couldn't know until finishing it that it lives up to it. I could have stopped half way through and admired it. I had to get to the end to realize how extraordinary an achievement it is.
Mattie's voice is magnificent, and Donna Tartt -- who's got a fine reading voice of her own even though she isn't a professional -- is perfect in bringing it to life. Mattie has a peculiar stiffness, but it's part of what makes her story seem plausible even though it finally isn't. Tartt has the accent and the pacing to make it all come together. You may well know the story -- two renowned movies will do that -- but don't let that stop you from listening to it. The story is fresh and suspenseful, and it opens up a world that seems both far away and still within reach.
This is a great story, and I remembered it pretty well from a high school reading more than 30 years ago. After I couldn't get my son to read it -- he balked after 30 pages -- I thought I'd give it a listen to see if I'd misremembered my appreciation of it.In a nutshell, it's at least as good as I remembered. From the opening scenes with the swineherd and the jester who give the wrong directions to the too-proud Norman knights to the big battle scenes of the climax, the pace and the romance are almost perfect. It's fun as a story, and it's fun to sit back and realize this is the guy who invented the historical romance.I've recently read some Dumas -- similar reputation from a similar era -- and none of it comes close to this. I'll be getting to Rob Roy and the Talisman in the next year or so, and I'm hoping Audible will figure out a way to produce Waverley and some of the others before too long.
This is also a terrific performance. It's understated next to some -- he's reading, not acting as some very good readers do -- but it's always in the service of the story. He builds tension very effectively but it's never rushed nor too slow.
This is a hard book to listen to because it depends so much on her particular, bleak sense of modern American life. I very much admire some of her short stories, and they're a skeleton key for me in beginning to understand this. She calls it a "comic novel," and there are clearly parts that could be funny. In the context of this God-forsaken world, though -- and "Godforsaken" has a particular if difficult sometimes to parse meaning in O'Connor's works -- nothing is really funny. It's a lot of suffering brought on by incomplete understanding of the possibility for salvation. As a Jew, I admire the intensity of the work, but I can't say it speaks to me entirely.
The reader was fabulous, giving real character to different voices.
Of course, he's a master. But I believe his real mastery came just after this with Mao II and then Underworld.
I'm glad I read this, and it can be compelling, but I have three complaints in the face of its general excellence:
1) To appreciate this in full, you have to know a lot of the individuals purported to be involved in the assassination controversy. Wikipedia helped, I'm sad to say, and I enjoyed the book more when I realized that some of the minor figures were historical as well.
2) James Ellroy ultimately does the deep cynicism here better than does DeLillo. His American trilogy covers a lot of the same ground with an even more devastating flamethrower.
3) DeLillo really finds his voice, for me, with Mao II. You see some of the same insights here in nascent form -- the sense that the terrorist shapes our public consciousness more fully than the artist -- but he doesn't sharpen them until his follow-up.
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