Maugham's story is dated but no doubt true to its time, and for that reason sad and believable. His sympathy for the dull and restricted lives that many women were expected to endure is tempered by his disgust at the superficiality, racism and timidity of the British upper classes. This tale is a true social and political portrait of an era, and as creepily modern as it is time-worn.
You could not make this stuff up. You absolutely could not sit down and dream up these lives and fortunes (and misfortunes). If you're on the fence about God and miracles and your own raison d'etre, well, this collection will make you a believer in SOMETHING, if only the power of memory and the extraordinary mysteries of every life. Be brave. Dig in.
You'll never forget this memoir. And you've never read anything even close to it. Never. It gives a whole new meaning to "dysfunctional family." It would be impossible to overstate the sheer miracle of the author's survival of her childhood. It's easier to think of her parents as fictional characters and it's truly hard to believe the things that happened to her except that it would be even harder to make the stuff up. Nothing is really gruesome (through the grace of God, mostly) but endlessly astounding. You could not imagine this childhood, therefore it MUST be true. Don't listen to this if you have to do anything more complicated than walk the dog. It's just too absorbing. As an added bonus, it is often funny and cumulatively heartening. It's the kind of book you want your friends to read, so you can have somebody to vent your amazement with.
This is the very best way to learn your history lessons: take it with a fascinating story that spawns no end of twists, characterological and otherwise. An extraordinary tale that leaves you no easy place to stand and, like every important story, forces you to examine your own ideas about all the big things, God included.
If you like this genre, you have to love Ann Rule. She is incomparable at amassing and organizing a vast amount of information and then presenting it in a narrative that moves sure-footedly through suspense, tragedy and resolution. Three stars are not due to the author's writing, but the CRIME of abridging a story that cannot sacrifice details without choppiness and confusion in places. Boo hiss on abridging!
Emma is Austen's most wrong-headed character, and her development into a woman needing forgiveness and becoming truly lovable is deeply engaging. The wonderful Nadia May reads flawlessly and, as ever, does justice to this excellent novel.
The fabulous Nadia May brings Austen's characters to life with her nuanced reading. This is the version to buy. Delicious!
Trial By Jury is a book that entertains and educates. Burnett is modest about his role as the jury foreman in a murder trial and the deep sense of responsibility he brought to the role. This should be required reading for students at the high school or college level. It is a frightening prospect of how easily the work of a jury can go awry were it not for the willingness of a few good souls willing and able to take the work seriously. Four stars only because I struggled to grasp the facts of the crime itself, but that may well be part of the message and no fault of anyone's. A quibble. This is an important work as well as fascinating. I could only imagine the disintegration that might've happened, had the jury not been able to reach a verdict after four days. Like every good and important work, this account raises more questions than it settles.
Ann Rule knows how to tell a story. She amasses the facts and carefully organizes the details into a compelling, coherent tale that must be heard to the end. Even minor characters are memorable. Ann Rule's books are studies in human development and nature, what can go wrong in some people who still appear so attractive on the surface, and the extraordinary heroism of others, who also may appear ordinary. Her beat is the whole human circus. She is never sensationalizing or insensitive to human suffering, even when it ultimately produces monsters. The fascination is how hugely human beings can misread each other and how complex we are. Four stars only because it was an "open & shut case" compared to Green River, and no real surprises.
I love this genre but the writer of the book needed an editor, desperately. And, the audio production was very sloppy. Numerous re-reads of sections, very jarring, and contributing to the already over-long telling of the tale. Brevity is the soul of wit. I love details but this lacks tautness and discriminations between what to include and what is just windy. The author inserts herself into the story late in the day and can't seem to tear herself away -- it is not about her. Ultimately the reader drowns in the numbing details of DNA and genetic science and gets tired of the whole story.
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