I was surprised how much I loved this book. The story is old fashioned and a little choppy, but the main character is so decent and likable it's hard not become engaged with her life decisions.
When I was young, I was a big fan of boarding school stories this book is from the perspective of the head of such a school. Another plus for me.
If you're looking for a gentler type of book, but not one that's insipid, I highly recommend this.
I only "discovered" DE Stevenson recently, but I have enjoyed many of her books several times over. This offering will not make my re-listen list. It seems as if DE collected scrap ends from different stories that just didn't make it into a more robust novel. It's not to say it's not gentle and somewhat enjoyable, but the heroine has almost no character and her foray in the hat-selling business seems dated, even as it was written.
A better DE Stevenson book about a young woman leaving a sheltered life is "Listening Valley."
If you're looking for something not terribly hard to follow with no big surprises or alarming plot turns, this could fit the bill. (And I'm not being sarcastic, sometimes a quiet book is needed.) It should be noted that this book puts forth a few more stereotypes and recycled characters than usual.
The narrator, Hilary Neville, does her usual excellent job.
I am a new fan of the long-established DE Stevenson, and this offering is one of her best as far as main characters go. The development of Tonia -- from her beginnings as a shy school girl into her young adulthood -- is believable and satisfying.
The story itself is a bit choppy, and seems like two stories mushed together. It's either that the WW II aspect of the novel that is plunked into place after the middle, or the school days are glued on to the beginning -- I can't decide. Despite this bit of a disconnect, the story held my interest, overall, and Tonia is a thoroughly decent character with a pure heart.
The narration is smooth as silk and unwinds effortlessly. It's a good bedtime listen, from both content (nothing too rousing) and narration.
While characters and settings are used repeatedly in Stevenson's works, this book functions as a stand-alone novel.
This book is built on over reliance of period detail. The author seemingly took two events that were easy to research (San Francisco earthquake and JFK inauguration) and built stories outwardly from that, rather than upon interesting characters. Claire's story in particular is full of endless minutia about the food, the clothes, the furnishings of the early 1960s that the resulting story is very thin. Anchored by their settings, the characters fail to become interesting on their own.
As others have noted, narration is a coin toss. I didn't mind her but she is. very. precise. and. enunciates. every. word.
If you have ever read Nancy Mitford's wonderful "Pursuit of Love" you'll find a clumsy homage in this book -- and some elements are practically identical. Other inspirations for this book seem to be the mediocre "Maisie Dobbs" series, the "Poor Relation" series and Dorothy L. Sayers. I'm not saying that authors cannot be inspired by other works -- but these echoes distract from what could be a more singular experience.
Regarding the book itself, the mystery takes too long to get going and Georgie isn't a strong enough character to carry the novel part of the book. If I hadn't read the above books, I'd probably like this one more.
I found the reader very hard to listen to. Regardless of the book's action, all the dialog and narration seems to have the same choppy, semi-intense cadence. This is the first time I've encountered this phenomenon but it made the book almost unlistenable, for me at least.
This is one of my favorite Inspector Wexford books. While the book was written in the mid-80s, the story holds up very well today.
One of the beauties of Rendell's work is that while her characters grow and develop, you don't have to read the books in order. There are no spoilers between books.
The narrator is well suited to the story and to the character of Wexford. (I don't like all the narrators for the series; I wish Michael Bryant was available for more.)
Note: the narration on the actual file sounds better than the preview.
This is one of my favorite Ruth Rendell books, and the audio rendering is terrific. John Lee is the best Wexford narrator, in my opinion.
The story has complexity, and the central characters are particularly rich in this book. You don't need to read the Wexford books in order (no spoilers between books) but the characters do age and evolve over time, which makes the Inspector and his companions much less like cardboard cutouts and more like real people who happen to have jobs solving crimes.
The fact that I've re-listened to this mystery more than once is indicative of the appeal of a great main character (Robyn Ballantyne) and the great reader (Kate Reading.) Robyn's story is equally -- if not more compelling -- than the mystery that is at the core of the book. I wish Catherine Sampson would write another beyond the two books in this series. I would get it in a snap.
I've listened to this complex book several times; it's that good. A rich and rewarding story.
It's also a book where the narrator brings so much life and depth to the narration that it is equal to (and I might even say superior to) the printed work, which I also read. Jameson does a wonderful job with the characters and nuances of the story.
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