A historical fiction set in the Victorian era, that is not only a detailed insight into that time, but also a homage to 19th Century fiction, and the emergence of the novel. A time capsule within a time capsule, perhaps. Confused? Intrigued? Listen to this fabulous recording and find out. I should add that the characters are meticulously and delicately explored, and the scenery, as well as the philosophies, moods, and social trends of that time in history, are vividly evoked by a skilled author. I also suggest checking out the film version, made in 1981, which although set in the present time (the 'present time' of the 1980's, that is), provides a delightful slant on the ideas expressed in the novel.
Listening to this book was time spent in an excellent manner. I learnt so much about the 19th Century European study of botany, and experienced the era's fascination with the many new forms of flora and fauna discovered in the so-called 'new world'. I liked how the author depicted the journey of her main character, Alma, towards the discovery of the theory of natural selection that was eventually published by Charles Darwin. It was fascinating to see how several different scientists arrived at this theory around a similar time-frame.The character depiction of Alma Whitaker as a strong-minded independent woman is is also excellent. I like how she has to undergo many hardships and trials of strength in her journey, on a physical, psychological, and emotional level. Unfortunately, not as much attention is paid to other characters, and this is most evident in that the relationships between Alma, her sister Prudence and their friend Rhetta does not feel fully exploredAlso a fault is the novel's blinkered attitude to some very pertinent details about the exploitation of peoples in the Pacific region and the Americas that funded this burst of European discovery and ideas.
This is a little bit like 'Daughter of Fortune' by Isabelle Allende purely for its spirit of adventure. It also reminded me of Delia Falconer's 'In The Service of Clouds' in the way that it romanticises the study of plant biology by connecting it to the frenetic energy of the times.
Her voice is very well modulated, and she is good at putting expression into the text she is reading, and well as adopting a variety of different voices for characters.
A less dispassionate narrator; one who puts more expression and feeling into the work.
He read too slowly, and there was very little expression in his voice. It was delivered in a flat, unemotional style. This was not engaging and I quickly lost interest in the story.
Eucalyptus has an intriguing plot and I liked learning about all the different types of gum trees. I didn't like the way the female character seemed to be helplessly under the spell of the male character, and the endless stories he told seemed to have little to do with each other or anything in the novel. It was a bit like watching one unrelated youtube clip after another, and having your brain fill up with meaningless images. Perhaps this was partly because of the way it was narrated.
The narrator is also a respected theatre actor and director, and perhaps in this context he is very good at what he does. In this audiobook, however, and in others that I've listened to samples of, he does not have a captivating voice, nor does he give life to the stories he tells. A very disappointing experience.
A better quality audio recording.
I have loved this novel since I read it years ago. 'Agnes Grey' it is a coming of age novel, of a sorts, about a young woman trying to gain independence and prove herself as a capable contributor to her family. The strong spirited protagonist faces all sorts of perils in her work as a governess to a variety of families, illuminating the many difficulties experienced by young women with an uncertain status in society.
Unfortunately, this lovely book was not enjoyable to listen to. The narrator has a very pleasant voice, but the recording quality is poor. If you turn the volume up enough to hear it, there are parts of it that are far too loud. Yet when you try to turn it down a notch, there are entire sentences which are barely discernible. All in all, very disappointing. So while I recommend this book for it's writing style, plot, and themes, I would not recommend this particular audio version.
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