The title of this book refers to goon squads, which are used to attack and intimidate people. The author uses the title as a metaphor for time, which according to her is as ruthless as a goon squad. Time is a thug that steals your youth, energy, creativity and finally, your life.
This book is playfully structured like a record album but instead of 13 songs we get 13 intertwining short stories narrated by 13 different people. Because of the many narratives, it’s hard to summarize the entire book. Each story is a snapshot from a pivotal moment in a narrator’s life. Each character connects, in some way or another, to other characters in the overall story. The stories are not told in chronological order; they jump to different decades and different cities.
Many of the characters are disturbingly self-destructive; others are predatory and sleazy. The poor choices each character makes at a young age will steer them on sordid trajectories and the resulting repercussions will reverberate long into their lives as adults and old age and into the lives of their children. I realize this sounds extremely depressing but surprisingly, it’s not! In fact, at times, it’s wickedly funny. I attribute this to the clever writing of Jennifer Egan. The humor in the book juxtaposes the debauchery and it makes for a fast, clean read.
Every character in this book struggles with change, time passing and aging. The author accelerates and intensifies that struggle by presenting it in an industry obsessed with youth. The music industry revolves around the culture of youth. More than any other art form, rock n’ roll clings to a “live fast, die young” mentality. Don’t suffer through old age. At one point a washed up record executive’s daughter tells him, “This is the music business. Five years is five HUNDRED years.”
Our time here is short; we all have regrets, all of us. The one thing we all have in common is we are all going to get old eventually. Hopefully we will also grow up before we grow old.
Ludicrous plot. Unbelievable characters. The writing is so bad it made me cringe. The plot is full of so many cheesy cliches it could been a Harlequin Romance parody if it was written with even the smallest bit of wit and humor. Save your money.
This might be a great book, but I will probably never be able to force myself to finish listening to it. Why? I could barely focus on the story because the narrator sounds like she is wearing a nose plug. I don't know if it was that is how her voice really sounds or if the recording equipment somehow distorted her voice.
Narrator has a very Stuffy Nose. She sounds like she has cotton packed in her sinuses.
Annoyance. Frustration. Disappointment.
The narrator of this audiobook was phenomenal! Very authentic! Although is is a very bleak subject, the narrator keeps the story from being unbearably heartwrenching.
My favorite character was the narrator, Death. The idea to have Death narrate this story provides us with a very unique and clever perspective. Who knew Death was such a charming, kind and likable gentleman? It goes against every stereotype we have of Death! He is wise, kind and compassionate. Death does not want people to die. Death does not cause people to die. Death exists only because people do die. It is Death’s neverending job to carry away a person’s soul after it has separated from the body. Death jumps right past foreshadowing and lets us know ahead of time which characters will die, this really alleviates a lot of the agonizing dread and distress of the subject matter.
What a unique and creative book! I could not put it down. This story is told in masterful, beautiful language, surreal metaphors and lush imagery that held me completely captivated. Language plays such a very important role in this story. When the story starts, the main character, Liesel, a young Jewish girl, is illiterate. As she slowly learns to read, books offer her a much needed escape from her suffering and misery. Alternatively, Liesal is enlightened with a new understanding of the destructive power of words, most notably Hitler’s hateful speeches of bigotry and destructive propaganda. Words hold a remarkable power; positive and negative. Books that are opposed to Hitler’s viewpoint are burned in celebratory book burnings. In many ways, the Nazi Holocaust began with hateful, destructive, racist words. Hitler's words manipulate and compel entire Nations to hate Jews, commit unspeakable acts cruelty and to massacre millions of people. On the flip side, words can also heal, inspire compassion, love and understanding. It all depends on how you use your words. Words eventually inspire Liesal to tell her own story which cultivates goodness and love. Where Mein Kampf is the source of misery, death, concentration camps and war, The Book Thief is the gift of hope, compassion, kindness and resilience in the struggle to rise above circumstances when life feels unbearably heartbreaking and harsh.
The beauty we encounter in life and art can make it all worth living.
This novel is a love letter to great art and a literary version of a great painting. As soon as I finished this book, I started it again. It's that good.
The pace of this book is amazing. But you will wish it would never end. It is a story about loss, grief, family, friendship, beauty, existentialism and the power and promise of beautiful art.
One of many the joys of this novel are the visually striking and timeless descriptions of New York City. When the scene shifts to the barren wasteland of suburban Las Vegas, it is a striking contrast. The characters and their stories are conveyed with such beautifully rich detail, they've become real people to me.
There are numerous references and allusions to classic literature woven throughout the book. The most explicit ones are to Charles Dickens and 19th-century Russian novels. Theo might be a modern day Pip (Great Expectations). His artsy mother is named Audrey (Holly Golightly of Breakfast At Tiffany’s). A favorite Central Park bench Theo visits with his mom is the same bench that Holden Caulfield visits in "The Catcher in the Rye". Hobie, a modern day Joe Gargery (Great Expectations), is a kind, gentle man who rehabilitates furniture in a charming antique shop (The Old Curiosity Shop). Theo's streetwise best friend, Boris, is a character reminiscent of The Artful Dodger from "Oliver". Boris spends several paragraphs analyzing Dostoevsky's novel, "The Idiot" and an entire part of the book is titled The Idiot. Boris nicknames our bespectacled protagonist "Potter". This reference creates a sharp contrast between the cute, wholesomeness of Harry Potter with the bleak realism of Theo's life as a lonely orphan. An old, wealthy Manhattan family, the Barbours, personify New York’s posh, seemingly ideal upper-class life. They live in a richly decorated Upper West Side apartment stuffed with priceless furniture and large, dark oil paintings of naval battles. (The Age of Innocence, Great Gatsby).
Art in almost every form is represented in the book: fine art, music, film, literature and even antique furniture restoration. I counted roughly 36 works of classic literature referenced, two-dozen classic films, 20 famous works of fine art and about a dozen iconic musicians and pieces of music. Certain characters in the book find meaning in their life through art and the creative process: Hobie through furniture restoration, Pippa through her music and probably Fabritius through his painting and Donna Tartt through her prose.
The last 10 pages of the novel is not to be missed. It gathers all of the understated subtext about life and art and exposes it to the surface. How does one differentiate the value art v/s the price of art? Or an authentic work of art v/s a counterfeit? Can a work of art truly capture the soul, essence and spirit of life? Can art make life worth living? Is there really free will or is every action determined by causes? Life is harsh, cruel and short; what is the point? What if you do the wrong things in life, but for the right reasons? Maybe the acts we commit out of sincere love, are beyond good and evil. Maybe there is no enlightenment, no ultimate truth, no transcendent divine experience. And maybe the artist's job is not to surrender to the emptiness of this existence, but to find an antidote to counteract that feeling of emptiness. Maybe, hope, even if it is just an illusion, is a good reason to continue. And maybe, just maybe, the beauty we are lucky enough to encounter in life is can make it worth living.
It took ten years for Donna Tartt to finish this book. It was well worth the wait.
After slogging over a third of the way through this long book I did a little research. There seems to be a general consensus that this book is not recommended for anyone who is not already familiar with Tudor history. (That would be me.)
Apparently anyone without a decent background in this particular period of history is likely to be confused and bored by this book because the author leaves so many gapping holes in the story, holes that the reader must fill in with their own knowledge.
Personally, I find this to be an indication of poor writing. If a book requires it's readers have a certain amount of background information on a subject, the book should come with a warning label on the cover and maybe even some other recommended reading material to explore before trying out the book.
I found this book to be a chore and I have given up on it.
A lot of yawning.
This is a great story, but I could only stand to listen to it in small intervals.
Every time this narrator speaks in his overly-exaggerate Southern drawl I feel vaguely ill.
This story takes place in North Carolina. I lived in North Carolina for many years. Most of my family members live in various parts of North Carolina, including the Sandhills, Piedmont, etc.. None of them sound anything like this annoying guy!!
Exaggerated accents are jarring and as off-putting as nails on a chalkboard to people familiar with the accent. What's frustrating is, this is a great plot and such an exciting story but I have to keep shutting it off when I can't take it anymore!
Narrators and actors: if you can't "do" an accent well enough to fool the people from that area, please just speak in your regular speaking voice!
I hope I can eventually finish this book. :(
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