This was a wonderful book, so complex and heartfelt. The comparisons to "To Kill a Mockingbird" are apt in that a young boy learns about his life and his family through experiencing a crime. His father is a judge on a Native American reservation.
Well deserving of the National Book Award.
The reader is a Native American actor, I think, which is great, because he speaks with a cadence that is distinctly from that cultural background. The reason it takes getting used to is that this sort of cadence puts emphases on other parts of the sentence than we are used to hearing from other actors who read audiobooks. It was odd at first, but after getting used to the style, I really enjoyed his performance and I think it added a needed authenticity.
What a well written book for young people! I am an adult and enjoyed it immensely even though I think it would be best for 5th - 9th graders. Especially those interested in science or engineering, but really anyone who just wants to know about history.
I knew very little about the subject of the Manhattan Project and I would not be interested in an entire adult book on this subject, so this was perfect. The author keeps the suspense going as if it is a spy novel, which is basically is, except it is all true!
After finishing this I went right to the Internet and looked up all these people and places for more information. The actual book gives great timelines and further resources and photos, but the audio is great just for the absorbing story.
Another dysfunctional family saga, but this one is very cleverly written and even though none of the characters are particularly likable, they are all quite human and the author shows great sympathy for their struggles.
The Middlesteins is aptly named: they are middle America, middle class, and suffering from every average American angst you can think of. The Jewish aspect is well-played and not overdone. The comedy parts are not done broadly--they are just funny. It would be a good movie, I think. It is a character based novel and the characters are complex and the author writes with pathos about them.
The reader is excellent. My only complaint is that I felt the book could have been longer. It is sort of like a short version of a book by Jonathan Franzen. We could have understood these people more if she had another hundred pages about them.
I can't place why this book seemed to be so draggy--I have read all the other three in the series and The Giver was so good, I was hoping for more from this. I think perhaps the author simply chose to write for a 4th grade audience and kept her vocabulary and situations at that level. There was a great deal of over-explanation and repetition that an adult reader would not appreciate, but certainly it would be good for children.
An example would be something like getting introduced to a character and a fact about him, and then in the next chapter, the same fact is repeated in an different way, like within the narrative, "She remembered that he had lost his mother as a child and therefore..." it just really seemed for younger children than her previous books so I was disappointed.
And there is a lot of suspension of disbelief --not because it takes place in an alternate society, but because certain things seem too unlikely even within that society.
The narrator has a sort of odd, cheery tone, particularly in the beginning, and it is clear she is trying to channel the freakishly happy dystopian society, so there is a reason for it, however, it was somewhat annoying to me.
I was also not satisfied with the ending as I think it was resolved very quickly and artifically. I believe Lowry is a good enough writer to be able to have made the ending more complex.
The narrator of this book had such a difficult job because there were so many various foreign words to overcome, but he did his job perfectly--as if he knows German, French and Japanese himself.
The lyrical writing is really beautiful and the meditation on the nature of family, history and art makes this book memorable. It builds up to the climax of what we all know will happen to Jews of Europe, but the set up is masterful and conjures up a bygone era so masterfully.
I recommend looking at the book too because there is a really useful family tree in the front of it that is quite helpful. There are also photos that the author included of his family and they help explain the story.
Kudos to Michael Maloney, who is a wonderful narrator.
A lot of historical research went into this book, and the author's note at the end is the most interesting part of the book. He imagines that Columbus, who was a very mysterious man in real life, was actually a committed Jew, and was responsible for hiding very important Jewish artifacts on the island of Jamaica during his lifetime. I was ok with the unlikely premise, but the plot holes were just too much for me to overlook. When stuff happens like, speeding away from bad guys in a car that seems to show up from nowhere, (that would have been an easy set up!) or being able to watch a video of a car chase a continent away (the camera seems to have been held by the driver?), it got a bit corny. The relationship between father and daughter is strained (she hates him, and is so mean and stupid, the listener wishes her kidnappers would just do her in already) and gets resolved in the end very neatly.
The narrator is good except he has to perform a few accents, and not all of them are successful. He does fine for the Jamaican, and perhaps the Spanish, but for some reason he thinks the Austrian girlfriend is from Russia, and I have no idea where the Israeli ambassador is supposed to be from, but...those accents are always hard for actors, I think. I do commend him on the proper pronunciation of the Hebrew and Jewish terms, because these things are usually horribly mangled, and I always fault publishers for not doing homework in that regard.
I think people who generally like thrillers will think this moves along well and they would enjoy it for the genre and the interesting historical facts, but, for me, I will stick with a different kind of fiction from now on.
I didn't care for this book mostly because it was predictable in the story arc and did not engage me with the characters because they seem to be "types" rather than true people. The cleverness of the new idea for the future dystopic society will be what draws the reader to the book--especially after The Hunger Games, which is pretty close to the this one in many ways, but with better writing.
Beatrice, the main character, is constantly cheating death or maiming by a hair--and even, after a month or two of practice, beating many larger and better young men at fighting or boxing or jumping off cliffs, etc. It reads like a feminist heroine Angelina Jolie movie star, but she is supposed to be more like Katniss, I guess.
The teen girls will love it--it is about girl power and brooding, mysterious teenage boys--also with little character development.
Very long, rather unrelentingly violent. Get ready for the movie version. This is the first of a trilogy.
The book contains 4 stories of 4 different women, sort of like "The Help" because each one is voiced by a different actress. The best one was the older woman character (forgot her name) voiced by Tovah Feldshuh. The first woman character was flat and not compellingly read in my opinion.
I am familiar with the Jewish/Hebrew terms used throughout this book and I was surprised when a couple of the narrators got some pronunciations wrong. Why would the producers let this happen? It is so annoying! Really, it is not that hard to have someone check this before giving to the reader. It takes you out of the narrative when you are listening.
As far as the plot of the book, it is slow and builds up to the ending that everyone already knows, because everyone knows what happened at the top of Masada. But Hoffman sets up all the pieces well so that by the end, even though I think the book could have been edited down about 80 pages and still been fine, it was a satisfying ending. I was riveted by the last two discs, but before that, it took a bit of time to care about the characters. I did not mind the magic/witchcraft stuff mostly because it was historically accurate and it was not really supernatural particularly, it was just the way they believed at the time.
Some could fault some of the over-reaching prose that takes on a Biblical feel and can be over-the-top in descriptions of feelings. I certainly noticed that flaw but ignored it.
I think the author did an admirable job in setting and place and making you feel the stifling conditions of the book. She even did not necessarily consider these ancient zealots to all be heroes as the "Masada Myth" makes them out to be in our time. They were a complex group of individuals who were not all good--they also committed atrocities as their enemies did.
All in all, a worthwhile choice for those who like brooding, dark history with a feminine perspective.
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