When the rave reviews started for this book, I was dubious. Not my thing. A story about a 19-year-old Iraqi war vet? And from Texas? And a lot happening at a football game? Please give me another English upper-class mystery.
But I want to learn, expand my horizons, understand other people....and my book club agreed to read it. Was I in for a surprise.
Ben Fountain is a magician cleverly disguised as a writer. The reviews said the sentences were elegant, and they were, but they were more than that: they were transformative. The voice of a young decorated war veteran, describing what he had seen and experienced, and what witnessing the death of his closest friend in battle had done to him. Billy's visit to his own family in Texas, how they see him, their relationships, true, real. Billy's head-over-heels meeting with a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader, their sky-rocketing reaction to each other. All the events led up to a conclusion that was not what I expected, but still feels authentic and right.
I've been thinking about Billy Lynn for weeks now. He and Ben Fountain did what great writing is supposed to do. They brought greater understanding and deep sympathy for the book's characters, and a new way of looking at the world. I can honestly say that his is one of the best books I've ever read.
It seemed like a long wait for this book to come out. When it finally did, I started listening within a couple of hours of its arrival. As a fan of the long listen, I was pleased to see that I would have over 17 hours of listening ahead. Now that it's finished, I'll go back to the beginning and listen again. Cormoran Strike and his trusty sidekick Robin, and all their family members, friends, and enemies, are fully drawn as characters, and the dialog is priceless. Robert Glenister's narration, differentiating each character--especially the aging literary agent--is about the best narration I've ever heard, and that's counting some 125 books. And the plot! JK Rowling, writing as Robert Galbraith, proves that she deserves her reputation as an unparalleled creator of ingenious plots. I kept thinking that the end of The Silkworm had to be a disappointment, but not at all. Rowling/Galbraith winds up and delivers a socko ending and resolution to the gruesome mystery. Kudos to all concerned.
C.S. Lewis was a wonderful writer, though his goal of introducing Christian principles to young listeners can be off-putting. It's still a good story, and fun for everyone to listen to on a winter evening.
Might compare this to other good fantasy writing for children, even something like Peter Pan. Very British, from an earlier era of young people's fiction, but a memorably good story with strong characters. Girls may feel that they have been relegated to the roles of a bygone time, but they will still enjoy the plot.
His Britsh voice and elegant diction, plus the vocal changes he brings to each character, make the story come alive.
Not exactly an extreme reaction, just fun and the feeling of having enjoyed a good and entertaining story.
C.S. Lewis was a favorite of mine when I was a child, and my children read them and enjoyed them too. They didn't get to hear the story as their children will, and I hope that will add even more to another generation's fondness for old C.S. Lewis.
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