****?Are all Audible productions of this book created equally? If they are, and you listen to the same recording I did, you are going into this novel without some fascinating information --Ripley Believe It or Not, Guinness Book of World Record fascinating -- provided by the author in a letter to the reader/listener at the beginning of the book. Francine Prose writes about an actual black and white photo she saw at an exhibition that served as the inspiration for this novel: "Lesbian Couple at Le Monocle, 1932" by famous Hungarian photographer Brassaï, taken at club Le Monocle in Montmartre, Paris. The provocative photo shows a pair of female lovers sharing a table, one dressed as a male in a tuxedo. Captivated by the image (*which you can Google easily) Prose began researching the photo, finding out about the subjects, the Le Monocle, the patrons, and the period of frivolity that seemed to be driven to excesses by the darkening threat of WW II. The provenance of the photo alone is riveting, but for a author with a such creative mind, the eyes looking out from that B&W must have demanded more from her.
The cross-dresser in Brassaï's photo is the infamous Violette Morris; a French athlete that excelled in all athletic events from boxing to track and field. When she began competing in motorcycle and sports car races she had a double mastectomy to make it easier for her to slide behind the steering wheel. Some of her records still stand and were earned competing against men as well as women, even in heavy-weight boxing (Violette was a 5'5" and 150 lbs. wolverine). She was the only female to ever make the all-male French National Water Polo Team. Eventually, Violette was banned from competing in any athletics, (because of her cross-dressing and lesbianism) including the 1928 Olympics, which she dreamed of and worked for. She became a mechanic, then drove an ambulance on the front lines for her country. Her lustrous career waned, then darkened completely when she was recruited by a Nazi spy, and invited personally by Hitler to participate in the 1936 Berlin Olympics (where she won 2 gold, 1 silver, medals). In an act most likely of revenge, Violette quickly moved through the ranks to become one of Hitler's most notorious operatives, known as "The Hyena of the Gestapo" for her ability to uncover those involved in the Resistance, and her enthusiastic torture of her former countrymen. She was ambushed while on a drive in one of her sports cars, the car completely riddled with machine gun fire, the British and French Resistance the suspected executioners. Her body was never claimed; she was buried in a common grave. **** whew! now on to my review...
* * * * *
Prose has combined the intriguing history with an original concept, reconstructing it into a seductive fictional story written with force and beauty. Without compromising the integrity of the facts or moralizing, she creates a mystery that is just as much a parable, with profound moral questions that are never far from the surface. As a reader you are transported to the exotic left bank of the Seine, and through the streets that Henry Miller described as "capable of transforming the negativity of reality of life into the substantial and significant outlines of art," "surrounded by the men and women of Matisse." A secret password, 'Police! Open up!' throws open the doors to the fictional Chameleon Club and the patrons seeking refuge from society's imposed gender barriers. Alive with flamboyant color, the club is a decadent haven for *glorious peacocks,* women dressed like men, 'bankers and diplomats whose wives might not know they like to go out and dance in heels,' (and where perhaps Josephine Baker's infamous diamond-collared cheetah may have terrorized the orchestra). Ensconced into a leather booth, tucked against a sleek modern beauty, sits the tuxedo-clad Louisianne *Lou* Villars (Violette Morris).
Prose's characters are alive and vibrant, which they actual were in their historical incarnation, and as a skilled author, she inhabits them completely without overlapping any personal nuances. The owner of the Chameleon Club is an Hungarian blonde beauty, always dressed in red, known as Yvonne. A throaty voiced chanteuse with a penchant for sailors, and a large pet chameleon named Louis, that lives in a terrarium in her room -- she is the master of ceremonies to the menagerie of colorful characters that gather at her club and lend their voices to the alternating narratives: the Hungarian photographer Gabor Tsenyl (Brassaï); his American friend/writer/womanizer Lionel Maine (Henry Miller); the wealthy patron of the artists, a French Baroness by-way-of-Hollywood, Baroness Lily de Rossignol; her husband Baron Rossignol, owner of the Rossignol automobile dynasty, a gay man that prefers Swedish boys to his lovely wife; and an assorted artistically advantaged ensemble not seen since Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris. Looking back at the events from current time, and writing the biography of Lou Villars, is Nathalie Dunois, a neutrotic distant relative of photograper Gabor's wife. From their letters and narratives the reader must solve the mystery of Lou's evolution. Each has their own experience of Lou, their own perspective. With differing versions, the reader is faced with deciding whether any of these inherently limited truths account for a totality of truth about Lou and her transformation from Catholic schoolgirl to Hitler's favorite Gestapo operative.
I was conflicted about a rating. Prose is definitely one of the finest contemporary writers I've read, but the introduction of these characters is detailed, a long demanding portion of the book (almost half). The intoxication of 30's Paris, the pandemonium in the club, the luminous characters and their complex stories, all make for some tricky footwork just to keep pace. This is not text you just ingest -- you have to chew on it, digest it. You don't just easily slide in and ride along. So I battled with that 5* rating...then looked back at the Nabokov quote the author uses as her lead-in to this novel...
❝Between the wolf in the tall grass and the wolf in the tall story there is a shimmering go-between.❞ [That go-between, that prism, is the art of literature." from Nabokov's Lectures on Literature.] He continues ..."a wise reader reads the book of genius not with his heart, not so much with his brain, but with his spine. It is there that occurs the telltale tingle..."
You could say that 5th star was a victim of the telltale tingle. Lover's at the Chameleon Club is a book of tingly genius; just imagining Montparnasse during the early twentieth century -- this crossroads of artistic revolution, with Stravinsky, Copland, Picasso, Duchamp, Chagall, Diaghilev, Hemingway -- French intellectuals Proust, Sartre...I was already primed with a tingle. Absolutely, Prose created a prismatic and hypnotic novel, but a grand portion of that colorful magic was provided by history, and a black and white photo...and that is where I place my fifth star. Beyond the story, or within the story, I felt Prose incorporated a parable that provides some eternal wisdom: the parable implies that even though one's subjective experiences can be true, theirs doesn't account for other truths, or the totality of truth. There is some relativism to truths, or 'an inexpressible nature of truth,' a deficit that requires communicate and respect for different perspectives. History (and sometimes fiction) is a great teacher, and Lovers at the Chameleon Club a great book.
Highly recommend with the suggestions to persevere, and to look up Violette Morris (if you have any time left after this reading this looong review.) I appreciate your time and hope you enjoy this book as much as I did.
It's been great being able to pick up books at such easy-on-the-wallet prices through the Audible Daily Deal. Thanks! Audible, and I hope it's an on-going feature. I'm able to pick up a couple of books I've wanted to *maybe* read; I'm always willing to shell out a couple of dollars on a *maybe*...$20-plus?...not so much. Crooked Letter was one of those I wanted to read when it was first published in 2010, but I had mixed feelings. I wasn't getting the same 5 star reviews from people I talked with.
Having finally listened, I enjoyed the book. Franklin is a good story-teller that keeps his story tight and moving forward -- no dangling little complications lost along the way, and no padding needed to juice it up. He is also a very fine writer. His descriptions are succinct and detailed without flourish. The plot, as outlined in detail throughout the many reviews, is believable, entertaining, and well thought out. I will probably browse through Franklin's other books for those times I just want someone to tell me a story.
The plot was a little predictable to me -- I hate when that happens, it takes away the enjoyment of having to continuing on when you've already figured it out. Kevin Kenerly was a good narrator for this, entertaining with his different accents and immersion into the story.
Overall a very entertaining (albeit predictable) story for a pleasant day of multi-tasking (between inside spring cleaning, and outside yard clean-up!).
“I used to command those boys,” Longstreet said. “Difficult thing to fight men you used to command.” Lee said nothing.
I just finished reading this great book and realized that it was 150 years ago this year, this month, that the Civil War ended after 4 years of fighting. This watershed event had me thinking a little more deeply about what I'd read, and why this book felt significant.
While sticking to researched history, author Shaara stays true to the facts as we know them, but has the characters tell their own part of the story. This unique format creates an intimacy
between the narrators and the listener. Whether they are commanding their men in the role of a leader, or alone in reflection, pouring out heart-sick confessions and doubts, you feel connected to them, a part of the events. It was spellbinding, hearing General James Longstreet's quiet doubts about Robert E. Lee's insistence to attack, and his turmoil as he ordered his men up the hill to what he felt would be certain death...the many conflicts are felt in your gut, and tear at your heart.
We learn the names of the battles and commanders, as well as the numbers in school. Some of the information we retained and regurgitated for tests: Antietam - 26,134 casualties, Chickamauga - 34,624 casualties, Gettysburg - 51,112 casualties, a total of 620,000 died. This is the first book on this subject that has made me understand the immensity of those numbers and facts by emphasizing that these were men willing to give up their own lives for the freedom of other men.
I can't give you comparisons to many books on the subject, so far I've read fewer than I intend to. This book was an experience the author allowed me to share with the past, and for that reason it stands out.
The epistolary history of the Civil War shows us that the speech of the time was flowery, emotional and dramatic; therefore, the dialogue reflects that well and not overly so. My opinion is that Stephen Hoye did a very good job interpreting the dialogue in the context of the times. I don't know if all versions of this book have this fantastic introduction (?) but I would certainly make sure! I thought the introduction, read by the author, was exceptionally interesting and set the tone of importance to the content to follow. Very highly recommend.
* I recall my grandfather watching the series Johnny Yuma on TV -- I can still remember, "Johnny Yuma was a rebel, he rode through the West"...a catchy little song. I was memorizing The Gettysburg Address for some elementary school grade; he told me Johnny Yuma was about The Gettysburg Address (at least that's how my young brain understood his comments). I can still recite The Gettysburg Address after all these years (but I can't remember my kids birthdays). I now understand a little more clearly the weight of those words, the many sacrifices that were made.
My sister-in-law and I share books, since we have similar tastes. In our latest conversation I suggested a few I'd just finished -- she gave me Their Eyes Were Watching God.
Uhhh...I have to admit, it was not one I wanted to read, and had in fact removed it from my TBR list. Why? Because I tried to watch the Harpo Production in 2005 and didn't feel it (hated it; nod to Sandy's review). The production felt like a piece extrapolated from art twisted for a motive. There was a sense of arrogance to the production, like that you feel when someone thinks they can improve on great art, and goes on to disprove that haughtiness by giving Mona Lisa a bigger smile. I feel vindicated for my harsh opinion -- I don't like to feel like a meany -- by the reviews I just read concerning that debacle:
"Catering to its TV audience, the film largely avoided the more controversial themes of race, gender, and power. "[Wikipedia]
Karen Valby of Entertainment Weekly comments, "While the book chews on meaty questions of race and identity, the movie largely resigns itself to the realm of sudsy romance."
New York Times critic Virginia Heffernan writes, "the film is less a literary tribute than a visual fix of Harlequin Romance: Black Southern Series—all sensual soft-core scenes and contemporary, accessible language."
*ouch-ouch-ouch* My purpose in bringing this up is that I had been so turned against this book I was never going to read it, and what a shame. Maybe this will change someone else's mind that turned the channel that day back in 2005.
But, when my sis-in-law said it was her favorite book of all time, I'm always excited to get a recommendation that someone is passionate about. Oh; not Proust, Nabokov, etc., those tomes that intellectuals can discuss together for years...I know they are great gifted writers. I've read them, I get it. But, I can't help but have an affection for the rare humble books that seem to be less about an author's abilities, and more a revelation from their heart. The kind of book so beautiful in its simplicity that it's a piece of the writer's soul that resonates in the reader. Those are the gems you find just once in a while; TEWWG is one of those rarities.
I'm not going to even attempt to describe the book; it would all feel like hyperbole that would cheapen my experience. 10 people can stand in front of a painting and see it differently; read a book and give a different * rating; sip a wine and give you everything from sooty, woodsy, to fruity. If I would have missed this book, I'd have missed one of the best *reading* experiences I've ever had. My caveat here is: I listened to Ruby Dee read this and that made all the difference in the world. Hurston's words come through Dee, and it was amazing. When I think back, I could almost swear my memories are from being in this place with these people -- not just listening to a book. I'll warn that in some spots it's hard to understand Miss Dee, just because she is speaking in the vernacular of another time, another culture (1937) and I don't hear well with one ear.
*FYI: I never did figure out the name...it's Tea Cake, yes it is.
2014 Winner of the Man Booker Prize. Flanagan wrote The Narrow Road to the Deep North, inspired to do so by his father, who was a Japanese POW. The book tells the story of the building of a 258 mi. railway connecting Burma and Thailand through terrain that the British government had declared impossible when the land was under their reign prior to the Japanese invasion. In addition to the almost impenetrable jungles, oppressive heat and humidity, the route would require over 600 bridges. After the Japanese invaded and seized Burma, they needed a new route that would eliminate the 2,000 mi sea route that left their supply ships vulnerable to attacks from the Allied Forces, and the Burma Death Rail project began. Flanagan's father survived the brutal forced labor on the Death Railway, but sadly died at age 98 on the day the novel was finished.
The story focuses primarily on Dr. Dorrigo Evans beginning with his early string of affairs until he meets the love of his life, his uncle's new wife, whom he is tragically separated from by the beginning of the war. Early in the listening, I thought it a little confusing following Dorrigo's liasons, and on occasion, even disturbing because of his objectification of women. This is the early, young Doctor who still is to be tempered by his experiences in the war camps.
I had to do a little research, that ended up helping me understand the Dr.'s role at the camp. He was the officer that communicated with the Japanese and Korean soldiers, the angel of life and death that was responsible to choose the prisoners he thought capable of working each day. Lined up in their tattered clothing, near starvation, suffering from ailments that were just waiting to claim their host's life, they waited to be chosen, then dragged into the jungle and beaten to work faster, harder. He was also the doctor that tried to save their lives, working with nothing but stolen and contributed items: pieces of cloth, a little fuel, a piece of string, a dull blade, a saved ball of sour rice, a stolen egg. I thought the following information fascinating and in this context, appalling:
From the Geneva Convention 1929, co-undersigned by HRH The Emperor of Japan
CHAPTER 2. Organization of the Labor: Labor furnished by prisoners of war shall have no direct relation with war operations.
ARTICLE 29: No prisoner of war may be employed at labors for which he is physically unfit.
ARTICLE 30: The length of the day's work of prisoners of war, including therein the trip going and returning, shall not be excessive....
As blatant as they disregarded these concessions, it doesn't compare to the atrocities the Japanese committed against the POWs.
Even in it's unflinching detail of the brutalities, there is a powerful and beautiful feel to this book achieved without flourish. Flanagan with an artful talent, lets us recognize a bit of ourselves in these characters as they endure on the very edge. Amidst the torture, cruelty, death, hunger, the dazzling little acts of fellowship are heartwarming miracles in his hands. Flanagan honors these men that accomplished an awful ordeal. It was enlightening and haunting.
I found the conclusion of the book redemptive -- after I fought back my own vengeful feelings. We hear from the guards and commanders of the camp themselves. Their voices appear throughout the book in bit pieces, and are always powerful looks into the minds of an enemy that saw us as nothing more than *expendable,* but their struggles after the war are fascinating insights to the human psyche. Removed from the role of superiors righteously carrying out their "noble cause", we see the man removed from the evil. Some of them justify their actions, some fear the repercussions, and some come face to face with their deeds and find life unbearable.
Dorrigo is a difficult character; in his war-time role, as a doctor and fellow prisoner, he personifies bravery, strength and compassion. In his civilian life, in the role of man, husband and father, he failed miserably and I struggled with these sections of the book. The narration added a the right touch to a novel deserving of the awards and praise it has received.
A surprisingly disappointing book on about every level. My first thought, at about the 3 minute mark, was this must be a case of different authors with the same name...this can't be the same person that wrote one of my favorites, Water for Elephants, a beautiful and intelligent novel.
This might not have been such a kick to the head if I had read a summary or a review. But blindly ordering (when I saw the *Pre-Order At the Waters Edge by the author of Water for Elephants*), my thought process went something like this: "Awesome! Water for Elephants was one of my favorite books! I liked good old Jake, and I loved Rosie the elephant! Another Sara Gruen?? I'm in!" Even afterwards, seeing the cover and the light watermark of Nessie's tail coiling over Maddie's neck, I thought, or hoped, I was in for a good period piece, Scottish moors and all, from an excellent storyteller.
This is an everybody-in-the-pool kind of book...a red bearded hunky Scottsmen; red-haired bar wenches that make haggis and spell whiskey without an "e"; a female ghost that rises from the Loch; the Bean Nighe (the Scottish version of the Irish banshee) seen wailing and washing the bloodstained clothes of those who are about to die; the beautiful castle secretly owned (wink*wink); and the Loch Ness monster. Representing the United States: the poor little rich socialite, drunk draft-dodging frat boys, the inheritance, lobotomies, ration books, and air-raids. It's a full kettle that boils down to a concoction that's as hard to swallow as Nessie herself. Sara Gruen just might be the good author I thought she was -- but you couldn't tell with this kind of predictable story and clichéd characters, so very different from the well-drawn cast and story of WFE.
This is as close as I've ever come to a Harlequin Romance, or care to (though I do like some of the Harlequin cover art work). And even though it's been a long while since I was in Jr. High, I remember Victoria Holt telling a superior similar kind of story (Bride of Pendorric, anyone?).
Personally, I didn't think Justine Eyre was that bad (I don't know how she read some of this without busting up). My small complaints would be that too often she sounded on the verge of hysterics, and she was inconsistent. She could do a great Scottish brogue/burr, though sometimes it ran away with her into the next character's voice. I'm willing to give her another go. She didn't ruin the story for me -- the story ruined the story for me. If you are expecting another WFE, or anything on that level, I wouldn't bother with this.
Pretend for a moment that this is a forum for ALL opinions, and that sometimes a person is trying to be *helpful* by sharing their personal experience of the book even when they know it probably won't be popular. Hey, that takes guts. I know this will be an unpopular view (WTH...I am getting hammered with the No Help button lately no matter what I write). It's possible to like a book, recommend it, and yet see some areas that may be problematic for some readers. [Ones like me that sometimes have the attention span of Daffy Duck.]
I'm a fan of historic exploration novels -- from Alone on the Ice, Astoria, Dead Wake, Endurance, Savage Harvest, The Last Place on Earth, even this author's very good Blood and Thunder, just to name a few -- and this is a grand one. My only slight complaint (or should I say warning) is that it took 15 1/2 hrs. to gain 2 hrs. of momentum. The details were for the most part necessary and fascinating, but were at times, just more details, 20-30 more pages. The ice of the Arctic sea simply made quick work of all preparations that went on for pages and pages. That's not to say it isn't a terrific listen, and well worth the purchase (and 2/3's the time).
On May 1, 1915, the Lusitania departed from New York on the return leg of her 101st voyage. Six days later, 11 miles off the coast of Ireland, the Lusitania was struck by a German torpedo at 2:10 p.m. and within 18 minutes (the Titanic took 2 hr. 40 min.) the Lusitania slid into the water. A NY newspaper's headline read “A Deed for Which a Hun Would Blush, a Turk Be Ashamed, and a Barbary Pirate Apologize.”
The seeds of disaster may have been sown before the Lusitania even left NY when the Cunard Line and the passengers chose to brush aside the official warnings from the German Embassy. Kaiser Wilhelm had declared 8 months earlier that the North Sea was now a war zone, in which all merchant ships, including those from neutral countries, were liable to be sunk without warning. Adding heft to the facts that Larson presents, are the damning little mistakes and coincidences, plus the what-if's. He strategically lays out the pending disaster and shows how relevant it all is -- how 5 min. either way could have changed history. And, at times it felt like everything conspired against the Lusitania.
Historians have flirted with the notion of a conspiracy orchestrated by Winston Churchill to prod a neutral United States into the war in Europe. While Larsen doesn't set out to prove or disprove that notion, the information he gives does push the reader in one of those directions. Citing comments by King George V: “Suppose they should sink the Lusitania with American passengers aboard?” and Churchill: “For our part, we want the traffic [from America] - the more the better; and if some of it gets into trouble, better still.” And naval historian, the late Patrick Beesly's interview with the Imperial War Museum in London: “there was indeed a plot, however imperfect, to endanger the Lusitania in order to involve the United States in the war.” I suppose a conclusion here calls for a higher form of deductive reasoning than if it looks like a duck, and walks like a duck.
Balancing the facts with the human elements and the political theater, Larson keeps the integrity of history, but gives it an easily held timeline and some pizazz -- even though we know what's coming, Larson's signature is skillful telling that builds anticipation. (Though his talent can occasionally be an impediment, as in having to read over pages of the ship's manifest. The minutiae at times is more a curiosity than it is interesting.)
What happened adds up to more than just a series of horrible coincidences. : Why wasn't there a military escort into the Channel; why was a boat responding to the mayday ordered to turn around; why did *Room 40* not let the Lusitania know the information they had decoded; and...why were approximately four million rounds of U.S.manufactured Remington .303 bullets in the Lusitania's hold? Larsen puts the questions in your mouth, but don't expect him to give any answers. Not a lot of new information, but it's still history like only Larsen does history.
Scott Brick's talents seem well suited reading this kind of book.
Bookstore Proprietor A.J. Fikry has definite tastes in books:
“I do not like postmodernism, postapocalyptic settings, postmortem narrators, or magic
realism. I rarely respond to supposedly clever formal devices…genre mash-ups. Literary
fiction about the Holocaust [is] distasteful -- non-fiction only, please. Literature should be
literature, and genre should be genre, and crossbreeding rarely results in anything
satisfying. I do not like children's books, especially ones with orphans, and I prefer to not
clutter my shelves with Young Adult. I do not like anything over 400 pages, or under 150
He goes on to despise: ghostwritten novels, celebrity memoirs, debuts, chick-lit, poetry, or translations..."this goes without saying--vampires." But, he says, he likes "everything else."
Fikry is a delightfully cantankerous man, a widower, satisfied with drinking his days away while the bookstore withers and dies. That is, until his nest egg, a rare copy of Poe's poetry, is stolen and he realizes he'll be making a living at selling books longer than he had intended. The theft sets off a series of events that broadens his lonely world, and tastes in books. It's like watching the Grinch's heart grow three sizes. Much of his personality is dispensed through his comments on known works of literature, and through little pearls of wisdom he passes along. We find out that in spite of his reading discriminations, Fikry is no misanthropic curmudgeon at all.
The setting for this easy-breezy-love-song-to-reading is the kind of endangered species that is the destination find for any traveling bibliophile, a book-peruser's fantasy -- and very fitting because the book has a fantasy, fairy-tale like quality to it. Fikry's store is the lower floor of the little home he used to share with his wife, located on Alice island. I imagined: a charming cottage type with wood floors and braid rugs, a fireplace with overstuffed chairs to curl up in and test run a few books, a little bell over the front door. The sign over the shop reads:
"No Man Is an Island; Every Book Is a World" and I think most avid readers agree with the sentiment.
At one point, Fikry offers this bit of wisdom:
“You know everything you need to know about a person from the answer to the question: What is your favorite book?” -- I'm still trying to choose just one.
For anyone that loves to read, can't imagine ever being without a book, lists reading as their favorite pastime, this might be your answer (or at least one of them) to Fikry's question.
Scott Brick's narration is a (controversial) matter of taste, like oysters or mushrooms or okra...you like it, or you really really don't. I've listened to books where his voice was well suited for the narration, but here it didn't convey the kind of warmth and charm needed to tell this story.
IF you've wondered about this book, thought about purchasing it when Audible highlighted it a month ago...just do it. *Like a girl*, like a boy, like a YA or an OF, just download it and prepare yourself for a fantastic read, a brilliant experience; but, one you may have to, may want to, take twice. Even those savvy readers who can follow a twisting plot like a hungry cat on a mouse are going to be tossed in a special way. That's why all these reviews let you know right off that they can't tell you a thing (except you'll probably need a tissue.)
[Did you see the movie "The Usual Suspects;" do you remember the shocking end where everything you thought you knew was turned on its head? When Keyser Söze straightens his limp and walks erectly across the street, letting you know that everything was hiding in plain sight all along? And you watched the whole movie again just to shake your head and see it in a new light? That's this experience.] We can't tell you more or we'd have to kill you...
The book is constructed so cleverly with such elegance that you won't see the end coming, though it was always there over you like a sledge hammer. And when it hits you, and it will, you'll realize the force of the story and the talent of this author. You'll realize this is a more fiendishly complex and riveting story than you already thought it was.
A piece of historical fiction that is an espionage thriller, impressively capable of standing up to even the most sophisticated of the genre, not just limited to YA, although none of them could match the heart of this adventure. The themes of courage and friendship are both heartbreaking and uplifting, and the basis of the story, but the history is remarkable. By describing the air raids, the tensions felt by the civilians, and finally the torture endured by the captured spy, Wein brings the terror of war to life. [Imagine how terrifying: Captured by an SS officer for something so simple as looking the wrong way before crossing the street...she looked left, like the British, instead of right, like the French.] Hiding behind the narrator's allusions to J.M. Barrie’s “Peter Pan,” Kipling's "Kim," Shakespeare, and other literary works, the daily horrors take on a fairytale-like quality that add to the overall masquerade. These two great characters/narrators will grab your heart and burrow in, so make room. I want to see the movie; make T-shirts with their names emblazoned on the front; join their fan clubs.
Yea for the girls...I love that the contribution of females is portrayed so wonderfully by this book. These two friends have all the power, bravery, and loyalty of the females in The Hunger Games or Divergent, etc., but these are human characters created from history, not from fantasy or science fiction. The similar acts of bravery during WWII and other wars are well documented. Women weren't only helpful Rosie the Riveters -- they were soldiers, spies, pilots; they fought, they were tortured and they died.
My little sis reads for a living; over all YA and Children's books for libraries in another state. When Code Name Verity was published, she told me it was great, the new favorite of her Young Writers Group, which is comprised of people ages 14-23. She also told me she thought I'd like it. So, I purchased this in 2013 per her recommendation, foolishly put it in my TBR file thinking YA would be good, but not big-girl good...stupid mistake. I read a couple hundred books between downloading this and finally listening. Code Name Verity is one of the most impressive.
And, the narration...I'm so surprised the book hasn't been nominated for an award for the narration. It was outstanding. A Scottish brogue, French, German, English -- every accent spot on, clear, and animated. They both give spectacular performances.
Just fantastic in everyway. I hope this helps you decide if this is a book you'd enjoy.
After reading the publisher's summary in Audible's *Featured Pre-Orders,* I was drawn to The Nightingale -- I have an obsession with the history of early twentieth century France, particularly the Inter War period and the few years after WWII. Unfamiliar with Hannah's body of work, I read that her oeuvre was *female fiction,* repeatedly compared to other authors I have chosen not to read. That translated to concern that I would be disappointed with the author, and by a book that inaccurately used history to piggy back on a saccharine love story. Not what I was looking for.
It was this line from the Kirkus Review that perfectly addressed my worries and sold me on this book: "Hannah’s new novel is an homage to the extraordinary courage and endurance of Frenchwomen during World War II." Hannah's skillful writing, and forceful story telling ability quickly became apparent and convinced me The Nightingale was a perfect choice.
As the story begins, the reader knows only that the novel is about two disparate sisters during the WWII Nazi occupation of France. From one of those sisters, now placed in a nursing home in Oregon, USA, the tale of survival is unraveled, but which surviving sister narrates the history remains unknown until the novel's end...and I hung onto the book until that ending and wished the story could've gone on.
Sisters Vianne and Isabelle are polar opposites, even in their individual strengths: Vianne is compassionate with the strengths we know as *a mother's-love,* wise and thoughtful; while the younger Isabelle is defiant, fearless, and recklessly brave -- opposites, but equally formidable. Each of their paths are harrowing and absorbing. On the home-front, Vianne must protect her daughter while fighting starvation, freezing winters, and the degradation from German soldiers. In silent horror, she watches as her friends and neighbors are branded with the Jewish star, then gathered into wagons and trains, often leaving infants behind alone. Even a rumor started from jealousy, or a false accusation can be deathly under the brutal Gestapo's presence. Young and compulsive, Isabelle defies the occupation openly until an event brings soldiers too close to their home. She realizes that for the protection of Vianne and her daughter, she must flee. She joins the Resistance and becomes a guide secretly transporting injured Allied airmen over the Pyrenees into Spain. [Isabelle's surname, Rossignol, is the French word for nightingale.]
Having read my share of French history, I was impressed with the historical accuracy of the story (though this was in part a love story that added little more than some quasi-romance). Many of the events were echoes of history books I've read and it was gratifying to see that Hannah did not treat the civilians as *landscape* and marginalize those poor souls caught in the crossfire of war. This was a riveting story, excellently told and narrated well (I will leave the accuracy of the French accent to those more knowledgeable than my HS French; it did not impede the story for me). It is worth mentioning that though this is fiction, Hannah said her idea for the story was ignited by a real incident she read about...and there are too many real incidents out there, both historical and current.
**It is estimated that 350,00 French civilians died during the German occupation, not from bombs or fighting, but from: crimes against humanity, famine, disease and "military acting out." This war preceded Article 27 of the Geneva Convention; females were considered *carnal booty.* Since 1949 Article 27 of the Fourth Geneva Convention explicitly prohibits wartime rape and enforced prostitution. In a speech to the United nations Security Council in 2008, Retired Major General Patrick Cammart stated,
“It has probably become more dangerous to be a woman than a soldier in an armed conflict.” Sadly, we haven't made much progress.
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