The end of this story is predictable from the beginning of this book, but getting there is so much fun. Trollope's slightly jaundiced eye is turned on the small-town aristocracy in this volume of the Barsetshire novels, and just as he dissected the ins and outs of clerical politics in Barsetshire Towers, he dissects the expectations and pretensions of the landed gentry in this volume. Frank, the hero, struggles to maintain his integrity without compromising his responsibility to his family, and Mary struggles to be true to Frank without locking him into a commitment that will destroy his social standing. Dr Thorne, Mary's uncle and guardian, must step cautiously through an obstacle course of conflicting responsibilities. And there are the wonderful supporting cast--Miss Dunstable (my favorite), Louis Scatchard, Lady Arabella Gresham, Mr Moffitt, and the rest.
This is the story of Lila, a vagrant working her way day by day through Iowa during the 1930's and '40's, and how her life is affected by the kindness and casual cruelty of the strangers that she meets. Even Lila is not sure who she really is; all she knows is what she has been told by a woman named Doll who rescued her from neglect and mistreatment. We never know any more about Lila's or Doll's origins than Lila herself knows, and we find that don't need to know more. Ms Robinson writes with deep respect and love for the poor -- those who live from hard-working hand to desperate mouth. Eventually Lila meets Reverend John Ames, an elderly minister who has lost both his wife and his young son. The two fall in love, marry, and have a child, knowing that John may not live long enough to see the boy grow up. The growth of their love, of Lila's quest to understand her place in the world, and of John's struggles to reconcile his Calvinist faith with the lives around him and his own lived experience are beautifully and sensitively told both in Robinson's writing and in Maggie Hoffman's reading.
I highly recommend this novel about abolitionist and feminist Sarah Grimke and her slave, Hetty/Handful, who alternate as narrators. On her 11th birthday, Sarah Grimke, a daughter in an upper class Charleston family, receives an 11-year-old slave as her present. She is horrified, and tries the free the little girl, but is frustrated by her parents. The book tells the story of Sarah's struggles to free herself from the conventions of Charleston society and Handful's struggles to free herself from slavery. The characters, who include many historical figures (Denmark Vesey, William Lloyd Garrison, Lucretia Mott, etc), are vividly drawn. The horrors of slavery are fully detailed -- the workhouse, the lash, and the prohibition against literacy -- and the difficulties faced by Handful, her mother Charlotte, and her sister Sky, as well as how they evade them, are realistically told. The repression faced by Sarah and her sister Angelina are also described realistically. At the end of the novel, Sue Monk Kidd provides an interesting commentary that distinguishes the parts of the story based on historical fact and those woven from her own imagination.
This novel was recommended to me as a withdrawal treatment for MIddlemarch. While it is not as great as that masterpiece (not much is), it brings alive several rich, real worlds -- London society, the southern village of Helston, and the northern industrial town of Milton. Margaret Hale, an intelligent, compassionate, and highly principled young woman, returns from the society world of London to live with her parents in the beautiful village of Helston . Almost immediately, her father, a minister who has lost his faith, is transferred to Milton, where he makes his living as a tutor . In Milton, Margaret meets the working-class HIggins family and the wealthy factory owner, John Thornton, who is one of her father's students. Thornton is in his own way as principled as Margaret. Through her acquaintance with the Higgins and with the Thornton families, Margaret learns that her compassion must be balanced with realism,
All of the characters in this novel are fully believable with understandable motivations and complex emotions. Margaret is particularly well-defined and one comes to admire her compassion, courage, and resourcefulness and to feel for her tragic losses. John Thornton grows as a human being. The plot takes a number of twists and turns which hold the reader's interest.
The one weakness is the end, which comes abruptly and which I see as a little inconsistent with Thornton's character.
Juliet Stevenson's reading is rich and resonant. Her characterization of John Thornton with his northern accent is particularly fine.
Dorothea Brooke is both an original character and as familiar as my own heart. She is a well-educated, upper-class young woman who wants to build a life that is meaningful on her own terms and not by the conventions of society, but she is held back by society's limited view of a woman's role in the world. What else did I love -- the many other complex characters who came alive and who worked out their lives in their own ways -- with or without success.
In bringing a whole society to life and creating characters as vibrant as real people -- Barchester Towers by Trollope, Vanity Fair by Thackeray, any number of novels by Dickens (Great Expectations, Little Dorrit,Our Mutual Friend,Bleak House).
She gave each character their own voice, without making anyone a caricature.
Too long! and too complex. It needed to be savored and enjoyed.
Ken Follett tells his 5 family stories with confidence and clarity. The reader always knows and cares who and where the characters are and can identify them and follow them. At the same time there is enough detail to be interesting and informative. We learn many things we're not taught much about -- how US radio intelligence decoded Japanese military strategies in the Pacific, how the Russians betrayed the Loyalists in the Spanish Civil War, the brutality of the Soviet occupiers after the defeat of Germany.
John Lee reads beautifully. I love his Welsh lilt. the only thing that bothers me is that he pronounced "fraulein" "frowline."
This is the problem -- the characters are all pretty wooden. I think probably Chuck Dewar, the gay in navy intelligence was the most interesting.
A painless and worthwhile way to learn a lot about the history of WWII.
This is probably Dickens's greatest work -- devoid of the cloying sentimentality that gums up so many of his other novels. The many characters are individuated and the multiple plots, so skillfully intertwined, keep you listening until they resolve. There is not a false note in this book.
The story begins with the terrifying encounter between Pip, a frightened orphan boy, and Magwich, a desperate escaped convict. Without Pip realizing it, Magwich becomes the mechanism, by which Pip may be able to realize his dreams of escaping his lowly marshland village and becoming a gentleman. As we watch Pip mature, we see his relationship with Magwich develop and our sympathies toward Magwich change as do those of Pip,
The novel can be seen as a meditation on love -- something that Dickens was less than successful at in his real life. In the end we see that those who love, even though they may be deeply hurt, are far luckier than those who cannot, like the beautiful Estella, the bitter Miss Havisham, and the secretive lawyer, Jaggers.
As ever, Simon Vance brings this novel and its many characters to life. I wanted to find out what happened to the characters in this book, but I was sorry to have completed it. Listening to it was such a great source of pleasure.
This novel of the Vietnam War follows the marines of Bravo Company through a single monsoon season as they hump through the jungle to establish a landing zone that is never used and fight their way up to retake positions that they were commanded to abandon. The company forms a tribe who are fiercely loyal to one another. They fight more for the honor of the company than for the top brass, whose military objectives change and whose orders are motivated more by ambition and ego than by any overall strategy.
Marlantes's characters jump off the page and into your consciousness. Each brings with him a piece of his background -- Cortell's deeply felt Christianity, Cassidy's redneck bigotry, Goodwin's hunting instincts, Mellas's Princeton-trained analytical skills. Bronson Pichot's reading helps individualize the characters, from the Georgia cracker twang of Cassidy to Hawke's Boston accent, to the reserved iinflections of the urban blacks like Jackson and China. Most amazingly -- Marlantes is able to put us inside the mind of the marines when they are facing death -- their own or the prospect of killing the North Vietnamese soldiers, whom they hate but have come to respect as disciplined fighters.
This novel accurately captures the late 1960's, a period that is too often caricatured and oversimplified. Unlike the army, in which the enlisted men were largely draftees, the Marine Corps was made up of volunteers who wanted to become part of a disciplined fighting force. Men like Hawke and Mellas have faced the disapproval of friends who oppose the war and of girlfriends who left them for someone who stayed in the States and protested the war. The Blacks, like Cortell, Jackson, and China, are torn between the bonds of race and the shared experience with bigotry and their loyalty to the corps. The war-of-attrition strategy that made "body count," into a nightly news staple, is demystified.
Much of the book is told from the point of view of 2nd Lieutenant Mellas, the Princeton grad who hopes to go on to law school and use his USMC experience in politics, His reflections on life, and death and the meaning of each are worthy of Camus, but they don't slow down the action of the book.
Just one suggestion -- it helps to download the pdf files of command structure and maps when you're starting out. Once you're into the books, the characters will live for you as individuals, and you will be so caught up in the action that the maps won't matter much.
Joan Didion and her husband, the writer Gregory Dunne, returned from the hospital where their adopted daughter, Quintana Roo was in a coma. Dunne suffered a fatal heart attack. Didion reviews what happened in excruciating detail and wonders if there is something that she could have done differently, noticed earlier, to save her husband's life. Didion's prose is, as usual, crystalline, but the self-absorption in her own pain and that of her family wore me out.
She's written another one about her daughter's death, but I think I can skip it.
The is a true story of a man named Abdulrahman Zeitoun and his experiences when he stayed in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Eggers wants to outrage us, and he succeeds by telling it straight, piling detail upon detail, and treating his protagonists--Zeitoun, his wife Kathy, their friends and family, and the people they encountered during this period--with respect and caring.
The story is simple. Zeitoun, a Syrian Muslim who has immigrated to the US, settled in New Orleans, and built a successful and well-respected contracting business, chooses to stay in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina floods the city to watch over his property and do what he can to help other residents. His wife, Kathy, chooses to flee the city with their 4 children, but the 2 are able to keep in touch regularly until he suddenly disappears. The circumstances of his disappearance, the efforts of Kathy and Zeitoun's farflung but loving Syrian relatives to find out what happened to him, and the ultimate resolution are described in simple, unpretentious, but elegant prose -- and yes -- things like this are not supposed to happen in the USA.
Residents at Framley Parsonage include the Parson, Mark Robarts, a young man on his way up; his loyal and sensible wife Fanny; and his younger sister Lucy who falls in love with Lord Ludovic Lufton, the local aristocracy. So, once again, we read of the difficulties posed when a high-born young man and a commoner fall in love. Once again, the marriage is opposed by the young man's mother. But Lady Lufton is a far more complex and sympathetic character than Lady Arabella Gresham of "Dr Thorne." She is indeed someone who wants to be in control, but she also acts out of love for her son and a very conventional sense of what is right in society. We watch as she thinks through the implications of her demands, changes her mind, forgives, and accepts. Trollope treats her with sensitivity and we watch and listen, as she develops and changes over time.
Another interesting and complex character is Mr Sowerby, an old reprobate, who manipulates Mark Robarts into financial embarassment. Minor plots re-introduce some of our old acquaintances from other novels in the Barchester series: the Grantlys, Miss Dunstable (who marries the man of her dreams), and Mrs Proudie, who is, I'm sure, far more fun to read about than to have known in person.
As in the previous installments of this series, Trollope shows himself to be a master of creating characters who come to life on the page (or in the ear), even if the plot is something of a rehash.
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