Right up there with "A Prayer for Owen Meany" and "The Prince of Tides" for depth and complexity of an intriguing plot that grabbed me right away. The skillful weaving of past and present kept me guessing (and riveted) until the end. Along with Cassandra Campbell's inspired performance, I could not stop listening until I found out what happened. Then I did it again, slower, savoring the ingenious way this story was told. Such beautiful prose...
One would think the British Isle took up a global land mass the size of Asia if judged by the sheer volume of print in the English language. I do enjoy the prodigious non-fiction and historical fiction though, especially when featuring strong female characters.
The protagonist of this series is pitted against 12th century views of women (even worse than 18th and 19th century views portrayed by a greater share of the genre I've read.) An investigator of death (coroner) with knowledge of human anatomy and physiology- including men! - she walks a fine line between the titles of healer and witch under Henry II who has retained her to investigate deaths in the first novel and then prevented her from departing for her home in the Mediterranean in the next. Sprinkled with romance and mystery it will end before I am ready to let it go.
Great story with the perfect choice for narrator! And with room to move for future novels (I'm waiting...)
The best this year so far.
I appreciate the author's presentation of the actual details of historical events on record for the setting of this series. Especially the postscript follow up that brings real issues used in the fictitious plot up to date. This technique has done more to enlighten my understanding of the changes to daily life brought on by unstoppable world trends and events including natural disasters than the dry dates memorized in history classes. Each novel has left me pondering current events that have been invigorated by the richness of a living history.
If you've ever had a precociously intelligent 11 year old in your life with a flare for drama mixed in with unflappable optimism, then you will fall for Flavia. At first drawn by the titles in this series, I was then disappointed by the choice of narrator- a deal breaker for me. But now as I start the series over in preparation for the latest release (I haven't done this before, but each release is years apart) I can't imagine any other- now that I understand the character better.
The whole concept behind this series is very complex. The first layer seems simple mystery, a murder solved by a motherless child run amuck in a chemistry lab left behind by some ancestor on the family's English estate. Yet the backdrop of the setting is revealed in layers and the as the plot thickens so does the complexity of the events and circumstances that drive the motivations of each person in Flavia's family life. Her mother, who disappeared when she was only a yr old, 2 elder sisters that taunt and tease her with their jealousy guarded memories of her, and their stoic, aloof father that hides in his library with his stamp collection still mourning her loss.
Once you get past the novel narrative style- she becomes Flavia, and you will love her.
I always learn fascinating history (that previously held no interest for me through
Louis Bayard's novels. But Simon Vance's narration called me to this one about
French life after the revolution, the political fears that still plagued those who had anything to do with the previous monarchy even a decade later when Louie 17 was instilled on the throne. In this story about a royal son thought to have died in the Black Tower, the doctor who may have saved him and then his son- the voice that reconstructs the tale using his dead father's long buried diary and at the insistence of the (in)famous police detective Vidocq, (a former criminal) an incredible time in French history was revealed in a nonstop listen that I will repeat.
Not usually looking out for historical fiction relating to New York, but Irish immigration interests me a lot, especially because it came at different times creating a strata in NYC of old and new, powerful and disadvantaged. But they were all spirited and passionatly political. Enter Molly Murphy and my favorite historical subject, women challenging the status quo and I'm in for the duration- consuming every book- and always left wanting more. Rhys Bowen had done it again...
I love everything about this series, including author notes at the end at the end of each book that clarifies facts versus fiction, and where to find more information on the topics used in her plots. Interpersonal relationships are complex but love interests clean enough to keep it from being labeled a "romance". And if the science doesn't inspire a new generation of archeologists, ...then maybe someone should check for a blood pressure...
Pat Conroy does a remarkable job of weaving the various stories of individuals in a family- the unhappy, emotionally unpredictable parents who decieve and lie about everything; their three children who learn to keep family secrets above all else. They survive through their bond and cope with life in different ways, especially when events and circumstances invade their tenuous understanding of the world. South Carolina and southern creedo come alive with rich discriptions of landscape and humorous cleaver dialogue as their story is revealed by one of the sons to a New York psychiatrist after his (twin) sister trys to commit suicide.
Frank Muller makes this audio 5 stars. I am ashamed to admit I had avoided this title due to the lingering images of violence from the movie (over two? decades ago- I'm impressionable.) But, when desperate for a new, well told story, I rely on my own listening experience and turn to a narrator I can trust for good taste and performance (no matter my preconceived notions) of a story. And Mr Muller expertly applied his craft with a 5 star delivery, again. Unfortunately Frank is gone, but he left other delightful rides like "Wilde West" that I highly recommend.
I generally deplore abridged books but I'd have taken the scissors to this unabridged one in a heartbeat. For characters built up to be intelligent, they sure had idiotic inner dialogues and rediculous assumptions about each other. It was writtin like a soap opera in that one could skip an entire week of episodes (or whole chapters in this case) and still know what's going on due to endless repitition and mussings of each character over the same scenes.
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