I always take first person accounts with a grain of salt, but read this as light relief from my usual serious reading agenda. It was an interesting picture of talent, the quest for stardom, and the distorting power of money and fame. The ins and outs of family and love affairs are always titillating but for me, the book is most informative as a social history of being gay in the pre-AIDS and post-AIDS Western world. Early in his life and career Liberace had no choice but to remain in the closet and, once the pretence was established, what could he do but maintain his stance and deny the rumours? It is a sad indictment of prejudice and persecution of gay men. How different Scott and Lliberace's lives would be if they were born now - if not fame/notoriety, at least more freedom to be who they are than they could ever have dreamed of.
This book is probably more interesting for Law students and practitioners than for true crime aficionados. I understand why the authors belabor the point about everyone, no matter how appalling the crime/s, having the right to a fair trial. Clearly a large section of the public was hostile to the idea of the apparently indefensible being defended - but the repetition of the point leaves the book sounding as though the authors' reason for writing it is self-justification and little more. Overall the book gets a higher rating that it might otherwise because of the outstanding narration by Robin Bloodworth - a truly 5-star performance.
Team Nicholas Shakespeare's gift for writing with a complex character, a mystery, and the personal interest he brings to this family tale, and you have a recipe for a winning book. The setting for most of the book is pre-war France, occupied France, and post-war France and this social history aspect is an added plus. No doubt some will judge Priscilla harshly for the choices she made, but at some points she had few options and simply surviving would have been her over-riding consideration. The book is peopled by many unlikeable and selfish (but nonetheless fascinating) characters and the glamour and superficiality of some parts contrast starkly with the despair and deprivation of the years of war and occupation. Nicholas Shakespeare reads his work well to make this a top audiobook. There are quite a few French phrases which may prove irritating to readers who don't speak French, but not enough to detract seriously from enjoyment of the book.
This is the story of Anthony Lee, with a lot of fictional dialogue and imagined thoughts imposed on the main players. I'm glad I read the book and at certain points I was keen to know what would happen next, but it was a let-down in many ways. The opening chapters tell of Philomena's ordeal living at the convent and giving up her child for adoption, and towards the end we meet Philomena again when her daughter searches for her half brother. But in between these two appearances, the book is about Anthony-Michael. This is all interesting enough, but I kept wondering what was happening to poor Philomena whose grief would have been immense, and the longer she was left out of the story the more irritated I became. I have no idea why the book title is 'Philomena' and why the book cover photo suggests that Philomena and her son are eventually reunited. To me, the publicity for the book and film are very misleading. The narration is little more than a reading of the text. The voice lacks character and the presentation is pretty flat.
This is the fascinating tale of an arch (and eventually insane) manipulator and the trusting and adoring people who followed him to their eventual death. The author recounts the stories of a number of individuals who gave up everything for Jones and his 'promised land' and these stories add immediacy and poignancy to the telling. We also learn about some who left, and some who stayed and survived. All of these stories give some idea of the way people became ensnared in Jones's net and went, willingly or otherwise, to their death. The various strands of the story are beautifully brought together and the reader's interest is maintained from beginning to end. One can only wonder at those whose faith in Jones did not waver in light of his cruelty to both adults and children, his self-confessed adultery with both men and women, and his increasingly bizarre pronouncements. Robin Miles' narration is perfect: the voice, pace, expression are all spot on for this compelling story.
This is a compelling book in many ways: the tragedy of years lost from the life of a promising and very likeable young man, the glimpse it provides of the process from the point of arrest by police, the brutality of the prison system, the legal system in which a case can stagnate, the incompetence of many professionals, day-to-day life in prison. There appears to be little or no hope until the chance meeting which eventually sees the wronged young man released to pick up the pieces of his shattered life. The role played by the two lawyers is heartwarming, as is his mother's dedication and the support of friends who help him as he begins to put together a new life. The section dealing with research on false confessions and other related matters helps to explain what happens to individuals who are caught up in the system: the accused, those who investigate, and the lawyers who prosecute and defend.
Laura Caldwell is an excellent writer but I initially found her rather monotone delivery off-putting. But before long I felt that it suited the matter-of-fact business-like nature of her work. I agree with other commenters that the third person/first person inconsistency is confusing: it just shouldn't happen - where were the editors? However, that is my only criticism and I found the book rivetting from start to finish.
This is a sympathetic recounting of a bright and promising young man's struggle, his mother's misguided attempts to do the best for him, and a controlling (or out-of-control) church. The sad story unfolds to its almost inevitable tragic end where everyone loses - heartbreaking, but well worth reading.
On every measure this true crime gets five stars - I couldn't put it down. No need to say more!
I am in awe of Ken Perenyi's talent. With no training in art, art history, chemistry, or anything else related to creating a forgery and getting it past the experts, he fooled a lot of people for a long time before they caught up with him. Without a hint of guilt or remorse, he gleefully recounts episode after episode of getting away with a monumental con with a pocket full of big money. With so much practical talent, and an obvious talent for befriending very influential people, I wonder why he didn't choose a conventional career instead of betraying trust and ripping people off. I did read elsewhere about his adopting a girl from Africa which is worth looking up on the internet - perhaps he omitted it from this book so as not to tarnish his image as a conscience-free operator. I must say I learned about artists I had never heard of and took great pleasure in looking at their work, if only via internet images. Apart from a few mispronunciations of artists' names, Dan Butler does a fine job narrating.
This is a well written biography of a little known woman. In detailing Miss Coutts' life, Edna Healey inevitably details the conventions which placed limits on what women could do. In almost all of her charitable works, Miss Coutts relied upon or had recourse to men - perhaps if she had been male she would not have remained a shadowy figure in the history of Victorian England. Nonetheless, she was a compassionate and determined women who was a pioneer in concern for the poor and much of her fortune went towards improving their lot in life. Her friendship with Charles Dickens shed new light (for me) on his work for the poor. In some ways Miss Coutts' life was typical of the life of a well-off Victorian woman - at-homes, continental travel, health cures, and this does become slightly monotonous, but there is a parade of famous characters who regularly brighten the scene. If the social round and charitable works see your interest flagging a little, push on because there is quite a surprise toward the end.
I was thoroughly enjoying Anna Bentinck's narration, pleasant voice, pleasant accent, UNTIL, it appears, she read several chapters while suffering a heavy cold. The stuffed-up nasal voice was just horrible, I had to force myself to keep listening. Thankfully she recovered but it did spoil my enjoyment of this book.
This is a book both for beginners and for those who have already read a reasonable amount of WWII and Nazi history. As well as being a portrait of Hitler, it provides an overview of the main events of Germany history from WWI until May 1945. Laurence Rees' clever tactic of using Hitler's charisma as the central theme provides a different perspective from the usual biographical and war history works. In examining Hitler's rising popularity, Rees reveals much about the man and offers several inter-connected explanations for Hitler's ability to draw people in and to convert doubters to his point of view. He also devotes some time to people who did not fall under Hitler's spell and those who plotted to kill him. Rees goes on to document the decline of Hitler's power to influence as the direction of the war turns and Germany moves ever closer to defeat. The book is well written and Rees' central argument is well presented. Michael Jayston is a very competent narrator and his voice and presentation are perfect for the material.
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