What a great book. This is an excellent history of the race known as Paris-Roubaix, the springtime one-day classic that features distinctive cobbled roads in the north of France. Cycling history is filled with such amazing characters, as a rule, and the Paris-Roubaix is rife with them. Great stories about riders stopping at pubs, quitting the race, or fighting with spectators; heroic tales of athletes plowing through ridiculously difficult conditions to win this hellish yet somehow irresistible race. The author creates a wonderful portrait of a century, a region, and a parade of legendary cyclists. The narrator is perhaps the worst narrator I have ever heard on Audible, sorry to say (the French pronunciations are quite painful). But if you need to listen rather than read, as I do, try not to let that prevent you from enjoying this cycling history. It's worth the struggle.
I bought this because I was looking for Juliet Stevenson's narrations. I am a big fan of her performances. I was drawn in by the tempered pace and the twisty turns of the story. The time period makes for some built in tension of course - so many social constraints - and the story takes good advantage of that. There is an element of Emile Zola about it as well, a sense of awkwardness about an incident that the reader and characters are certain will be discovered, and we are all just waiting for the shoe to drop. Add in moral ambiguities, and very well-drawn characters (none of whom are all good or all bad) and it turned into a really great listening experience. In fiction, I usually lean more towards pulpy detectives, and while I wouldn't call this pulp by any means, it had the requisite elements of crime, suspense, and punishment that I usually like, with added subtlety and detail for a thoughtful, lasting story. I think it would make a great film, actually.
I say "surprisingly" because while I am an avid fan of cycling and road racing, Bradley Wiggins was never a cyclist I wanted to know more about. Perhaps that is because in 2012, he simply won too many races and his face was everywhere, so I felt there was no need to root for him nor research his backstory. Wow, I was so wrong! It is really good. I loved Wiggins' take on cycling and the story of his races. I was surprised by the story of his family background, especially his relationship with his father and grandfather. He has a great attitude, uses plenty of colorful language, and seems like a person you'd like to hang out with. I agree with other reviewers about the narrator - he really sells it. One of the best match-ups on Audible.
Another word that comes to mind here is "original." This is a wonderful yet brutal story, rather short, and with such delicate notes in the prose and elliptical storytelling…it is a unique book. It is told in the first person, so that I didn't catch the character's name for quite a long time. She is near feral, which creates an uncertainty in the reader's relationship to her. And she speaks with a certain naiveté that made me nervous about her vulnerability. Yet her details are so vivid that one can't wait to put the pieces together. I don't want to give up too much of the story - there is hurt, guilt, self-loathing, avoidance behaviors, and violence. Also sheep, tears, dust, rain, and possibly redemption. Highly recommended for the reader of mysteries looking for something different. The narrator fit the story perfectly, in my opinion.
I am new to Jussi Adler-Olsen, and wow, this was a real attention getter! It is a bit gruesome in detail, and when I tried to explain the plot to friends it sounded ridiculous. But it held together in Adler-Olsen's telling, as an incredibly suspenseful and compelling story, riven through with dark humor. It is also very well-researched - and I am glad Adler-Olsen is an author rather than a psychopath, because this is a very original crime. Detective Mørck continues a well-trod path of flawed sleuths with messy personal lives (John Rebus, Harry Hole, etc), yet he is appealing and complex. I especially look forward to reading more about the "assistant," Hafez el-Assad, who is a thoroughly overqualified and delightfully unpredictable character. I found this when I needed to take a break from Jo Nesbø, and it is a welcome (though disturbing!) discovery. The narrator was fine, in my opinion. No Robin Sachs, but okay by me.
This is a great update on the reporter as crime fighter trope - this isn't 'His Girl Friday,' it's a depressed newsroom with layoffs and budget cuts, and has a more unvarnished view of the journalism industry. The protagonist, Mulligan, has issues, of course, but also has an entertaining cast of acquaintances and sources, in varying shades of unsavory. The author does a great job of creating the look and feel of this town. This first is an excellent book, with a lot of heart. I recommend 'Cliff Walk' as well, a solid follow up.
I find the books in the Inspector Alan Banks series to be reliable and plentiful procedurals. I discovered this series after exhausting all of the Dalziel books, the rest of the Reginald Hill catalogue, all the Ian Rankin, the M.C. Beaton, the Tana French, and in between Louise Penny's annual installments. I recommend them as entertaining mysteries with an interesting detective who has enough trouble with the ladies to keep it unpredictable. I really liked 'Final Account,' as it uses one of my favorite literary devices (though I can't be more specific without spoiling), and takes place in the purview of white collar crime.
I picked this up so impulsively that I didn't read the description carefully. Thus, I was surprised to find that the author organized the book to take on and refute the 'urban paleo diet' movement. Since I have never found the 'urban paleo diet' movement credible anyway, this approach would not have appealed to me. I might never have read it, and that would have been my loss. It's a good book, and the author takes a glee in noting grim details and bursting myths. The details about human anatomy and running were interesting; her take on continuing evolution with respect to human diet, illness, and microbes was fascinating. I hope that in her next book she foregoes the artifice of taking down online commenters, though - she doesn't need that shtick, her science writing is engaging as it is.
An orgy of minutiae about cycling and the history of manufactury! I heard Robert Penn interviewed by Jack Thurston on The Bike Show, and I was excited to see the book listed here. History buffs of any stripe will enjoy it - Penn takes us from present to past, and across the globe, expertly weaving together technology, social movements, and vivid characters. For example, a visit to Chris King Headsets diverges seamlessly into a reverie about the nature of the child hood experience of learning to ride; Mark Twain's essay Taming the Bicycle; and 20 years of urban planning and tattoos in Portland, Oregon. I enjoyed hearing about the "glory days" of cycling, when cheap fast transportation changed lives in unpredictable ways. I loved Penn's take on the title - which he doesn't acknowledge until late in the book - as a reclamation of the elegance of the bicycle, a most enduring invention. This is one of the few books I have listened to twice. I recommend it heartily.
(The narrator is affable, but may make a listener cringe with his unfortunate mispronunciations of European names - the great cyclist Hinault does not rhyme with "salt," for example.)
Personal essays, mostly essay-length, about the author's travails as a late blooming cycling fanatic. These 'inner voice' stories are quite humorous, especially the author's ping-ponging between hubris and humiliation at the club rides. My favorite sections were the introduction, when the author makes the life-changing decision to get fit during an awkward elevator incident, and his ride of The Étape in France, a cyclo-sportive event in which amateurs may ride a Tour de France stage on the rest day during the 'real' Tour. In the essayist tradition, the best stories emerge when things go wrong, and the author has plenty of things go wrong. My one criticism - occasionally attitude gets the better of the author. For example, he makes a point to single out and mock fellow cycling essayist Elden, of Fat Cyclist blog. Why do that? The two are cut from the same chamois, so to speak, and Elden is a much beloved figure in cycling blogs. Still, this was great to listen to while trapped in the carpool wishing I were cycling.
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