Perhaps Nevil Shute Norway's best book, although A Town Like Alice may win out on that score, this is a delightful tale with delightful characters. The story itself is dramatic at the same time that it is whimsical. The Oregon bumpkin who sailed by the seat of his pants, the thinly disguised John Weyerhauser, and other characters who came and went gave the book great charm. It is a great read AND a great listen. The reader, Frank Muller, was excellent in that he gave the book flavor and character without "performing." This book is one of the very few that can be listened to multiple times with great enjoyment on each occasion. (I've done it.)
This excellent book is one of those that needs to be read in small doses, set aside for a few minutes, and then resumed after careful consideration. The nature of the spoken word is much different that the written word. The written word stays put on the page and can be revisited at will for further study, but the spoken word proceeds apace and must be digested and analyzed on the fly. This is why great orators are so highly regarded, and also explains the widespread nature of demagoguery.
In this book the author raises many issues that require further examination if one is to gain anything at all from the presentation, and he raises them in rapid succession. In spite of the excellent, undistracting narration, the listener is wont to pause the reading, then resume it, pause, resume, backtrack, resume, backtrack, and so on. I've found that by repeating the chapters two, three, and even four or five times one can come away with a grasp of the material that satisfies.
These ratings should really include a separate feature for the narration. Five stars in that section for this book. Four for the novel itself only because I am loath to pass out five stars for any but the very, very best, and it would be hard for one to imagine a serial novel being on the same level as Les Miserables or Huckleberry Finn. Nonetheless, this was a rock-solid effort on the part of Daniel Silva. Kudos.
The potential of this book was unfulfilled in the end. The setting was well done. The characters were well conceived and well drawn. The narration was considerably above average. But there were holes in the fabric of the novel. Certain intriguing avenues were left unexplored. While entertaining enough it left me dissatisfied, for when all was said and done it amounted to nothing more than a romance novel.
Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain is nonpareil, but Elijah Wood's dramatization verges on genius. His style brings nuance to the fore that was simply unavailable to me when I read the book (silently) to myself. It added color to an already colorful peice of work. Congratulations, Mr. Wood.
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