The book lacks tight editing. It's not a literary masterpiece. But the story is compelling and it accurately describes one of the common environments that allows Ponzi schemes to grow. The book is essentially a warning to all and sundry that the SEC is useless and that the financial industry is full of crooks and sharp practices. Some reviewers here have complained that Harry is annoying and that's probably why people wouldn't listen to him. People always want to blame the messenger. He does come off as a genuine person with his own personality, even a possible dose of paranoia, but the dangers were real, and living with them for years has to change you after awhile. Ponzi schemes thrive because greed, self interest, pride, sociopaths and unjustified trust exist in a completely inadequately regulated financial environment. Is there any way to control them? Why do people fall for them? Why do people run them when they know they will always fail in the end? Why won't regulators do their duty? If you like exploring these sorts of questions you will love this book. It won't give you all the answers, but it gives a few, and the answers it gives are very real.
I enjoyed this audio book immensely, however it provoked me to buy the paper copies of all three volumes and to read volumes II and III rather than listening to them. I don't have a strong sense of the geography involved and found that I needed the maps to follow the battles. The rich descriptive language of a fine novelist was at once wonderful and distracting. Shortly after listening to Volume I and reading Volumes II and III I was reading a book called "The Hockey Stick Illusion" by Andrew Montford which deals with some very complex (for me) statistical concepts. I was surprised to notice that he was able to explain those complexities to me without ever drawing any attention to his own style or literary prowess. I realized that Foote's elegant and astonishing command of language is sometimes more distracting than enlightening. It's delicious and I love it, but it sometimes gob smacks you and takes your mind off the story. Some musicians are like that, their artistry is so mesmerizing that you don't really enjoy the music, just the performance. Which is okay. I have read some of Foote's other books and found his style less distracting with novels than narratives. Can I say all this and yet admit that I'll be rereading, and re listening to these Volumes over and over again. My comments are a "caution", not a criticism. How can you be critical of such greatness. It's awe inspiring stuff. I'm just saying that sometime the awe makes it harder to follow the story. At least for simple minds like mine. And maps help too. Especially if your command of the local geography is limited.
This is a unique and wonderful chronicle of man at his best and his worst. Ransom is such an honest and admirable voice. Andersonville is a notable stain on human history, but, just as in the German concentration camps, out of it sprang some reasons for hope in the indomitable spirit of some of the victims. You need to listen to this journal. And you need to think about it. It was a gift and miracle that this record was kept in the first place and equally remarkable that it was preserved. Thank heavens it was.
And it's an compelling story. No dry or disinteresting history here. You are drawn easily into Ransom's ordeal and cannot help but be touched by his humanity and hope and his gratitude for those around him who made his survival possible.
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