What a fantastic novel and even more astonishing performance by the narrator!
I adored Ifemelu, so smart and straight-talking and wonderful. I could see why Obinze loved her so, and their relationship was utterly convincing. The insight into race in America is clear-eyed and honest, but it's not a didactic novel by any means. It pulses with warmth and humour. Just glorious.
On the narration: Having seen some of the American reviewers complaining about Adjoa Andoh's American accent... I could just imagine what Ifemelu would say about that! "Oh yes, because Americans are so well known for their skill at rendering the accents of other nationalities!" The American accents are completely fine, and they certainly don't all sound like Fran Drescher! The range of accents Andoh presents is vast and astonishingly good, and her general narration is simply lovely.
I haven been listening to audiobooks my entire life and have rarely experienced one as massively pleasurable as The Signature of All Things.
I confess I was somewhat prejudiced against this book. I haven't read Eat, Pray, Love but in my mind Elizabeth Gilbert was just some namby-pamby self help-ish writer. Now I feel embarrassed about that snobbery because, after listening to The Signature of All Things, it's clear that Gilbert is a gifted writer. Several times I was up till the early hours of the morning because I simply COULD NOT press the pause button!
The story is unusual and gripping, a birth to (almost) death novel with one of the most charming and original protagonists I have ever come across. How often does a plain, tall, middle-aged woman, who also happens to be a brilliant botanist and a virgin, get to be the central figure in a novel? I certainly can't think of another like Alma Whitaker! Alma absolutely pulses with life, it's hard to remember that she's a fictional character, she feels just like a friend you've known all your life. Her trials, her joys, her sorrows are completely your own as you listen.
I hadn't read any reviews before I listened to this novel, and I'm glad I didn't because the plot was a constant surprise. I won't give any major plot points here either, suffice to say that this novel is a heady mixture of science, sex, faith, love and adventure. There are minor flaws perhaps, but the sheer joy of this book is such that you feel it couldn't be any other way. Perfect in its imperfections, just like Alma.
An absolute must listen!
In a way I agree with both the fans and the detractors here. It IS a well-written fantasy novel, and the characters are great, if it takes a while to warm to them. But good lord would it kill Joe Abercrombie to get to the point a little quicker?
This novel is almost a series of vignettes and the connections between threads and characters are unexplained, even when they eventually start meeting up. What is the broader thrust of this story? Where is it going? What forces are at play bringing these people together? Clearly SOMETHING is happening that threatens them and the empire, but Joe Abercrombie has little interest in telling the reader anything about this threat. It's not even done in a purposefully mysterious way either, it's simply left out.
The characters are very well drawn, and it's hard not to like Logan and the wonderfully horrible Glokta. But I cared very little about anyone else, or what happened to them.
I struggled to get through this first volume simply because I found being left in the dark for so long quite tedious. It picks up towards the end, but for a book of this length that's a lot of listening to get through before things start getting interesting.
I will try the next book, and I think the quality of the writing makes the effort worth it, but this isn't an instantly-hooked book, not for me at least.
Narrator is excellent, if a little theatrical.
When I first heard about this book, I wasn't convinced. A diary of a Japanese schoolgirl washes up on a beach and a middle-aged author interweaves it with her own life on a Canadian Island? It did not sound like my thing.
I'm so glad I didn't listen to my first reaction and gave this book a try. Listening to this book is a real experience. I knew I was hooked when it was 3am and I was still lying in bed in the dark, unable to press pause. There is nothing maudlin or predictable about this story, and there are no dull characters who you feel like you just have to get past to get to the ones you like. There is terror, tragedy, history, family and quite a lot of humour in this book. No wonder it's been long listed for the Booker.
And the narration fro the author is spectacular. After listening, i can't imagine how they could have got anyone else to narrate this unique and wonderful book.
Give it a chance, you won't regret it.
Theft of Swords is perfect if you're looking for high-quality fantasy, that isn't too bogged down in florid language and tediously convoluted world building. This is the first in the trilogy, and the story expands steadily and logically to a really brilliant climax in the final book. I could not stop listening, I wanted to follow Riyria forever!
Something I really loved about this trilogy was how characters genuinely changed and developed, even small characters who you think at first will make a brief appearance and then disappear, can turn out to hold the balance of power in the end. And characters who appear shallow or callous at first can mature and grow into real, complex people. I also appreciated that there were women characters with some get-up-and-go, who weren't just window dressing hanging around waiting to get ravaged.
Also the sense of adventure is unstoppable in these books and the pacing is masterful. If you want solid, fun, engaging fantasy that draws you in from the first word and never lets you go, then Theft of Swords is for you.
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