I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was gripping, at times horrifying, and completely engaging. It brings the history of the whaleship Essex alive, and it's one of the most compelling stories I've ever heard.
I loved listening to the Aussie accent, and I gave this book my full attention, but it was tricky and at times difficult to listen to. Peter Temple writes prose in small, clipped phrases as opposed to fully grammatical sentence structure, and the Aussie uplift at the end of each phrase made it a little difficult to follow a narrative arc. At times I felt I was being pelted by phrases. I really had to work at it. Combine that with a novel whose first 4-6 hours of listening were only setting the stage for the major plot developments, which finally began to pick up speed and weaves together in the last 2 hours of listening--I needed a lot of patience and concentration. At times, I felt that I was listening to a book in a foreign language--I missed a number of Aussie-localized references and humor. And unfortunately I found the grotesqueries over-the-top, unbelievable, and sensationalized. Having said that, I gave it my best shot and listened all the way through, so that must mean something, but I don't think I'll have the energy for another Peter Temple book for quite awhile.
This audiobook was compelling, riveting, beautifully written, and expertly narrated. It is an intriguing tour-de-force. I highly recommend it.
Don't give up on the narrator--the story itself is well worth listening to, and the narration improves slowly as the story builds, especially in the second half. I found the book to be excellent, the storyline exciting and fascinating, and the characters well-drawn. The story is told through the eyes of a 13-year-old native American boy, which is quite a feat for a 58-year-old woman writer, and she pulls it off beautifully. The narrator is apparently an American Indian actor, but he is so unskilled at narrating that I almost gave up on the book at first. He does the strangest things with sentences, often coming full-stop after the verb, and seeming to start a new sentence (as in, "He laid his bike against the fence. Before he went into the woods.") His inflection is all over the map, oftentimes obscuring the meaning of the words he's reading. (Didn't he practice ahead of time, one wonders?) As the story builds in intensity, however, the narrator seems to fall into a more normal inflection pattern, and contributes to the excitement of the story instead of detracting from it, as he does in the first half of the book. In any case, the story is so compelling that I stuck with it, and was so glad I did...even gasping and weeping a few times. Thank you, Louise Erdrich.
This is by far one of the most wonderful listening experiences I've had in a long time. Meera Simhan's narration was outstanding, and Kiran Desai's story was excellent. I want to start at the beginning and listen all over again. The characters are varied and fascinating, the historical events are woven into the story beautifully, the imagery of the geographical area of Kalimpong is stunning, and the internal lives of the characters are drawn with such finesse that this book is compelling and nuanced. Bravo to Kiran Desai and Meera Simhan.
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