In the summer of 1931, a cruise ship sails for Bremerhaven, Germany. Among its many diverse passengers are a Spanish noblewoman, a drunken German lawyer, an American divorcee, a pair of Mexican Catholic priests, a number of Germans returning to their homeland from Mexico, and a corrupt, avaricious company of Spanish singers and dancers who scheme to defraud the other passengers of their money.
In the mingling and meeting of these varied personalities on board the ship of fools, a drama of good and evil takes place, from which no one will emerge unchanged. Rich in incident, passion, and treachery, the novel’s themes of nationalism, cultural and ethnic pride, and basic human frailty are as relevant today as they were when the novel first appeared in 1945.
©1945 Katherine Anne Porter (P)1995 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
“A creative feat…Ship of Fools not only crowns Miss Porter’s notable career but takes and should hold an eminent place among contemporary novels.” (Chicago Tribune)
“Porter's passengers are extremely diverse in nationality, age, class, education and experience. Grace Conlin does a splendid job portraying them.” (AudioFile)
“This vivid, beautifully written story is bathed in intelligence and humor.” (New York Herald Tribune)
Daily Dog Walker and LONG Silicon Valley commutes, so I gulp through and love lotsa books, especially literary fiction and Mystery.
I read "Ship of Fools" as a college student and loved it , also have always loved Porter's short stories. I revisited "Ship" because I was listening to a Ken Follet novel-- set in an airplane and chock full of fools and was reminded of this novel, so decided to give it a new listen, was curious how it would compare.
Here's the thing, I've said in reviews before that more literary novels do not always fare so well as "listens." So my 3 for performance is just an acknowledgement of that, the reader is perfectly fine, but given that much of this novel is psychological/interior it's simply harder to carry off a narration. This is NOT a thriller a la Follet. I think of Follet as storyteller, someone like the brilliant Bryce Courtney who puts together a brilliant story, and the story drives all, and the characters are quickly and proficiently sketched and the reader is quickly and professionally sucked in to a compelling narrative.
Porter's book is more complex, harder to sift through the characters, the narrative drive is multi-pronged. It's a GREAT book and good to listen to, but if you listen, listen twice OR read and listen. The time is well-spent. I LOVE Follet and Courtney, but their books are more transient, this is a book that you will think about longer, the characters' motivations and actions will stay with you longer. In other words, you can' not commute or walk or beach rest and relax with this one, it's not 100% storytelling entertainment, but will stay with you longer because it drills down deeper.
Grace Conlin does a terrific job of narrating the story. The novel itself is actually more a series of short stories more than a coherent novel. But the characters are memorable and many parts of it are engaging. The themes of pre-WW II German culture and anti-Semitism are explored well. Her insights about marriage and relationships are spot on. Definitely engaging even if it doesn't have a compelling overall narrative.
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