©1991 Mark Helprin; (P)2007 BBC Audiobooks America
"Extraordinary....a vast, ambitious, spiritually lusty, all-guzzling, all-encompassing novel." (The New York Times Book Review)
"A rousing tale....riotous energy and sustained brilliance....Helprin lights his own way, in his ownsingular direction." (Time)
"A gripping, poignant and universally relevant moral fable." (Publishers Weekly)
I was captured right away by the story of Allesandro and the beautiful country that he lived and fought in. I feel drawn to go and visit the painting and the mountains. What a beautifully written story of a tragic yet full life.
One of the great reads of my lifetime. Story, characters, word choice, imagery, humor, thought provocation, action, inspiration, love... This book has it all!
The writing was exceptional and wise. I love a work that stretches my edges, challenges my unperceived biases, and instructs in a manner that demands I reach my own conclusions rather than its rigid pedagogy. All that bound in two beautifully interwoven personal stories. The aged, remarkably tested, and wise imparts his mentoring on the young, inexperienced, and uneducated, with the real pressure of realization of accelerating mortality. Listen, read, remember, and absorb. You will exit a better creation!
I wanted to like this more than i did - like there were really good parts... if i could - i'd probably go 3 1/2 stars. It just seemed like, given the age of the narrator at the beginning, that the story was going to cover more of his life. But it's really about just before the war, the war, and then it's impact on his life. I quite enjoyed it, just found it a bit long given the scope of time it covered. And this may be totally my own incorrect expectations (after all, it is named for the "Great War"), but there were whole sections i found just seemed to go on too long. Well written, well narrated overall tho. Recommended.
I could not finish this book. The hero, Alessandro, was unbearable, intended to be lovable and sensitive but frankly self-centered and condescending. He attracts only the most beautiful, sensitive women, and his every thought is a gem of innocent wisdom.
I gave up just a few hours into the novel, shortly after young Alessandro attends a state dinner in Rome at the suggestion of his beautiful, well-connected neighbor Leah Bellini, with whom he has been flirting. He sits with the Austro-Hungarian and French ambassadors, and without much thinking begins pontificating about Italy's foreign policy, making pronouncements that are more insightful (from today's perspective) than anything the ambassadors have heard before. Gimme a break. This is shortly after he outsmarts and outraces two Italian carabinieri on his sleek steed, Enrico, risking jail or a beating to reach a beach where the lovely Leah has ridden on her own horse.
I could not make it to the sections on the Great War, which are supposed to be beautifully written. Having said that, Mark Helprin is a strong writer, with some excellent imagery. His characters are just cardboard heroes, however, without shading.
The narration by David Colacci was very good.
Avid audible listener for over 10 years.
I read this book before I listened to it a few years later. I read it because I loved a Winters Tale which soon will be a movie. Mark Helprin books are rather long and demand some attention while taking in the story. The narrated version actually detracts from it. So I would highly recommend this book as something you take from your local library, its just to "dense" to listen to with any distractions. It's like trying to listen to Hamlet. While you are at the Library see if you can find a copy of Helprin's book Refiner's Fire. I actually think it was his best work.
Excellent main character and wonderful story. I like Mr. Helprin's dry humor and descriptions of people and places. He takes you on quite a journey.
This book was highly recommended and given to me in print by a friend whose opinion I respect and with whom I usually agree on books. I started reading it a few times but just couldn't get "into" it. It nagged at me for several years, so when I found the audio version on Audible, I immediately selected it. I've found in the past that I have much more tenacity in sticking with an audio book than one in print. I've listened to about the first quarter of the book and am giving up. The prose is beautiful, but there's just too much of it and not enough is happening to keep my interest. I keep thinking that it'll get better - and maybe it does - but I've lost interest.
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