©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)
It took me awhile to finish this book as the tragedy of Italy in the first World War portrayed in this book was not always easy to listen to. The adventures of the protagonist, his near executions and the depiction of the thousands upon thousands of lives lost in a senseless war were gut-wrenching. However this is a fascinating look at WW I from the Italian side as they fought against the Germans, Austrians and Hungarians. This is a book to be savored again.
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!
This book takes a bit of time to get into. (The narrator is not Patrick Tull..then again, no one is quite as good as Patrick Tull.) But Helprin's characters, their heartaches, their loves, their passions, and their high sense of fidelity to the ideals of beauty and truth and courage are shining in this one.
The protagonist is an elderly man on the road to visit relatives, who has experienced a rare and fantastic life, centered in Rome, but primarily as a soldier in Italy during the years leading up to and into WWI. His companion is a young, uneducated worker, who becomes the vessel into which the protagonist pours his life story into.
Helprin's typical blending of harsh reality, tragic beauty, mythical characters, and high idealism based on the morals and social codes of ages long past are shown in abundance. It is like some odd mixture of Alice in Wonderland and epic historical fiction.
Only if I liked the author.
If you like Tolstoy, C.S. Lewis, Patrick O'Brien, and J.R.R. Tolkein buy this today.
When I was first out of college, I remember reading Winter's Tale which was a new book at the time. Now, half a lifetime later, I tried to read this equally hefty novel and had a real flashback. I remembered clearly why I liked the earlier book: its extravagant language and fantastic imagery; I also remember what I didn't like: everything felt a bit shallow and false, everything from the literary and cultural allusions to the unsuccessful, overly ambitious plot that struggled to create a sort of nineteenth century grandness. It felt like an accomplished attempt to imitate great writing, but unlike such writing the novel ultimately rang hollow. There was no need for this book because there was not the slightest hint of a human being communicating much of anything or feeling much of anything. The book had no pulse, no heartbeat. And guess what? Around three decades later, A Soldier of the Great War left me with exactly the same feelings. as the earlier book. The difference now is that I am older and perfectly willing to put aside a book that has failed me. You can do even better and not even start this book.
An intelligently written fictional account of one soldier of WW1 "the Great War" At times his exploits and narrow escapes make the book stagger dangerously near the sharp edge between fiction and fantasy writing. However the author is to be forgiven his desire to bring into focus the full range of war's folly and tragic consequences. Had the book's central character not been inclined to consider all the great and insoluble existential conundrums it would have failed to grip me through 28 long hours of listening. (Coincidentally I heard a live performance of Mahler's Resurrection Symphony, #2, which amplified the novel's concluding lines. Transcendent!). Still it falls a hair short of being one of the worlds great works.
I adored this book when I read it many years ago and was looking forward to happy hours hearing it. The narrator was, in my opinion, too young and too modern sounding for the story. His voice made it 'cute' This is not a cute book. Save that sort of narration for comedy or a modern tale. Not this. VERY disappointed
Another reader altogether as described in the first box
Turn it off
too bad I didn't return it in time. Total waste of a credit.
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