©2001 Beryl Bainbridge; (P)2002 Chivers Audio Books
"[An] outstanding historical novel....The union of author, subject, and performance makes this a memorable literary event. Fascinating storytelling." (AudioFile)
"Bainbridge expertly re-creates the physical world of the time and fills it with richly constructed characters. Fans of historical fiction and good books in general will have an enthusiastic response." (Booklist)
I started off innocently enough with a paperback edition of James Boswell's "London Journal" -- something I had picked up in a used book store because I like reading old journals and diaries. Of course, like others who have stumbled across the journals and writing of Boswell, I loved its style and its author. You just can't do better than Boswell for journalizing and story-telling. And I think that Boswell's body of work has easily surpassed any writings by Dr. Johnson (except perhaps his Dictionary). I have so far collected over 30 books which have anything to do with Mr. Boswell and Dr. Johnson, and that is where this audiobook, Acordingly to Queeney, comes in. Samuel Johnson's patrons were the Thrales of Streatham Park in London. Their eldest daughter was known as Queeney, who was a special favourite of Johnson and whom he called "Sweeting", and it is her reflections on that friendship between Dr. Johnson and particularly her mother that fill this charming book with anedotes and revelations that any Johnson "fan" will savour. It fleshes out events that actually happened and gives them life. This book might seem a bit rambling for the uninitiated, even uninteresting or even boring -- but for those who know the subject matter and have an interest in the era and the characters involved they will not be disappointed. I wished this long book were twice as long. The narration is excellent and appropriate. A so-called fictional story with just enough authenticity to ring very true, even to those well-versed in the real history of Dr. Johnson (and Mr. Boswell).
I had long heard praise for this historical novel, focused on the friendship of poet/critic/lexicographer Samuel Johsnon and Hester Thrale, so I decided to give it a try. While the reader, Miriam Margolyes, was perfect for the subject matter, and the book was well written and well researched, I can't say that it was one of the best historical novels I've ever read. It was fine, but it just didn't grab my attention. Only some chapters are actually told from the point of view of Mrs. Thrale's daughter, "Queeney." Perhaps it might have been better if they all had been.
From Patrick O'Brian's Master and Comander series one learns the relationship between Jack and his surrogate Mother Queeney. Not history, but great historical fiction.
I like reading about history; I admire Beryl Bainbridge's writing; I'm interested to know about Samuel Johnson, so am surprised that I find this book boring. Miriam Margolyes is a wonderful reader but even she couldn't, for me at least, inject enough life into a book that seems to consist of the trivial details of daily life but lacking a narrative to carry the reader on. There are lots of people referred to that, even after listening for three and a half hours, are one dimensional: even Samual Johnson doesn't come to life. There are over 4 hours more, but I'm giving up.
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