©2004 Bryce Courtenay; (P)2004 Bolinda Publishing Pty. Ltd.
Retired to mountains of California. Sell on eBay as Prsilla. No TV. Volunteer in wildlife rehab. Knit, sew or embroider while listening.
First of all, the narrator is a real artist, replicating all the voices and singing several songs. He can sound like Paul Robeson, a Russian countess, ordinary Australian blokes, ordinary Americans, Orientals of both sexes and every class from royalty to gangsters, and on and on. For long periods, he doesn't forget that he is one of the secondary characters telling a story. This performance is transparent and seamless.
The events of the book will take you from an island off Australia, to the Korean War, all over the Far East, and to rougher parts of the United States. Courtenay's outlook is global. If you can get through all the mud and blood of the Korean War, including serious wounds and a long time of miserable imprisonment, you will be rewarded with exotic locales and ultimate love and fulfilment. There's never a dull moment. Courtenay knows about race relations. In this story, a white Aussie soldier and a black American soldier become fast friends. They go into business together along with a most mysterious and wonderful older woman. While there are bad characters and bad things do happen, Courtenay is essentially optimistic. Even in prisoner of war camp, there are angels. The book is about brotherly love, excellence, intelligence, business sense. I feel like I know these people; if I could just buy the plane ticket, I could go see them. As my own immediate previous life was as a banker's daughter in China in the early 1900's, I could see, feel and smell the Shanghai and Hong Kong scenarios. The banker's daughter had to support younger siblings however she could. . . . Excellence is sexy; fluency in several languages is sexy; silk cheongsams and exotic cooking are very sexy. Ditto working hard and making lots of money, helping others, improving government policy, loving one another. Courtenay's book is inspiring and entertaining. It has a good balance of colorful description and fast action. It ties up all the tag ends of plot and ends well.
I'm ashamed to confess, but I selected this book because it was Looooong and I figured I'd get my money's worth in using a book credit on it. Well, I did get that, in spades!
"Brother Fish" is a superb read -- the characters are memorable, the dialogue superb, the atmosphere excellent and the reader gets an education in everything from the Korean War to crayfishing, Chinese Warlords, and Russian expatriates. The storytelling is terrific, though the book is long it never falters, the author maintains a pace that keeps the reader engaged for well over thirty hours.
The writer also does two things that I don't see writers of any caliber achieve with frequency-- the first is that he is able to depict memorable, likable humans without a counterpoint of extreme villainy. The unsavory characters who people this book are, much of the time, given redemptive interactions. I believe it is much harder to create fully realized, truthful characters and keep them interesting without seeding the novel with intriguing villains as counterbalance. What this author has done is seed the novel with intriguing heroic characters. I think he forsook the cheap but heady thrills a great villain can bring to the table for a larger, more truthful look at the human experience and this only heightens the book's success.
Also, the writer creates interesting and authentic male and female characters -- major and minor, and the main female character is no less compelling or heroic than the males, also a treat!
I have one minor quibble with the wrap up of a romance in the end -- but I hate to even mention it because it is only that, a quibble. "Brother Fish" is an extraordinary read, Bravo to the author for gifting us with this novel!
Having read Power of One a couple of years ago I was already a fan of Courtenay. I was impressed with the reviews for this narrator. Now, having listened to the whole thing, I am an even bigger fan of Courtenay, and a huge fan of Humphrey. After something in the vicinity of 300 hours of listening to audible books his narration was the best I have heard, bar none. That is saying something because I think Frederick Davidson (Dickens & Tolstoy) is terrific. But no one has shown the capacity to get into different national characters and dialects as has Humphrey. As for the novel itself, I appreciated the history and the insights into the Korean War, Japan, Hong Kong, and Australia of the period. I think that Courtenay is a great story teller. I did not find the characters shallow nor the book tedious. Quite the contrary. The book made me go on to other Courtenay/Humphrey collaborations. See Tandia.
This is by far THE BEST audio book I have experienced. I adore Bryce Courtney and the person who narrates is magnificent in all of his narrations I have listend to so far. I laughed, I cried and I want to listen to it all again. You can not go wrong with this one.
I enjoyed this book, The story is interesting and the narrator (the first I have ever listened to with an Australian accent) Was perfect. The constant discussion of other peoples 'Prejudice' while having characters that represent every Stereotype imaginable got a little old. But on the whole I enjoyed this book.
I can find a book to love in any genre -- a beautifully written classic, an interesting mystery or sci-fi, a trashy romance. Bring it!
STORY (fiction) - Brother Fish is almost 32 hours long. I would have rated it five stars had it been perhaps 12 hours. Maybe it's just me, but I find very few books worth a 32-hour investment. This book is character-driven and very well done. There are three main characters. Each one is likeable, richly portrayed and tells a detailed story of his/her difficult past. Jimmy is from the streets of New York. Jack is a poor fisherman's son, who grew up on a small Australian island. Nicole was born in Russia, then forced into surviving the dangerous streets of Shanghai. The characters' lives are partially intertwined because Nicole teaches Jack in school, then years later Jack meets Jimmy in a prisoner-of-war camp. Finally, the three work together as partners in a fish exporting business.
The book jumps between flashbacks and present day experiences and blends together well. A very large portion of the first part of the book is about Jimmy and Jack in the war and prison camps. There is lots of battles and suffering, with bits of Australian history and facts about the war with Korea. Then the book moves to Jimmy's early life as a gang member in New York and on a German tomato farm. Finally Nicole tells her story about her life as a young girl living in the Chinese underworld. Hers was by far my favorite. Wow, I would LOVE a book just about her! Throughout the book there were parts I enjoyed immensely, then other parts where I sped the listening speed to 2X just to get through. Much of the story is from Jack's perspective, so the narrator mainly speaks with an Australian accent and uses lots of Australian slang. As a listener from Texas (USA), I was able to understand the story completely, but there were many phrases which were unfamiliar to me.
PERFORMANCE - ABSOUTELY AWESOME! Performances like this make me wonder why I ever give five stars to others. Mr. Bower not only gives the characters their own distinct accent, but they have their own voice as well. There's Australian, German, Negro, Chinese, Irish, males, females, even singing. Just WOW!
OVERALL - This book is good, but I'd recommend only for people who are patient and willing to wait for a story to develop. I am NOT that patient. While this book is good, I was often frustrated and thought about giving up. I'm glad I didn't because the last ten hours were my favorite. While the F-word occurs occasionally, there is no actual sex during the book. There is quite a bit of violence, so I wouldn't recommend for younger listeners.
An all round well written and read book. Nice detail of historical events and locations. I enjoyed the reading - enough accents without the overblown hard to understand nuances many readers bring. I did not want it to end. Very realistic as in that all the endings of the inner stories did not all turn out the way we might want them to… gave the book a very realistic feel.
Like I said this is a really good book. I loved it all the way through. His description of the Korean war was detailed and seemed plausible. It is "the forgotten conflict" as we stereotypically call it these days. I am glad that Bryce Courtanay commemorated it with this good, good story. Also the inner story about Nicole Jordan's tribulations as a White Russian inside of Shanghai after the Bolshevik revolution would have made a good novel on its own. As far as the narrator is concerned; where did they find that bloke? He is really great. He had me thinking in an Australian accent for days, while I was consumed by this story. I also loved his 6'9" African American accent also. The narrator did a really good job. Outstanding literature!
Let's face it, these authors aren't paying me, so there's no need to lie!!
I'm leaving this review because I did not read anywhere that there would be songs in this "audiobook". I don't mean the author wrote a line or two of a song, as I've seen done in many audiobooks in the past. I mean, this guy wrote out the ENTIRE song into the story, and the poor narrator had to sing it in its entirety! The narrator is GREAT, by the way, but I didn't get this book to have songs sung to me... especially songs I don't like. It's an audio-BOOK, NOT an album of gospel music!!
To add salt to the wound, this book is VERY VERY VERY slow, after about a third of the way through it. Seriously, do we need to know about every little thing these characters do on a daily basis?? I half expected this author to go into detail about the breathing and sleeping habits of the main character at any time, describing and counting each breath, up to a million.
Yes, it is JUST THAT BORING. I'm not kidding.
I read "The Power Of One" and I thought it was fantastic. I have absolutely no idea how this book is rated as highly as it is, because it is a far cry from that one. It's as if the author literally was sleep walking through this one. It is so painfully boring.
"So much, and so well done"
This book although focussing on one character is undoubtedly the story of three. It is therefore more of a trilogy with the one thread of its main character uniting them, but any one of their three stories could stand on its own. And the canvas is vast from small town Australia, to the Korean war, from life as a POW to that of a young White Russian emigre trying to survive in China after the First World War, or as a black orphan in the US, or from rags to riches .... The list could continue, and these are not superficial cameos, but windows through which we gain clear pictures of worlds and experiences few of us in the UK know of, other than perhaps superficially or as stereotypes or caricatures.
The reading is excellent, and combined with the fine writing results in a book you will not want to come to an end.
"32 hours long and not a minute too long"
Humphrey Bower excelled himself narrating this. I had to check to see how many storytellers had been used but no, only the one. A story covering so much; the Korean War, Chinese Taipans, Tasmanian fishermen, comradeship, racism and so much more. Bryce Courtenay is definitely the Dickens of our time with his amazing storymaking. His characters jump into ones life and because he is such a good raconteur he seems to answer the questions before you ask them. I can thoroughly recommend this story because of the tale itself and because it was such a joy to listen to.
"Don't miss this one"
I've listen to lots of great books, but this one is at the top with just a few others. I thought at first I'd made a mistake and selected a book solely about war - not so. It's a wonderful story that was totally engrossing and is brilliantly read. It was a real disappointment when I came to the end. Just don't miss this one.
By the way, I'm Jean not Rob - just in case you want a female critic.
The characters and narrative are gripping. I couldn't wait to learn more about them and how the story unfolded. Historically fascinating about the Korean War and Australia's part therein. A jolly good listen.
I loved this book, the narration was excellent, the distinction between the characters and the accents flawless.
This reminded me a little of Forrest Gump's epic journey??!
A lovely feel good listen, would reccommend
"Brother Fish bryce Courtenay"
This is so worth the listen, really well read, and characterised well. As well as being quite an absorbing story, you learn a lot along the way, I'll be shopping for more of the same.
"I'm a sucker for a happy ending."
Bryce Courtenay and Humphrey Bower are a story teller's marriage made in heaven.
This is not the kind of book I would normally buy on reading the cover, detailed horrors of prisoners or war is something that I don't want to face up to. The story makes it so matter of fact with the way it is written and read that it is like listening to someone you have known all your life telling it just like it is. But then there is the humour, coming through their darkest hour is the humour which catches you off guard and you laugh out loud.
The scrapes that the characters get into combined with their psychological highs and lows makes them so real and so loveable.
Mix this with the heart breaking story of a mother losing her new born child never to know of the child's life and welfare and you have a story that is riveting.
With a narrator who can manage to sing convincingly like an American negro who is trying to affect an Irish accent - you can't go wrong.
I even listened to the credits and for a nice change they sounded so very sincere. Bryce Courtenay goes to a lot of trouble to find individuals with the right mix of experience that he needs to write stories like he was there: in the poverty and filth of back street Kowloon, hospital caves in North Korea and fishing villages of Tasmania.
"Sorry... found this audio book extremely boring."
I'm afraid I found listening to this audio book extremely tedious. I couldn't finish listening to it but found the first 12 hours an unbearable rambling. I was hoping things would pick up a bit, but on forward through to listen to further excerpts, can't see that it does - contintual droning on about a character I couldn't care less about. A disappointing purchase and waste of one of my Audible credits.
I should add that I have also downloaded Jessica, by the same author and read by the same narrator, and am finding THAT book wholeheardedly enjoyable. I can highly recommend that one! :)
Really enjoyed this one. It kept me going for many hours on the M5. The characters are engaging and believable and it had all the range of emotion and plot - great stuff. I'd never heard of the author before. Narrator was great.
This is a great story and is told well. It's the story of a young Australian man born in a poor Tasmanian fishing community and his best mate. This is a difficult one for a reader as the setting moves from Russia to China to America but he does a truly great job in that you really don't notice him 'doing' voices. The reader is pretty good at accents, I greatly admired his Cantonese & German pronunciation (!) and his singing voice was pretty good.
I imagine Jacko is everyone's favourite character as he is a real 'everyman' type. A good bloke with all the normal flaws and foibles. I really liked the other characters too, Jacko was the one I could best relate to.
A rip roaring roller coaster of a novel with mafia and soldiers.
I think I got this in some sort of promotion audible had, it's not my normal sort of book, but it got good reviews and so I took a chance. I am so glad I did! I wanted to give it to a friend as a 'real book' and I had to get a second hand copy from Australia. Thank you to audible and audible listeners who reviewed it, it was excellent.
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