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The American | [Martin Booth]

The American

The locals in the southern Italian town where he lives call him Signor Farfalla - Mr. Butterfly - for he is a discreet gentleman who paints rare butterflies. His life is inconspicuous: mornings are spent brushing at a canvas, afternoons idling in the cafés, and evenings talking with his friend, the town priest, over a glass of brandy. Yet there are other sides to this gentleman’s life.... Part thriller, part character study, part drama of deceit and self-betrayal, The American shows Martin Booth at the very height of his powers.
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Audible Editor Reviews

Martin Booth is posthumously back in the spotlight again, thanks to George Clooney and a film adaptation of his novel, originally titled A Very Private Gentleman. Imagine his handsome graying head bent over a half-finished butterfly painting at a cafe table in southern Italy, then aiding in the murder of prominent public figures in Washington, D.C. Indeed, this yarn is actually the very interesting inner monologue of a man who makes guns for covert political assassination plots. It is not a thriller per se, which is perhaps why the film has not been particularly well received. But Booth launched his career first as a successful poet, and the novel is a wonderfully evocative character portrait in a way that simply cannot be captured by film.

It can, however, be captured by voice. Ralph Cosham, who has narrated other such deep portrayals in the likes of Heart of Darkness and Frankenstein, brings the same super classy and sleuth-worthy British accent that he brought to The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes. He can spend several minutes discoursing on the proper way to pack a false-bottomed briefcase, then jump to his philosophy on the important differences between the two hookers he's been seeing together twice a week.

Suffice it to say that the plot is intensely understated, and that the real treat is in this man's ability to understand himself and his surroundings. He is a speculative and moral creature who does not shy away from examining his own fleeting pleasures and broad failures. During these 10 hours of Cosham's strangely absorbing monologue, there is still enough time to thread in a sparse and therefore reasonably plausible conflict of a spy on the run from another spy. The things that might make it a failure as a film are precisely those things that make The American worth a listen. —Megan Volpert

Publisher's Summary

The locals in the southern Italian town where he lives call him Signor Farfalla - Mr. Butterfly - for he is a discreet gentleman who paints rare butterflies. His life is inconspicuous: mornings are spent brushing at a canvas, afternoons idling in the cafés, and evenings talking with his friend, the town priest, over a glass of brandy.

Yet there are other sides to this gentleman’s life: Clara, the young student who moonlights in the town bordello, and another woman, who arrives with $100, 000 and a commission - but not for a painting of butterflies.

With this assignment returns the dark fear that has dogged Signor Farfalla’s mysterious life. Almost instantly, he senses a deadly circle closing in on him, one which he may or may not elude.

Part thriller, part character study, part drama of deceit and self-betrayal, The American shows Martin Booth at the very height of his powers.

(Previously published as A Very Private Gentleman.)

©2004 Martin Booth (P)2010 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

What the Critics Say

“Booth constructs his most focused, tightly written novel to date, reminiscent of William Trevor’s classic Felicia’s Journey and the late Patricia Highsmith’s Ripley novels.” (Publishers Weekly)

“Booth has created a rich, conflicted antihero whose clever rationalizations mask a soul weary with self-doubt…making us question our own moral values." (Boston Globe)

“Haunting, shocking, and tense…Crisp yet lyrical, simple yet intelligent.” (Booklist)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.6 (295 )
5 star
 (68)
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3 star
 (73)
2 star
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1 star
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Overall
3.6 (193 )
5 star
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3 star
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1 star
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Story
3.9 (192 )
5 star
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4 star
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3 star
 (27)
2 star
 (15)
1 star
 (10)
Performance
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  •  
    Allen Hilburn USA 10-08-12
    Allen Hilburn USA 10-08-12 Member Since 2009

    Allen

    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
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    "Very Different from the Movie"
    Would you consider the audio edition of The American to be better than the print version?

    Are audio books better than print books? That's such a personal call, my opinion is really insignificant to the reader of these reviews. I am a big fan of both, but audio books give me the ability to enjoy a book in situations where reading is not possible, like on long road trips. Sitting on a beach it might be a toss up, so make your own decision.


    What other book might you compare The American to and why?

    The book is quite unique, and therefore quite difficult to compare to other books I've read. It is almost journal-like in its approach.


    What about Ralph Cosham???s performance did you like?

    Ralph Cosham really captures the complexities of the main character,Signor Farfalla, which really brings the story alive and makes the personal nature of the narrative believable.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    When the Signor Farfalla finally admits to himself he cares for Clara


    Any additional comments?

    The original title of this book, "A Very Private Gentleman", is really a much better title for this work than "The American" and once you've listened or read it you will understand this. While I greatly enjoyed the movie, especially the scenery, the plot of the book is much more enticing. It is probably good I saw the movie, "The American" first. Had I listened to the book first, the movie would have been disappointing.

    I'd recommend you give Martin Booth's "A Very Private Gentleman", AKA "The American" a try, I think you'll enjoy it, I know I did.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Julius 03-27-15
    Julius 03-27-15
    HELPFUL VOTES
    7
    ratings
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    13
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    "Feels dated, but it's still enjoyable."

    Although it was published in 1990, at times it feels older, hence the mediocre recommendation. But there were stretches when I was completely engrossed. The book is written in the first person and that immediacy pulls you in. On other occasions it feels like a friend going on about something less than interesting. And maybe that is what Martin Booth was going for? I enjoy the details of a book, and the author get a lot right. Senior Farfalla is most intriguing when he goes into explaining the particulars of being one of the worlds greatest gunsmiths. The other times ... well, you get the idea. Regardless of that I found myself wanting to listen on. I will likely sample this one again, and I suppose that is the sign of a good book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Charles Columbus, OH 03-23-15
    Charles Columbus, OH 03-23-15 Member Since 2013
    ratings
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    18
    1
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    Performance
    Story
    "Pretty wordy"

    Could have been told without so many descriptions. Many words had nothing to do with the actual story. Mediocre at best.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Nancy United States 03-14-15
    Nancy United States 03-14-15 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
    6
    ratings
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    277
    30
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    "Just OK"

    It is quite possible that the mystery novel has grown beyond this book and that I would have had fewer expectations if I had read this one soon after it was originally published. I just felt that it was too understated. Maybe the book cover image threw me off. The protagonist was a likable fellow, though. Narration was good, too.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David Rowayton, CT, United States 02-28-15
    David Rowayton, CT, United States 02-28-15 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
    7
    ratings
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    10
    6
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    Story
    "Good story, too much fluff"
    Any additional comments?

    A good novel should have a balance of plot to color and background. This one is about 5% to 95%; most of the book is about descriptions of butterflies, views out of windows, clothing, etc. etc. etc. Interesting when he tells the story, but lots of dull in between

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    OGP Huntington Beach, CA, United States 02-27-15
    OGP Huntington Beach, CA, United States 02-27-15 Member Since 2014
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    9
    1
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    Performance
    Story
    "Good!"

    The story was a.little dry,
    But the performance was quit good.
    Not sure I could recommend this for its entertainment value.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Philip 02-25-15
    Philip 02-25-15 Member Since 2015
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    3
    2
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Masterful storytelling"

    I thought the book was even better than the movie. Most books are. However the narrator of this book, Ralph Cosham, is a fantastic narrator who is very believable as the main character, Mr Butterfly. He sounds exactly as this character should, if that makes sense. Anyways Id definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for a great audiobook.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robert 02-25-15
    Robert 02-25-15 Member Since 2011

    Old World Traveler

    HELPFUL VOTES
    4
    ratings
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    70
    15
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    Story
    "Superb! As precise as hand made mercury ammunition"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    I saw the movie and thought it was marginal. As I got into the audio book it simply got better and better. There is no comparison with the movie, which I'd give 1 star. The book is 100x better than the movie plot - the two are not even remotely the same. And there is the person in the shadows.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The tapestry of details is amazing.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    I never listen to a book in one sitting. I also don't gulp down a good key lime pie either. And like our hero, I don't jump out of bed right after sex!


    Any additional comments?

    If you are new to audio books and over 21, this will make for a great first book. If they had 6 stars, I'd give them.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mary Catalina, Australia 02-12-13
    Mary Catalina, Australia 02-12-13 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A Real Disappointment"

    If this is Booth at his best - I'm glad I haven't been tempted before. The narrator did a good job with what was frankly a self-indulgent analogy fest by the writer. I kept waiting for something to happen, for some excitement - it didn't eventuate and I couldn't wait for the agony to end.....

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dorothy Philadelphia, PA, United States 12-11-12
    Dorothy Philadelphia, PA, United States 12-11-12 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
    9
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    "No plot, Hours of boring descriptions."
    This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

    No one but an obsessive compulsive person who wants to listen to hours of repetitive ad irrelevant detail.


    Has The American turned you off from other books in this genre?

    No, it is uniquely awful


    Would you be willing to try another one of Ralph Cosham’s performances?

    Yes, just to see what he can do with a decent book, though I'm skeptical.


    If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from The American?

    All of it. I'm an avid reader and I like just about anything. I find it difficult to believe this book was published.


    Any additional comments?

    I'm surprised you guys recommended this one.Still love Audible and have enjoyed so many books.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
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