Fenian's Trace is the tale of two lads raised as brothers in the west of Ireland during the early 1900s. Though they choose different paths when the rebellion comes, they both take a fancy to the spirited and alluring Maria upon her homecoming from America. It's a story told by Mr. Clancy, a gruff old Limerick publican who fancies himself as yet another in that grand tradition of Irish storytellers, though one who refuses to let his gentle inebriation or any distractful facts trouble his telling.
The book focuses upon two "brothers" born in 1901 near Limerick. We watch them mature in the turbulent time leading up to Ireland's independence in 1921. Mr. Clancy, a Limerick pub owner of the Republican bent, tells the boys tales of Ireland's patriotic figures, about men such as Brian Boru fighting the Vikings, Hugh O'Neill and the Nine Years War, Oliver Cromwell's religious intolerance against Catholics, the daring exploits of John "Fireball" MacNamara, the Irish Rebellion of 1798 and finally the growing strength of the Sinn Féin movement established in 1905. Mr. Clancy doesn't hide where his affiliations lie and he states outright the value of a well told story with there being no harm in adding a bit of embellishment! These tales, told to the boys and to us, depict the culture that has shaped them. In watching their reactions we observe their different personalities. The history is not boring, neither for them nor for us; it is exciting and draws the mood, the place and the feel of the boys' Ireland. With this background the story unfolds.
The reader comes to understand why the two boys live as brothers under the same roof, though they have different surnames. The reader comes to understand why their father is not fighting for the IRA. Young in the beginning, only twelve, we watch them mature. A girl enters the scene. She is loved by both, but she loves them both too! You think this sounds contrived? Well not here. The book is about the Irish fight for independence told through the boys’ lives as they become men and through their families and those they love. The first two decades of the 20th century and Limerick, that is the setting. The sentiments of those involved feel utterly genuine. The reality of the decisions that need to be made and their consequences for all those involved hit home with force. This is a book both about men and women. There are gruesome details of torture. Maria, the woman they both love, how can she choose between the two? Must she choose? Will she have any opportunity to choose? Does one die for Ireland or does one die for a friend? Both the love aspect and the IRA struggle pulled me in equally.
A dialect is not just the pronunciation of words but also the words used, the expressions, the idioms and the whole way of talking. Everything here is very, very Irish, and I loved it. The author’s choice of words goes far in making this book feel genuine. Sure there is swearing, but every swear word belongs. We are delivered real life and real dialogs.
I do wish a short author’s note had clarified what was fact and what fiction, although often this was not hard to distinguish.
The narration by Liam Carney is read with a superb Irish lilt. I do think this further enhances one’s appreciation of the lines. I would rate the narration with four stars, drawing off one because Carney read, for my taste, a bit too fast. He sings Irish tunes with just the right nuance, not too sentimentally but in a gruff masculine voice. There is even an addition of Irish music introducing a chapter or two. There is not too much of this to make it annoying or too repetitive. Often an interruption for music breaks the flow of the story, but that didn’t happen here, probably because it was not excessively employed. Personally, I think this book should be listened to in the audio format rather than read, doing so one feels immersed in Irish culture.
This was a gripping story and a true pleasure to listen to.
It is 1934 and the Depression is bearing down when 16-year-old Weldon Avery Holland happens upon infamous criminals Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow after one of their notorious armed robberies. A confrontation with the outlaws ends as Weldon puts a bullet through the rear window of Clyde’s stolen automobile. Ten years later, Second Lieutenant Weldon Holland and his sergeant, Hershel Pine, escape certain death in the Battle of the Bulge and encounter a beautiful young woman named Rosita Lowenstein hiding in a deserted extermination camp.
There is no point in my continuing with this. My friends know I don't usually dump books, but nevertheless I have decided to do just that. My reasons follow.
I have no interest in any of the characters. I couldn't care less if they succeed or fail. I don't even like Weldon Holland, and he is supposed to be the hero! He is so damn sanctimonious.
I dislike the crude language.
There is no humor.
I am not blown over by the occasional lines of descriptive writing.
One minute we are told X cannot walk, and then presto he is fine. What? Is that believable?
I do not mind reading about people's unscrupulous behavior, cheating, infidelity, cowardice and desire for pecuniary riches if I am learning about a real event. Tell me, what is the point here?! This is pure fiction. I am not learning a thing. The portion on fighting at the Battle of the Bulge is short. That about Bonnie and Clyde too. Now, after the war, it is about corrupt and exploitative managers running oil companies in Texas. These guys are all fictitious, and really, there is zero to learn!
Maybe reading about undercover detectives appeals to you? It doesn't to me.
I also hate the audiobook narration by Will Patton. Yes, he reads slowly, but he mumbles and he slurs words. He sounds so self-satisfied. Maybe that is good; it does fit Weldon Holland.
I read for fun. This is tedious and boring. I don't give a fig if Weldon Holland earns a bunch of money by any means. I am sure he will deem his methods to be above board.
1 of 2 people found this review helpful
What is looked upon as an American dream for white people has long been an American nightmare for black people. Malcolm X - born Malcolm Little - experienced that nightmare firsthand even as a small boy, when white supremacists firebombed his family home. Such terrifying moments, along with years of daily racist insults and barriers, shaped Malcolm's life, transforming him into one of the most articulate and rousing black nationalist leaders of all time.
A clear and concise presentation of Malcolm Little, more widely known as Malcolm X or el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz, American Muslim minister and human rights activist. Born in 1925. Assassinated in 1965. It records his entire life from the burning of his house at the age of four, his father's early support of Marcus Garvey, his self-destructive youth, his 6.5 years in prison, conversion to Islam, his work with Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam, his mind-altering experiences in Mecca in 1964 and finally his assassination in 1965. Not only his life but also the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s is outlined step by step. Very well done.
The audiobook narration by Jay Snyder was exceptional. Slow, clear and easy to follow.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
The daughter of political philosopher William Godwin and feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Shelley had an unconventional childhood populated with the most talented and eccentric personalities of the time. After losing her mother at an early age, she finds herself in constant conflict with a resentful stepmother and a jealous stepsister. When she meets the Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, she falls deeply in love, and they elope with disastrous consequences.
Impossible to concentrate on the words given that the narration is so bad. Don't think of listening to this book, even if you find the topic interesting.!
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
In the Polish city of Lodz, the Brothers Ashkenazi grew up very differently in talent and in temperament. Max, the firstborn, is fiercely intelligent and conniving, determined to succeed financially by any means necessary. Slower-witted Jacob is strong, handsome, and charming but without great purpose in life. While Max is driven by ambition and greed to be more successful than his brother, Jacob is drawn to easy living and decadence.
Written by the older brother of the famed Nobel Prize winner Isaac Bashevis Singer.
There is an interesting epilog about the two brothers – how the elder helped the younger, lending him a guiding hand into the writing career. The older being more politically oriented the youger more religious.
For me this book was OK. It provides a detailed description of Jewish life in today the third largest city of Poland, Łódź. The story begins with the birth of the town and then the birth of twins. The life of the town and the life of twins through to their death. It is about life of “a Jewish family” in Poland. It is equally much about the life of the city itself rising from German immigrants who brought knowledge of textile production. Weaving and looms and soon steam factories. The time frame is the 1800s through to the end of the First World War and the Russian Revolution. It is the story of Jewish life in Poland and Russia. Rife antisemitism. The growth of unions and changes in the textile industry. One family, two brothers and a large number of supporting characters.
I cannot give it more than two stars because I never felt for the characters. Their lives seem to be drawn to teach history. Their life stories are told rather than experienced. There is a large cast of characters; you have to take notes to keep track of who is who. I felt each character was too much a "type of person" more than an interesting person - the go-getter, the friendly guy, the union activist. History has to be told so a person is thrown in to do just that. Two-dimensional characters.
The ending? Too moralistic and quite predictable.
The narration by Stefan Rudnicki was fine, but certainly nothing special.
Do I sound bored? Yeah, well I was at the book's end. The early history relating the birth of the textile town was more interesting than the story of the Russian Revolution I’ve read so many times before.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Extensively revised by Nabokov in 1965 - 30 years after its original publication - Despair is the wickedly inventive and richly derisive story of Hermann, a man who undertakes the perfect crime: his own murder. One of the 20th century’s master prose stylists, Vladimir Nabokov was born in St. Petersburg in 1899. He studied French and Russian literature at Trinity College, Cambridge, then lived in Berlin and Paris, where he launched a brilliant literary career. In 1940 he moved to the United States, and achieved renown as a novelist, poet, critic, and translator.
Seriously, I didn't like this. Yeah, I like how Vladimir Nabokov writes but this book just doesn't have the sparkle, the humor or the polished writing of Lolita or Speak, Memory or other books by the author. It feels like a piece that still needs more work….or maybe you can work something to death. Look at the history of this book. Despair first came out in 1934 as a serial in the Russian literary journal Sovremennye. It was published as a book in 1936, translated by the author into English in 1937, but what exists today is the author's reworking of 1965. Clearly he did have time to rethink this.
Why doesn’t it work for me? Despair not only was a forerunner to Lolita, published in 1955, but it feels like that too. One can compare Hermann of this novel with Lolita's Humbert Humbert. Both are unreliable first-person narrators, but one is a shadow of the other. Not in who they are but in the strength of their characterizations. Lydia, Hermann's wife, doesn't come close to Lolita's Dolores.
So what is the theme of this one? It is a murder story, but more! It is really about doubles, about identity and what connects one person to another. Hermann is delusional. Anything he says has to be questioned. Of course that is true too of Humbert Humbert, but there it is easier to just see the facts presented as his point of view. In Despair the story is so much more complicated; you are thrown between the writing of a story, how authors write stories and what actually happens, i.e. the events of the tale. Too complicated! Not properly thought through. Similar themes but quite simply not as good.
There are also funnier and more noteworthy lines in Lolita. More to chuckle at. More to think about on all sorts of themes, having nothing to do with sex or murder.
Christopher Lane does a good job with the narration, even if occasionally when he personifies dubious characters of Russian origin it was practically impossible to hear the lines. Arrogance, self-satisfaction and delusional traits, as well as furious explosions of temper all are well intoned.
For me this was quite simple a forerunner to Lolita. That I gave five stars.
3 of 5 people found this review helpful
Joan Mitchell has two suitors, and can’t decide whom to marry. With her mother Aurelie’s example in mind, she’d like to skip marriage altogether. Joan and Aurelie live together in a beautiful French Quarter home on Coliseum Street in New Orleans, along with Joan’s many half-sisters born of Aurelie’s five disastrous marriages. Joan lives a mostly carefree life, but when she becomes pregnant, she chooses to end her pregnancy rather than marry a man she doesn’t love - a decision with grave consequences in conservative 1950s New Orleans.
I turned to this novel because I have read many of Shirley Ann Grau's novels and have enjoyed them tremendously. If you are interested in the South she is a must read. She was born in 1929, won a Pulitzer in 1965 for her The Keepers of the House. My favorite though is The Hard Blue Sky, followed closely by The Condor Passes, then this or The Keepers of the House . Heavens, they are all good. I prefer long over short novels and any novel is better than a short story, for me that is. That I enjoyed this short novel, The House on Coliseum Street, so much says something about her writing skills. It is the writing, not the book's topic that attracts. With her words she draws the South so you feel it with all your senses. She creates dialogs that are pitch-perfect. Her characters feel real, even if they are not typical. What they do and what they say are perfect for them.
As stated, it was not the topic that drew me to the book. Joan Mitchell is 20, unmarried and pregnant. You know right in the beginning that she will have an abortion. The story is about why. How did this come about? Who decided? And why did that person decide? The unborn child's father (Michael), what did he want.....and what did he say? Joan, her mother (Aurelie), her younger sister (Doris), Michael and one more, Joan's fiancé (Fred), all of these are carefully drawn so what happens is understood. Human beings don't act in a vacuum. There is also Joan's fourth stepfather - living in the same house on the top floors but completely separated from them. Aurelie has been married five times! Each time one child was born. What Grau has done is create a family, thrown in some boyfriends, and we watch them interact. This is a psychological novel with the characters, the time and the place all superbly drawn.
The author made me curious from the very first pages.
Let's call this a coming of age story, not about a young teenager, but rather the complicated process of standing on your own two feet. Knowing who you are. Having the strength to make your own decisions. This doesn't happen in the teens, it doesn't happen overnight and it isn't easy. How we get to this point will always be influenced by those around us.
The audiobook narration by Tamara Marston was excellent. The characters have such different personalities. This is wonderfully mirrored in their voices. The speed is perfect and the book is simple to follow. Wait till you hear Aurelie, Joan and her sister Doris! Two sisters. You love your sister, right? Well you may also despise her, particularly if one ...... Curious? Well, read or listen to the book. It’s very good.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
"This is your country, this is your world, this is your body, and you must find some way to live within the all of it." In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation's history and current crisis. Americans have built an empire on the idea of "race", a falsehood that damages us all but falls most heavily on the bodies of black women and men.
The truth? I don't know what to say about this book. It speaks of people and events I don't know of. It is written in a language I have difficulty connecting to.
Much is unclear.
Parts are repetitive.
It is unstructured.
Such anguish and fear!
A personal letter from the author to his fifteen year old son.
4 of 10 people found this review helpful
Against the mythical dreamscape of America, Auster brilliantly weaves the bizarre narrative of Marco Stanley Fogg, an orphan searching for love, his father, and the key to the riddle of his origin and fate.
While this book starts well, it soon goes downhill.
The central character in the beginning is Marco Stanley Fogg. He drew my attention. What happens to him gives the reader a lot to think about. He is an orphan and has no relatives. He is totally alone, or so he thinks. Until..... Well, I am not going to tell you. And he is broke. When? 1969. Where? Brooklyn. I liked the writing. I liked the philosophical thoughts, his thoughts about writing, about travel, about how people interact, our need for connection with other human beings, all of this I found interesting! Then he meets Kitty. I liked her too.
However the further you proceed, the further the focus shifts from Marco to others. Mostly it follows an elderly man, Effing. He is 84 in 1969. But who is Effing? First their stories are woven together, but then the Effing personality takes over. His story? Well it is crazy, as far as I am concerned. His story goes on and on, and on and on. It‘s too long, goes off on all different tangents, none of which were either credible or interesting. One example, to be specific, are the pages and pages and more pages about a book written by Effing’s son. Yes, there is a connection between Effing and Marco, but that connection is in no way credible. At least two thirds of the entire book left me totally unengaged. Little to think about. How is it possible to be engaged in a story that is beyond belief? In addition, this part of the book turns into a movie script.
The narration by Joe Barrett is absolutely excellent.
I enjoyed Timbuktu very much, but Moon Palace is unwieldy.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
One of Faulkner's comic masterpieces, The Reivers is a picaresque story that tells of three unlikely car thieves from rural Mississippi. Eleven-year-old Lucas Priest is persuaded by Boon Hogganbeck, one of his family's retainers, to steal his grandfather's car and make a trip to Memphis. The priests' black coachman, Ned McCaslin, stows away, and the three of them are off on a heroic odyssey.
Wordy, confusing and boring. Those are the three adjectives I would use to describe this book. Simplistic too.
My biggest complaint is the wordiness. What? Was Faulkner taking part in a contest to see who could come up with the most synonyms for each word? Someone should count how many times "or" is found in this book. Faulkner begins with an oblique statement, and then it is repeated umpteen times with other words so that the meaning is hammered into the reader. This bored me and started putting me to sleep.
The plot is straightforward and simple. Faulkner uses none of his complicated literary techniques typical of his other novels. Nevertheless, I think he likes to confuse. Why does he never say something once, simply? There is a plot twist at the end that threw me.
So what is the theme of the book? It is a coming of age story, set in 1905 in Mississippi and Memphis, Tennessee. An adventure story spread over four days. Lucius Priest, a pampered white eleven-year-old, the story’s main character, learns the difference between the real world and the ideal world taught to him by his elders. What we are told and the way it really is. That is it in a nutshell. The four days start with the stealing of a car, followed by the crossing of a muddy creek, betting, horse races, a bordello and of course prostitutes. (Reivers means the stealers!). Yet the story is so innocent, the message so cute. Too cute. Honestly, I think the book is more appropriate for kids. It says nothing to an adult.
It draws for me a rather tame picture of the South in 1905.
The audiobook narration by John H. Mayer was easy to follow, yet I detested his intonation of Ned McCaslin's "hee-hee-hee". Ned is black. He plays a central role. The intonation made him sound stupid, and he wasn't stupid at all!
1 of 8 people found this review helpful