Typee is an idyll of four months among primitive South Sea islanders. However, the books also shocked its original audience with a truthful account of Polynesian tribal life, including their very liberal sexual practices. Typee won Melville great fame during his life and remains a favorite today.
I agree with a previous reviewer's comment that the reader is a little monotonous in his reading voice. It is a bluff male voice such as might be suitable for a sailor, but it lacks range. This problem is perhaps made worse by the fact that Melville launches into some heavily discursive passages in which he berates the unfortunate effects of the so-called "civilized" Europeans on the South Sea natives. These comments were a much-needed corrective at the time of the book's original publication, but they have the effect of taking the reader out of the novel. Typee is really only an adventure novel in the first section and briefly again at the end. In the middle is a long section describing the lifestyle of the Polynesians prior to being heavily impacted by European visitors. It is an idyllic life in which little work is required and the natives, who are feared as barbarous and violent, prove to be mostly benign and hospitable. I wouldn't rate this book as being on par with Moby Dick because the themes are so bluntly stated, as though the narrator had decided to step out of the narrative in order to deliver a lecture. Yet it was fascinating in what it depicts and is still a worthwhile listen.
9 of 9 people found this review helpful
Walden is the classic account of two years spent by Henry David Thoreau living at Walden Pond near Concord, Massachusetts. The story is detailed in its accounts of Thoreau's day-to-day activities, observations, and undertakings to survive out in the wilderness for two years. Thoreau's journal is an exquisite account of a man seeking a more simple life by living in harmony with nature.
Although this is generally a good reading of this classic work, I must point out that there is a problem with the way the book has been divided into 2 parts. The end of Chapter 9 has been cut off at the end of Part One. Part Two begins with Chapter 10. Thus someone has made an error and left out a portion of the reading, because the reader is cut off in mid-sentence at the end of Part One.
18 of 18 people found this review helpful
Published in 1853, Bleak House is one of Dickens' most mature and ambitious novels. From London's slums to the Court of Chancery, where the endless case of Jarndyce and Jarndyce devours the future of several generations, the author's canvas of Victorian society vividly conveys an indictment of legal corruption, a riveting tale of detection, and a compelling emotional drama.
I have to give full marks to David Case for the excellent job he does as narrator of Bleak House. He manages to create believable distinctive voices for many characters of all classes and both sexes, and this made the novel an excellent listen. My only reservation is with Dickens himself, who is at his best when writing satire but who really lays it on thick when he delves into sentimentality. Dickens' characters tend to be one-dimensional, which works fine when he is satirizing their quirks and bad habits, such as the ludicrous Mr. Chadband, whose manner of delivering sermons is to ask absurd rhetorical questions over and over and then refute them. Yet Dickens' sentimentality doesn't really spoil how entertaining the book is in the final analysis, and I suspect the fact that Dickens is a little obvious and heavy-handed in his moralizing is also why he remains a very popular writer to this day.
6 of 6 people found this review helpful
Winner of the Governor's General Award for fiction, Miriam Toews writes endearing novels that are amusing and full of surprising turns. The Troutman family is facing serious change. With their mother remitted to the mental hospital again, precocious 11-year-old Thebes and rebellious 15-year-old Logan place a call to their aunt Hattie in Paris, who has just been dumped by her boyfriend.
This is certainly a fun book and I was delighted to find Miriam Toews on the Audible.com list and would love to see more Canadian authors make it onto Audible. This is basically the story of a madcap roadtrip undertaken in desperation by the aunt of a teenage boy and an 11-year old girl, together with those children, to find their father after their mother goes into hospital with mental health problems. Ultimately, after crossing the entire United States, they find him. But I was unsatisfied by the conclusion. Hattie, the narrator, commits herself to looking after her sister, Min (the one with the mental health issues), in the wake of a failed love affair. But as the book makes clear, Hattie has tried to do this many times before, without success. Why should the reader believe it's going to work this time? The story ends seemingly prematurely without a full resolution, perhaps like life itself, but I am not a reader who believes that art should exactly imitate life. Readers expect a story to have a more satisfying conclusion than life often affords, and I believe an author should respect these expectations. In this story, Toews doesn't, which is why I thought it not as good as her earlier novel, A Complicated Kindness.
Set in Greenwich Village, Harlem, and France, Another Country tells the story of the suicide of jazz-musician Rufus Scott and the friends who search for an understanding of his life and death, discovering uncomfortable truths about themselves along the way. Another Country is a work that is as powerful today as it was 40 years ago - and expertly narrated by Dion Graham.
In this novel Baldwin presents a realistic portrait of artistic young people in New York in the early 1960s. The most compelling character, the tormented black musician Rufus, is alive for only the first portion of the book, yet he casts his shadow over everything. Baldwin shows how even well-meaning whites who try to create friendship or love across the racial barrier often have no idea of the emotional sorrow they are up against or the further sorrow they may inadvertently cause. This novel also explores the conflicts that can arise among a group of struggling artists when one of their number becomes successful. As well, the novel includes some frank but well-written sex scenes, including homosexual encounters. Some may find this novel overly dark and full of conflict. Certainly, it is not a light or cheerful book, but it is an important work.
23 of 26 people found this review helpful
This favorite book for children, based on the author's own youthful experiences, describes the family life of the Marches in a small New England community. Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy are raised in genteel poverty by their loving mother, Marmee, while their father serves as a chaplain during the Civil War. The story explores their domestic adventures, their attempts to increase the family's income, their friendship with the neighboring Laurence family, and their later love affairs and destinies as women.
I was surprised at the negative comments of another reviewer about the reader, C.M. Hebert, of this version of Little Women. I found the reader to be warm and lively and to have conveyed well the old-fashioned moralism combined with a genuine love for her characters that rescues Alcott's classic from merely being larded with bromides or unbearably treacly. Because let's face it, this is a very sentimental book, but the characters are so loveable and so sympathetic that the reader overlooks this quality and just goes along for the ride. And C.M. Hebert, with her amused tone, well conveys this spirit.
11 of 11 people found this review helpful
Wharton's most erotic and lyrical novel, Summer explores a daring theme for 1917, a woman's awakening to her sexuality. Eighteen-year-old Charity Royall lives in the small town of North Dormer, ignorant of desire until the arrival of architect Lucius Harney. Like the succulent summer landscape in the Berkshires around them, Charity's romance is lush and picturesque, but its consequences are harsh and real.
This novella may be compared to Ethan Frome in that it is about country people rather than about the wealthy about whom Edith Wharton more commonly wrote. And yet this novel is more complex and emotionally compelling than the more famous work. The tragedy of this young woman's life and her seemingly unavoidable doom is spellbinding.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
The Secret Agent was one of the first espionage novels ever written, and it is certainly one of the finest in the oeuvre of Joseph Conrad. The story concerns the attempt by a group of back-alley revolutionaries to destroy one of London's most famous landmarks and thereby set off a revolution.
Conrad, whose most famous books were about seafaring, wrote this lesser known work around 1907 about a man who serves as a spy for a foreign country in the Edwardian era. He is provoked by his employer into committing a terrorist act in order, supposedly, to cause the British police to clamp down on anarchists and communists. But the bombing goes awry and fails to produce the desired result. The story is a thoughtful portrait of a selfish man and the self-centered maneuverings of those around him: the police, the Minister in the government, and the foreign ambassador. Yet the story has resonance for modern times and provides insight into the minds of modern suicide bombers and terrorists.
2 of 3 people found this review helpful
Herman Melville is now seen as one of the great figures in American literature, a man who expanded the role of the novel and gave new and complex depths to the meaning of a story. His best work uses the form of the novel or the story as a means of carrying and discussing concerns about the nature of humanity, the role of God, and a sometimes satiric, sometimes bitter, examination of colonialism and capitalism.
I hadn't expected a story of such dry humor and Kafkaesque qualities as "Bartleby the Scrivener" from the author of "Moby Dick". The story is intriguing and more than a little strange. The reading is quite good.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
Marcus Aurelius was Roman Emperor from 161 C.E. to his death in 180 C.E. He was destined to be a leader, havin being born into a prominent family - one related by blood and marriage to rulers and bankers. During his era, Romans who inherited power and vast fortunes were expected to set an example.
The main tenet of Aurelius' philosophy seems to be that a person should stay true to their highest nature. Nobody can truly harm you, no matter what they do to your body, if you do not compromise your divine nature. This is a very simple and beautiful idea. However, this particular reading of the book is a bit dull and pedantic, although admittedly the material is not inherently dramatic.
8 of 27 people found this review helpful