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E. R. Rothenberg

  • 9
  • reviews
  • 36
  • helpful votes
  • 20
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Communist Daze audiobook cover art

Comic, but all too true

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 05-19-19

If you didn't know the USSR in the 1960s, you might think this was a comic fantasy, but for those who know, it's very realistic. I suspect the author may have been trying to lighten the reality with humor. He probably could have painted a darker picture of the Soviet medical system, but I suppose that's another book. The narrator was very good--a native Russian, who was able to handle all the complicated names and patronymics. There were occasional minor lapses in English accent or intonation, but that only added to the realism. Enjoyable on many levels.

The Revolution of Marina M. audiobook cover art

More "Gone with the Wind" than "War and Peace"

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 02-02-18

Any additional comments?

I never write reviews, but I must say something about this book. I was expecting a “sweeping historical saga” and serious literary fiction, but I realized my mistake after the first tawdry sex scene. By the time we get to the cult and the abrupt ending (with no indication of a serial), I had spent 30 hours on the kind of book I would never pick up on my own.

What kept me going? I listen to a lot of Russia-related books, both fiction and non-fiction. This is the first Audible book on a Russian theme where the narrator actually knows Russian. Usually Russian novels and great non-fiction like Anne Appelbaum’s "Gulag" are ruined by horrendous mispronunciations that could be easily corrected. I kept listening to “Marina M.” partly just to enjoy Yelena Shmulenson’s authentic narration. Most of the books she has narrated seem similarly light, but I will listen to Svetlana Alexievich’s “The Unwomanly Face of War” just for Shmulenson’s narration. I hope Audible will use her for other Russia-related books.

As for the story, I’m not familiar with Janet Fitch. I did some research and found that she studied Russian history and loves Dostoevsky. References in the book to futurist poetry, Viktor Skhlovsky, and precise historical details might be lost on many readers, but they demonstrate a deep knowledge of Russian cultural history. Her specific descriptions of St. Petersburg are spot on. It’s just a shame that she wastes her talents following the pattern of Danielle Steele, rather than Dostoevsky.

Nonetheless, I will probably listen to the sequel. The naïve Marina of this volume is bound to become disillusioned with her revolution, if the author is faithful to the facts. I’m guessing she will end up in the Gulag.

Just Send Me Word audiobook cover art

Not enough information

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 04-18-14

Would you consider the audio edition of Just Send Me Word to be better than the print version?

Can't compare, but the audio edition was very good.

What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

The emotional relationship between the protagonists was most interesting, but it was not enough. It was unrealistic to me that there was no comment (in these uncensored letters) about Stalin, the repressions, politics. That would have been most interesting.

The Black Russian audiobook cover art

Little known part of Russian history

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 04-18-14

What made the experience of listening to The Black Russian the most enjoyable?

A surprising story. I know a lot about Russian history, but the story of an African-American's success in per-revolutionary Russia is unexpected.

What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)

Sad, but somehow not surprising.

What three words best describe Peter Marinker’s performance?

Competent, easy-to-listen-to, adequate pronunciation of Russian.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

A Black American Entrepreneur in Russia

The Bonfire of the Vanities audiobook cover art

Not great literature, but fantastic narration

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 04-18-14

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

It's a page-turner, or the audible counterpart.

Who was your favorite character and why?

There are no positive characters. It's hard to really like any of them, yet that's part of the fun Sherman exhibits some nobility and some growth -- that's all we can expect.

Which character – as performed by Joe Barrett – was your favorite?

Joe Barrett was absolutely fantastic. He did all accents excellently. Really brought the book to life.

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

Toward the end it looks as though the innocent will prevail -- but that's too much to hope for in Tom Wolfe's world where nobody is truly innocent. There's a Dostoevskian cast to this modern American novel.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

Orange is the New Black audiobook cover art

Nothing special

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 04-18-14

Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

I was expecting more. Didn't watch much of the TV version, but from what I've heard about it, I expected more fireworks..

If you’ve listened to books by Piper Kerman before, how does this one compare?

No.

Have you listened to any of Cassandra Campbell’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

No.

What else would you have wanted to know about Piper Kerman’s life?

I would have liked to know more about her adjustment to life after prison. The story seemed to end too abruptly.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

Michael and Natasha audiobook cover art

Truth is stranger than fiction ...

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 02-03-14

Where does Michael and Natasha rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

Michael and Natasha was a great surprise. I stumbled upon it and found it fascinating. I don't usually listen to history, but this was more like a novel.

What did you like best about this story?

It reads like fiction, but it's all too true. Russian history of the twentieth century is simply incredible. This book draws on newly revealed archival information. Great historical events are told from the point of view of the individuals involved, making it come alive.

What do you think the narrator could have done better?

Pronounce Russian names correctly.

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

It was hard to put down. However, it seemed to end rather quickly after the climax. I would have liked more of a denouement. The final history of Natasha and family could be given in more detail. I didn't want it to end.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

Gulag audiobook cover art

Riveting story, flawed performance

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
1 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 01-16-14

Would you listen to Gulag again? Why?

Perhaps parts of it. I will consult a hard copy in order to digest and remember some of the many facts, statistics and quotations cited by the author.

What other book might you compare Gulag to and why?

Holocaust histories. Applebaum's history is based on newly opened archival information.

Would you be willing to try another one of Laural Merlington’s performances?

Not if it's a performance of a Russian-related subject. Her style was over-dramatic in inappropriate places, but worse was her horrendous pronunciation of Russian names, places, and gulag terminology. And it was inconsistently horrendous -- she pronounced the same name two or three different ways -- almost always incorrect.

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

Way too long for that but in places it was definitely hard to stop. The author livens up her chronological historical survey of the prisons and camps with the fascinating, if dismal, tragedies of individuals.

Any additional comments?

I find other reviewers' negative comments interesting. Applebaum opens her history with an instructive analysis of the contrast between the west’s cultural fascination with Nazi atrocities and its willful ignorance and disregard of Soviet evils. The details of the story are grisly and mind-boggling, but all too true and they deserve attention. The gulag is an important part of 20th century history and it is still relevant in Russia.

11 of 12 people found this review helpful

The Brothers Karamazov audiobook cover art

Wonderful book, horrendous narration

Overall
1 out of 5 stars
Performance
1 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 08-09-13

What would have made The Brothers Karamazov better?

A narrator who understands Dostoevsky. Narration requires interpretation, and Davidson has it all wrong.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Zossima is the central character of the novel, the one who carries Dostoevsky's message. Unfortunately, Davidson makes him come across like an evil troll.

What didn’t you like about Frederick Davidson’s performance?

He can't pronounce Russian names. They're not that difficult. I think most people know that EEEvan is not the way to say the common Russian name Ivan, and stresses are misplaced in most of the other names as well. But that's a common problem with narration of Russian novels. Worse is the droning, sing-song, nasal voice. The narration ruined the book for me. In the list of books narrated by Davidson there are several I am interested in, but I will never order a book narrated by him again.

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

None. Everything is necessary to Dostoevsky's message.

Any additional comments?

There are only three unabridged versions offered by Audible. The Magarshack translation is unreliable, so that left only the Covell and Davidson narrations. In the sample provided, Covell mispronounces every Russian name and according to other reviewers, his narration is flat and uninspired, so I was forced to put up with Davidson. Clearly it's time for a new recording. This is my favorite novel of all time, and unfortunately, the first book from Audible that I have been totally disappointed in. By the way, translators should always be identified along with the authors. It makes a difference.

18 of 22 people found this review helpful