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  • The Strange Case of Ermine de Reims

  • A Medieval Woman Between Demons and Saints
  • By: Renate Blumenfeld-Kosinski
  • Narrated by: Cynthia Wallace
  • Length: 8 hrs and 50 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 4
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 3
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3

In 1384, a poor and illiterate peasant woman named Ermine moved to the city of Reims with her elderly husband. Her era was troubled by war, plague, and schism within the Catholic Church, and Ermine could easily have slipped unobserved through the cracks of history. After the loss of her husband, however, things took a remarkable but frightening turn. For the last 10 months of her life, Ermine was tormented by nightly visions of angels and demons.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Riveting and moving story of a medieval visionary

  • By Lovisa on 03-13-19

Riveting and moving story of a medieval visionary

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

Reviewed: 03-13-19

Not all books published by academic presses would lend themselves to the audiobook format, but The Strange Case of Ermine de Reims absolutely does. Renate Blumenfeld-Kosinski has taken a wild and crazy medieval story and has carefully woven it into a series of contexts in such a way that it is easy and pleasurable to follow in audio form.

Ermine de Reims: wow! This pious fourteenth-century widow was plagued by vivid and varied demonic attacks more or less every night for ten months, attacks that her confessor, Jean le Graveur, wrote down. The cast of characters she encounters is mind boggling: saints like the hermit Paul the Simple, Mary Magdalene and St Peter, demons pretending to be saints, sexy demons in low-cut dresses, snakes, toads, burning pigs, and so much more. Ermine's travails are truly moving -- it is impossible not to feel for her. The modern reader is likely to see Ermine through a psychiatric lens, one of the "contexts" that Blumenfeld-Kosinski explores, though she finds richer ground in comparisons with other visionary and ascetic saints of the period both male and female.

We also learn about medieval Reims, where Ermine lived, the Great Schism, the Black Death, the interactions of female mystics and their male confessors, devotional practices, and the discernment of spirits. There are categories and characters that often overlap, but Blumenfeld-Kosinski does a wonderful job of connecting the various appearances of, say, Arnulf of Villers, who performs remarkable feats of asceticism in chapter 3 and is tempted by sexy demons in chapter 4. The author's "signposting" helps the listener to keep them all straight.

Blumenfeld-Kosinski remarks in the introduction that she was moved to tears when she read Ermine's story for the first time. Her empathy shines through this book and draws us in, while her vivid storytelling teaches us to care about Ermine and her fate.

The narration is somewhat less successful. While the narrator, Cynthia Wallace, is a lively enough reader, many of her pronunciations of French phrases and words made this French-speaking listener wince. Someone should have gotten an actual French speaker to help her!

  • The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O.

  • A Novel
  • By: Neal Stephenson, Nicole Galland
  • Narrated by: Laurence Bouvard, Shelley Atkinson, Laural Merlington, and others
  • Length: 24 hrs and 27 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 7,042
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 6,528
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 6,514

From best-selling author Neal Stephenson and critically acclaimed historical and contemporary commercial novelist Nicole Galland comes a captivating and complex near-future thriller combining history, science, magic, mystery, intrigue, and adventure that questions the very foundations of the modern world.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Exceptional voice cast, unconventional format

  • By Amazon Customer on 07-03-17

Really, really fun

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

Reviewed: 08-05-17

Would you listen to The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. again? Why?

No -- or at least not for a decade or so. I would want to have forgotten the plot.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O.?

The Lay of Walmart. I say no more.

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

No. I was at first suspicious of the multiple-narrator format since I often don't like that mix. But this one worked for me, and was not distracting. The voice of Melisande was especially good.

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

No!! I loved listening to it, and looked forward to being in my car to do so, but I'm not a masochist.

Any additional comments?

For those interested in format, it is fun (especially for a historian, which I am) to have it written as a series of documents. They are chatty enough and contain enough dialogue that they do not seem dry, but the shifting perspectives drive the narrative in interesting and provocative ways.

75 of 82 people found this review helpful

  • A Conspiracy of Faith

  • Department Q, Book 3
  • By: Jussi Adler-Olsen
  • Narrated by: Graeme Malcolm
  • Length: 15 hrs and 27 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,434
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,188
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,202

Detective Carl Morck has received a bottle that holds an old and decayed message written in blood. It's a cry for help from two young brothers, tied and bound in a boathouse by the sea. After floating in the ocean for years before turning up, the bottle sat forgotten, unopened, on a police department windowsill, before the seal was cracked and the gruesome message, written in Danish, was analyzed. Could it be real? Who are these boys, and why weren't they reported missing? Could they possibly still be alive?

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Great Police Work, Clever and Witty

  • By Charles Atkinson on 02-26-14

Gripping

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

Reviewed: 11-07-15

So far, anyway, this is the best of the series. The audio performance was exemplary, and the story had me seeking out spare moments when I wasn't supposed to be listening. Carl Mørck and Department Q have a fan in me.

  • The Keeper of Lost Causes

  • Department Q, Book 1
  • By: Jussi Adler-Olsen
  • Narrated by: Erik Davies
  • Length: 15 hrs and 36 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 4,529
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 4,056
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 4,034

Jussi Adler-Olsen is Denmark's premier crime writer. His books routinely top the bestseller lists in northern Europe, and he's won just about every Nordic crime-writing award, including the prestigious Glass Key Award-also won by Henning Mankell, Stieg Larsson, and Jo Nesbo. Now, Dutton is thrilled to introduce him to America.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Fantastic New Scandinavian Series!!

  • By L. O. Pardue on 09-12-12

Distracting performance

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

Reviewed: 09-29-15

I very much enjoyed this book overall . The story was compelling, and the characters were very real, even if I didn't always find all of them entirely likable! But the performance was really rather annoying. The switching back and forth between a standard American accent for the narrative and a "Swedish meatballs" kind of "Danish" accent for the dialogue was infuriating. I actually think it's insulting to both the readers and, frankly, the entire Danish people. Get the names right, by all means, but don't pretend that the characters are speaking English with a Danish accent. They aren't speaking English at all. Other translated books don't make this mistake (The "Dragon Tattoo" novels, for instance).

  • The Invention of Fire

  • A Novel
  • By: Bruce Holsinger
  • Narrated by: Simon Vance
  • Length: 13 hrs and 47 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 197
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 182
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 181

Though he is one of England's most acclaimed intellectuals, John Gower is no stranger to London's wretched slums and dark corners, and he knows how to trade on the secrets of the kingdom's most powerful men. When the bodies of 16 unknown men are found in a privy, the sheriff of London seeks Gower's help. The men's wounds - ragged holes created by an unknown object - are unlike anything the sheriff's men have ever seen. Tossed into the sewer, the bodies were meant to be found.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Wonderful

  • By Lovisa on 05-14-15

Wonderful

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

Reviewed: 05-14-15

What an enjoyably erudite and entertaining piece of historical fiction! Like Holsinger's last book, A Burnable Book, this is a compelling tale involving Chaucer, Gower, treason and treachery. This time, he does an even better job of combining poetry with plot and I also loved how he seamlessly wove developments in medieval technology into his story. Handguns, yes, but the spectacles nearly made me cry. I was sorry for it to end, and I hope the author is already brewing us up another tale.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful