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  • A Passage to India

  • By: E. M. Forster
  • Narrated by: Sam Dastor
  • Length: 11 hrs and 3 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 766
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 615
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 612

Dr. Aziz is a young Muslim physician in the British Indian town of Chandrapore. One evening he comes across an English woman, Mrs. Moore, in the courtyard of a local mosque; she and her younger travelling companion Adela are disappointed by claustrophobic British colonial culture and wish to see something of the 'real' India. But when Aziz kindly offers to take them on a tour of the Marabar caves with his close friend Cyril Fielding, the trip results in a shocking accusation....

  • 2 out of 5 stars
  • Poor sound quality

  • By Rochelle on 01-02-14

Portrait of an Empire in Decline

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

Reviewed: 03-19-19

I was not terribly enthusiastic about diving into this novel as I had just finished Rudyard Kipling's Kim which also was set in India. But, as it was next on my list from the Modern Library Top 100 and it did provide the perspective from a different era I pushed on despite my misgivings. I am glad I did.

Kim was penned by an author who sincerely loved the British Empire and the important role it played as colonizer of India. Though Kipling loved India he sincerely viewed it as a net plus to its colonies.

Forster takes a wholly different views, seeing the classism and racism endemic in colonization. As Indians make every attempt to be liked and accepted by their English colonizers, the English who find themselves relegated to the an imperial backwater vent their resentment against the masses they are trying to govern. This inevitably leads to conflict.

Originally published in 1924, the novel ultimately reveals the tension and duel disdain and distrust both the English and Indian feel towards each other exacerbated when a respected Muslim Indian doctor finds himself accused and tried for an assault against an English woman. The case finds itself on the forefront of a growing desire for Indian self governance and the desperate intent of England to maintain its hold on the subcontinent. It does prove prophetic as those forces of independence patiently await the time when England no longer has the resources or will to dominate India.

A phenomenal novel and a wonderful preview of what to expect from the other E.M. Forster works on my very long list of future reads.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Kim

  • By: Rudyard Kipling
  • Narrated by: Madhav Sharma
  • Length: 13 hrs and 19 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 247
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 210
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 205

Set in the days of the British Raj, Kipling's finest novel is the exciting and touching tale of an Irish orphan-boy who has lived free in the streets of Lahore before setting out, with a Tibetan Lama, on a spiritual quest. Kim later enrols in the Indian Service and simultaneously embarks on an espionage mission of supreme importance.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Fabulous Narrator

  • By Gentle Reader Jill on 11-30-09

The Great Game That Never Ends

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

Reviewed: 03-05-19

Kim is considered Rudyard Kipling's masterpiece and was, without doubt, required reading for every adventure novelist of the 20th century.

The story focuses on Kim, a street urchin of India. In actuality, he is the child of an Irish soldier and a poor Irish women whose deaths left Kim in the care of an equally poor Indian women. His endless hustling leads him to become the acolyte to a Tibetan monk with whom he travels throughout India.

During their travels, Kim encounters his father's unit who feel driven to anglicize the very Indian Kimball O'Hara. Discovering him to be a very bright boy, wise in the ways of the diverse cultures, languages, castes and religions of Hindi, England's clandestine services view him as a potentially vital intelligence asset to introduce into The Great Game being waged between the British and Russian empires competing to dominate the region.

Kipling introduced this fascinating world to a West that was both ignorant of and curious about the mysterious East. Delving into religious customs and natural interplay of the people of the Hind Kipling made clear his love of the place but also the importance h felt England played in developing the region.

But the true beauty of the story is the tales of road which, though an age old story telling device, resounds in Kipling's writing. I could hear much of an influence for George R.R. Martin's Arya Stark through Kim's travels that weave through religion and culture and the journey among the high Himalayas was without doubt, Sansa Stark's flight to and from the Eyrie.

Overall, a pretty magnificent tale.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • A Feast for Crows

  • A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 4
  • By: George R. R. Martin
  • Narrated by: Roy Dotrice
  • Length: 33 hrs and 51 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 39,979
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 36,142
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 36,139

Few books have captivated the imagination and won the devotion and praise of readers and critics everywhere as has George R. R. Martin’s monumental epic cycle of high fantasy that began with A Game of Thrones. Now, in A Feast for Crows, Martin delivers the long-awaited fourth book of his landmark series, as a kingdom torn asunder finds itself at last on the brink of peace . . . only to be launched on an even more terrifying course of destruction.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Jarring change in Dotrice's performance

  • By Pi on 06-21-12

Not the best in the series

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

Reviewed: 02-17-19

Certainly the slowest of the four thus far, particularly as so many of the main characters were absent. Whether or not Martin Intended this to be mostly expositional and a platform for many secondary characters is hard to fathom. Less all out war and more one on one sword play plus lots of execution seems to make up the bulk of bloodletting.

Regardless, Volume 5 will follow up soon enough as it looks like Volume 6 still has an as yet announced release date.

  • Winesburg, Ohio

  • By: Sherwood Anderson
  • Narrated by: George Guidall
  • Length: 8 hrs and 21 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    3.5 out of 5 stars 98
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 85
  • Story
    3.5 out of 5 stars 84

Winesburg, Ohio is a little-known masterpiece that forever changed the course of American storytelling. At the center of this collection of stories stands George Willard, an earnest young reporter for the Winesburg Eagle who sets out to gather the town’s daily news. He ends up discovering the town’s deepest secrets as one by one, the townsfolk confide their hopes, dreams, and fears to the reporter. In their recollections of first loves and last rites, of sprawling farms and winding country roads, the town rises vividly - and poignantly - to life.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Isolation, Loneliness, Love & Midwest Grotesque

  • By Darwin8u on 06-27-13

Another destination resolved

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

Reviewed: 01-01-19

I was not familiar with this work before making the commitment to consume all Top 100 picks from the New York Times Modern Library but found it an interesting selection.

Set in a small Midwest town at the Turn of the 20th Century and published in 1919, Winesburg, Ohio is sculpted as a series of vignettes about various people in the town commonly linked to George Willard, sole reporter of the Winesburg Eagle. Though there is an actual Winesburg, the town presented actually bears a closer resemblance to the author's home town of Clyde, OH.

Each of the short stories ultimately weave into George's story as he wrestles with his instincts to stay in a small town where he feels emotionally and psychologically abandoned even though he has always resided in his mother's boarding house.

It has been variously adapted for film and stage but I have seen none and, to be frank, won't likely actively seek out. Like some of the other selections in the Modern Library Top 100, such as Sons and Lovers and To The Lighthouse, the work didn't engage me as I had hoped though critically acclaimed by the likes of Ray Bradbury, H.P. Lovecraft, Henry Miller and Philip Roth. Perhaps I'll give her another go down the road.

On a personal note, this is my 40th book completed for the year. I will say that the ending is lovely for both the book and for me as we are where we hoped to be at the end of our respective literary sojourns.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • The Big Money

  • By: John Dos Passos
  • Narrated by: David Drummond
  • Length: 19 hrs and 29 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 80
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 66
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 64

The Big Money completes John Dos Passos's three-volume "fable of America's materialistic success and moral decline" ( American Heritage) and marks the end of "one of the most ambitious projects that an American novelist has ever undertaken" ( Time). Here we come back to America after the war and find a nation on the upswing.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Excellent Historical (Experimental) Novel

  • By Demonwife on 12-01-11

The culmination of an amazing journey

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

Reviewed: 12-24-18

When I set out on this journey three novels ago, I wasn't sure how engaged I would be. Not that I don't appreciate the subject matter. As a labor activist, I fully appreciate the importance of the period in question as these years surrounding World War I were critical to the growth of the labor movement. Rather, I was concerned how the zealous observations of a committed leftist would color their perspective of an era where America wrestled with the demands of the contradictions of an expanding global corporate footprint and a struggling working class.

What I came away with was how concerted and sanctioned the effort to keep workers from organizing and how tone deaf was capital and the courts to the legitimate suffering of workers in mining and steel country.

Sadly, while many of these conditions have improved, the cooperation between commerce, government and the courts continues to make it difficult to organize. Though the labels have changed, the demonization of those who strive to organize continues.

The U.S.A. Trilogy and Big Money demonstrate that so many of the arguments for and against the capitalist system haven't improved over the last 80+ years since Dos Passos took up the subject. The characters are as relevant now as when the author conceived them. the 1,300+ pages may seem daunting, but the story moves and the characters interweave to show the complicated tapestry of this nation and the people who have always made it great, even if only minor characters.

  • 1919

  • By: John Dos Passos
  • Narrated by: David Drummond
  • Length: 16 hrs and 8 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 117
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 96
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 97

With 1919, the second volume of his U.S.A. trilogy, John Dos Passos continues his "vigorous and sweeping panorama of 20th-century America" ( Forum), lauded on publication of the first volume not only for its scope but also for its groundbreaking style. The novel opens to find America and the world at war, and Dos Passos's characters, many of whom we met in the first volume, are thrown into the snarl.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue in story form

  • By HIYBRID on 02-21-13

Not a thing in this world Paul Bunyan's scared of

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

Reviewed: 11-29-18

Part two of John Dos Passos' U.S.A. Trilogy focuses on the years of World War I and the experiences of different types of Americans confronting this tumultuous period of political, social and geographical change.

While romantically regaled in many of the works of the period by Hemingway and Fitzgerald, Dos Passos captures much of the darkness and ugliness of the time and the cynicism of a war waged to preserve the profits of banks and corporations leveraged by arming both sides of the conflict.

Like the first volume the novel uses four different narrative styles and weaves characters from very different backgrounds into and out of each other's lives.

Volume Three, the Big Money, awaits.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The 42nd Parallel

  • By: John Dos Passos
  • Narrated by: David Drummond
  • Length: 13 hrs and 47 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 203
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 174
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 174

This first entry in John Dos Passos's celebrated U.S.A. trilogy paints a grand picture of the United States at the dawn of the twentieth century.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • A Diego Rivera painting in written form

  • By Michael G. Price on 01-03-13

The Capitalist's War

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

Reviewed: 11-10-18

I had heard fleeting references to the U.S.A. yet most likely would not have put it very high on my "to read" list were it not for its placement on the Modern Library's Top 100 list. Good thing for lists other than my own.

John Dos Passos was an ambitious writer. U.S.A. was originally slated to be a singular work however, after clocking in with 1,200 pages, he had no choice but to rethink it as a trilogy. I can totally relate to this as my own debut work was intended to be a stand alone novel until I found myself editing down to 1,500 pages and struck by the fact that my first novel was, in fact, three.


Of course, Dos Passos was already a heralded author, writing his first novel in the trenches of World War I and finding a mass market for his third novel, Manhattan Transfer.

U.S.A. is Dos Passos' opus and 49th Parallel a signature work and of profound influence on American literature in the 20th Century. This first book focuses on the period from the Turn of the Century to America's entry into World War I.

Dos Passos earned great critical acclaim for introducing four distinctive narrative modes into the work much of which was written in a stream of consciousness akin to James Joyce. I was always intrigued to come across literary homages throughout and came to realize how Malcolm Lowry likewise gave literary tribute to Dos Passos in his 1947 work Under The Volcano.

What I also found striking was the description of the political aspects of the time. As Americans tend to lack deep cognizance of its history, the period between the Civil War and World War II is very little understood and scarcely taught. it is fascinating and, perhaps, frightening, how comparative are the tone and temperament of politics today and that of 100 years ago. It rings true how accurate is the saw: he that fails to understand history is doomed to repeat it.

Book Two, 1919, is already queued up.

  • Appointment in Samarra

  • Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition
  • By: John O'Hara, Charles McGrath (introduction)
  • Narrated by: Christian Camargo
  • Length: 6 hrs and 50 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 152
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 136
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 136

In December 1930, just before Christmas, the Gibbsville, Pennsylvania, social circuit is electrified with parties and dances. At the center of the social elite stand Julian and Caroline English. But in one rash moment born inside a highball glass, Julian breaks with polite society and begins a rapid descent toward self-destruction.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • O'Hara's Best?

  • By Steve M on 10-01-15

An unexpected literary surprise

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

Reviewed: 10-27-18

Until clued into this book by the Modern Library's Top 100 Novels list, I can confess that I had never heard of this before. Man, what a novel.

This, apparently, was what the general reading public likewise extolled in 1934 when they were tipped off about this debut novel by John O'Hara.

Like so many books of the period, it takes a cynical look at the middle class and aspirational conventions that pervade society in the anthracite coal rich reaches of a small town in Pennsylvania Dutch Country with a peak at the seamy underbelly that runs as a through line beneath the parochial facade. The obvious influences of both Joyce, Fitzgerald and Dreisen which run throughout don't detract from the uniqueness and originality of the story.

It's a great and highly recommended treat and quickly elevated to my top 25 favorite books.

Henderson the Rain King  audiobook cover art
  • Henderson the Rain King

  • By: Saul Bellow
  • Narrated by: Joe Barrett
  • Length: 14 hrs and 24 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 272
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 196
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 194

Bellow evokes all the rich colour and exotic customs of a highly imaginary Africa in this comic novel about a middle-aged American millionaire who, seeking a new, more rewarding life, descends upon an African tribe. Henderson's awesome feats of strength and his unbridled passion for life earns him the admiration of the tribe - but it is his gift for making rain that turns him from mere hero into messiah.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Amazing Book on Many Levels

  • By Chris Reich on 10-07-14

..having dreamed at the clouds from both sides

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

Reviewed: 10-19-18

What a marvelous and strange work. Bellow's homage to mid-life crisis is played out extraordinarily through Eugene Henderson, former World War II commando, millionaire and bored bull of a man.

His contrarian nature and lust for life leads him to Africa to experience the continent before all the wild places are gone. And like all Ugly Americans who is convinced he can fix whatever he encounters, Henderson tends to make things worse despite his best intentions.

There is much of the Teddy Roosevelt spirit throughout the novel and Henderson's lust for life can be both infectious and frustrating.

This is my first foray into the works of Saul Bellow. I was queued into the book from the Top 100 Modern Library novel list and, for this discovery, am appreciative of the list.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Native Son

  • By: Richard Wright
  • Narrated by: Peter Francis James
  • Length: 17 hrs and 47 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,181
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,019
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,024

Right from the start, Bigger Thomas had been headed for jail. It could have been for assault or petty larceny; by chance, it was for murder and rape. Native Son tells the story of this young black man caught in a downward spiral after he kills a young white woman in a brief moment of panic.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Simply a classic

  • By Noah on 11-11-10

"Powerless pawns in a blind play of social forces'

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

Reviewed: 10-07-18

Perhaps it is because so many of the works I've been reading lately are from the same time period or because the conditions in America in the middle of the 20th century were so terrible for so many people that I can't help but feel an utter sense of hopelessness at the conclusion of Native Son.

As I am currently working my way through the Top 100 Novels of the Modern Library list, "Native Son" comes quickly on the heels of having read "An American Tragedy", "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter" and "Invisible Man" which all address the presumptions of privilege and the injustice of poverty and race.

In "Native Son" a poor black man born and raised in the Deep South seeks a better life in Chicago where he shares a one room rat-infested tenement with his his four family members. Petty crime sustains him and his cohort as there are few prospects. Pressured to find work, he takes a job as a driver for a rich, progressive white family whose desire to make him aspire for more pushes his down a path of doom and destruction.

The story shows how sometimes the best intentions of well meaning people can blow up when the targets of one's generosity are conditioned from birth to view the well intentioned as those likely to fleece you and bring harm to your family and rile an unfathomable hate.

Native Son sold 250,000 in three weeks making Richard Wright not only one of the wealthiest black authors of his time but also one of its most influential voices. His views often riled his fellow black authors like James Baldwin who was disturbed by Wright's negativity and hopelessness and his portrayal of poor black people who seemed too stereotypical. But Wright was a product of that South to North migration that threw millions of undereducated and minimally skilled descendents of slaves into tightly controlled "Black Belts." He believed the grouping of these unfortunates into crumbing, pest ridden walk ups surrounded by uninhabitable and delapitated buildings was done intentionally to keep black housing scarce and expensive and job opportunities limited, adding to the pressure and resentment that kept these areas agitated, hostile and incendiary.

Sadly, the conditions described nearly 80 years ago have scarcely improved in some urban centers of America. Sadly, Wright's cynicism may have been both well founded and prescient.