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Kathryn

Calistoga, CA, USA
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Peony in Love audiobook cover art

An amazing accomplishment for Lisa See

Overall
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 07-14-10

I have read/listened to this book at least 4 times over the past few years. (Yes, I'm a re-reader.) There may be a few slow spots to get through (but I don't notice them anymore), but overall I find it wonderfully poetic, well-plotted, and highly informative as to the Chinese culture of the first Manchu era. The description of The Cataclysm is very, very well done, even if it is painful reading/listening.

I use part of this book in the Comparative Religion college course I teach because it really brings to life the complex afterlife beliefs of Chinese tradition -- and students always relax when we read something from a contemporary novel. (A nice change from all those primary texts and creation stories!)

I obtained (via Amazon) the English opera libretto of The Peony Pavilion and have been reading that along with this most recent listen to Peony in Love. Having done this tandem listen / read, I have even more appreciation or, perhaps, awe for See's accomplishment. What she has done is really pretty staggering, using the classic opera as a basis for the novel and having characters in the novel act in parallel to what happens to characters in the opera. The closest other book I can think of that affects me with such awe for sheer literary ability is A.S. Byatt's Possession. Yes, I listen to that every year, too.

The Golden Bowl (Dramatized) audiobook cover art

Many roads lead to Henry -- this is a gem

Overall
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 07-14-10

I don't even know why I like this so much. There is something indefinably charming about this dramatization. I own it on near-antique/frail cassette tapes and thought I would never be able to replace it -- what an unexpected joy to snap it up on audible. Not 5 stars because I don't care for Precious the cat's performance. Same old 2 meows all the way through. A small quibble that.

Having read all of H. James' work (and a great deal of Wm. James' work, too) I find this dramatization brings to life the pictures I envisioned when first reading The Golden Bowl. Of course, there is the film with Uma Thurman, which is grand, but I love this little recording. It's hard to adapt James to the stage (real or virtual); even he himself was never able to succeed with a stage play (viz., Guy Domville).

I should add that without recorded James books (Portrait of a Lady unabridged is marvelous) it would have been hard for me to get fascinated enough with "The Master" to read all he wrote, simply for the pleasure of it. (And I started this after turning 40. I had to mature a bit to appreciate Henry James and Proust, at last.) And do check out Colm Toibin's The Master -- it's a tour de force.

Best advice I ever got for reading James: just relax and let the words flow over you!

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