Half of Paradise

Narrated by: Mark Zeisler
Length: 9 hrs and 35 mins
3.5 out of 5 stars (115 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

In this intense, fascinating story, Burke follows the lives of three young Louisiana men, each of whom finds himself in desperate circumstances. There's Avery Broussard, the last survivor of a family of once-prosperous land owners, who has a weakness for alcohol; J.P. Winfield, a poor singer and guitar player who rises to fame as a country music star, only to be destroyed by drug addiction; and Toussaint Boudreaux, a black longshoreman who moonlights as a heavyweight boxer. The destinies of these men are tragically intertwined in this debut novel that showcases Burke's masterful and now-familiar style.

©2013 James Lee Burke (P)2013 Simon & Schuster Audio

What listeners say about Half of Paradise

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Excellent early Burke ruined by terrible narration

This book is probably Burke's first novel, first published in 1965. It consists of three stories loosely interwoven in Louisiana's seamier sides, including the fight game, blues singers, and prison camps. Early Burke sounds a lot like later Burke so far a tone, mood, and dialog. It's very good writing. But caution: these are not an uplifting stories. The prison camp in particular conjures up images of Cool Hand Luke's camp.

Except for the fact that everyone talks like some bland character from a TV family sitcom.

Not the dialog, Zeisler's narration. Escaped prisoners being chased through the marsh: they all sound the same, like a couple of frat boys talking about cars. Passionate lovemaking? Same thing. The woman even sounds the same, not like any woman I know and certainly not passionate. There's not even an attempt made to make some poor Louisiana coon-ass sound authentic. They're all the same, speaking with near monotone delivery. Everyone sounds like Zeisler ordering a cup of coffee at Starbucks.

Well, all but one. For some reason Zeisler has to take a shot at a British accent. It's terrible, and the story doesn't even need a Brit. Zeisler could have just gone on with his coffee-ordering delivery and no one would be the wiser.

The only reason I can see that Simon and Schuster Audio picked Zeisler for this read is that he does a pretty good job singing some of the blues lyrics sprinkled throughout the book, or at least he has the guts to try. They should have used him for just the lyrics and got someone else, almost anyone else, to do the narration.

If I had it to do over again I would get the print version and try to imagine Will Patton or Mark Hammer narrating it.

11 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Not a feel good story

Any additional comments?

Half of Paradise, James Lee Burke
So you think you’ve had a rough life? You’re upset with what fate has handed you? Or maybe you’re feeling guilty about how good your life is and can’t forgive yourself for being so happy?
Then this book is for you. “Half of Paradise” is a very well written and extremely dark anthology of tragic people making tragic decisions on a tragic course to destruction.
Mr. Burke’s Dave Robicheaux series is one of my favorites, a great writer telling great stories. Maybe it was just my mood (or perhaps my story) but this book, “Half of Paradise” depressed the hell out of me.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars

I love Burke but this one was boring and I was disappointed Better time next time

Not the same as others and bored me to the end hope you get some more robicheax going

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Not one of Burke's finest.

The story was predictable and drug on. I didn't like any of the characters and started to shut it off several times, but since it was Burke's I stuck with it. Mistake on my part.

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars

Disappointing!

Certainly not what we’ve come to expect from Burke. Lacking in just about everything but filthy language. I’m not surprised that Will Patton didn’t narrate it.

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars

Waste!

I am astonished that Burke has his name on this dismal, downbeat, disconnected series of profane vignettes. Where was his poetic phrasing, his picturesque Louisiana settings, his keen-eyed character insights? Not in this sorry tome.

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars

Depressing

I am a huge fan of James Lee Burke's writing. But not of this one what a downer. I had a bad feeling about it when I read about wish I had saved my money.

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars

James Lee, what happened?

Would you try another book from James Lee Burke and/or Mark Zeisler?

I would buy anything by JL Burke, forget Zeisler, this book wandered around some very un likable characters and their low life non adventures. Poor dialogue, poor story, do not work with others James Lee.

What was most disappointing about James Lee Burke’s story?

Everything was disappointing, even JLB's wonderful powers of description were poorly represented. This non starter story just continues to disappoint at every opportunity.

How could the performance have been better?

Mundane descriptive reading. Monotone reader, little to work with as far as development.

If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from Half of Paradise?

All characters were low life people, even the supporting characters were un likable. I imagine the defending argument would be characters are life like, who cares what these losers think, say or do. Local NOLA jail birds were uninteresting, dialogue basically grunts and groans. Knocked up drug addict, smelly promoter, so what.

Any additional comments?

Stick with NOLA, Iberia LA and the West populated with interesting characters doing interesting things.

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

Boring!!

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

If this was James Lee Burke's first book it's a wonder he wrote more. Nothing at like his later books. Very seldom do I not finish a book, but I could only get through half of this one before I gave up.

What do you think the narrator could have done better?

Since there was no distinction between the characters voices, there was a lot of "Avery said" "Billy Joe said" - very annoying

If this book were a movie would you go see it?

No

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

Not his best.

This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

Don't know

Has Half of Paradise turned you off from other books in this genre?

No.

What aspect of Mark Zeisler’s performance would you have changed?

The performance was ok, just not the usual.

What character would you cut from Half of Paradise?

Don't know.

Any additional comments?

This author has written much better.