From a debut novelist, a gripping historical thriller and rousing love story set in 17th-century Manhattan.
It’s 1663 in the tiny, hardscrabble Dutch colony of New Amsterdam, now present-day southern Manhattan. Orphan children are going missing, and among those looking into the mysterious state of affairs are a quick-witted 22-year-old trader, Blandine von Couvering, herself an orphan, and a dashing British spy named Edward Drummond.
Suspects abound, including the governor’s wealthy nephew, a green-eyed aristocrat with decadent tastes; an Algonquin trapper who may be possessed by a demon that turns people into cannibals; and the colony’s own corrupt and conflicted orphanmaster. Both the search for the killer and Edward and Blandine’s newfound romance are endangered, however, when Blandine is accused of being a witch and Edward is sentenced to hang for espionage. Meanwhile, war looms as the English king plans to wrest control of the colony.
Jean Zimmerman brings New Amsterdam and its surrounding wilderness alive for modern-day readers with exacting period detail. Lively, fast paced, and full of colorful characters, The Orphanmaster is a dramatic page-turner that will appeal to fans of Hilary Mantel and Geraldine Brooks.
In the young New Netherlands colony, orphans are disappearing. The evidence recovered suggests some may have even been partially eaten. The leading theory is a Native American beast who consumes children. Terrifying an entire community, but irrevocably changing the town’s Orphanmaster, a she-merchant and an English spy hunting fugitives.
For such a dark story, I was surprised at how well it was researched. In fact some of the chapters open with headlines. You get a good sense of the politics, social protocol and economic feel of the time period. You can’t help but come away with a better understanding of the origins of Manhattan.
-The story is gruesome throughout
-The story’s romance is contrived. It feels sort of forced amongst the rest of the subject matter.
- There are also many narrators telling the story. They are all pretty roughly sketched (but eerily memorable). The collective tells the story of the colony and it’s time more than any one character. The timeline isn’t fluid either. At times this ensures the reader is lost, and that the author may even be employing the confusion.
So it’s not for everyone. But if you keep to it, the novel really picks up momentum towards the end of the story and even becomes focused.
The novel’s narrator George Guidall was perfect. He reads the entire novel as if he’s voicing over a movie trailer. I will definitely be on the lookout for more performances from him.
10 of 10 people found this review helpful
Based on the other reviews of this novel, this audio book may or may not be for you. I enjoyed it. George Guidall is an excellent actor (I believe the term "narrator" is too limiting for a person who acts the many characters of a given book. Try Charles Dickens for example). This story of early Manhattan, the struggle between the Dutch and English, the love between two unlikely people, an English spy and a strong female trader, the clash of cultures among native Americans, the Dutch colonists, the local authorities and restrictive religion and most of all the degrading and deplorable life and death of young orphans make for a rich story.
Yes, there are some gruesome scenes but that's hardly different from your regular TV programming.
6 of 6 people found this review helpful
I really struggle with the idea of submitting a review if I didn't finish a book; if you don't listen to the whole thing, then you don't really know the whole story. Still, after spending a credit I can't get back, I did want to leave some feedback for other listeners.
Please listen carefully to the full length of the sample provided, and keep in mind that in my opinion, that was one of the only passages that provided a clear story moving forward. If the sample makes you glaze over a little, I don't think you'll find anything further into the book that becomes more dynamic, easier to follow, or more enjoyable. This sample is the best of the book.
The narrator keeps a very even tone, and it makes it difficult to know when a scene is changing or a point of view is shifting - which happens very often, moving from person to person with no warning. Many of the characters are Native American or Dutch, so the names, terms and language used are foreign; and they are referenced so quickly that it makes the book hard to follow or get attached to.
Listening and trying to get into this story felt more like work than enjoyment, and I kept holding out for things to click into place and start to gel; but it never happened for me. Finally, after realizing how disappointed I was that I was loosing my whole Sunday, slugging through what now felt more like a job than a story, I gave myself permission to admit this book was not for me.
I am sure this book is a perfect fit for some readers, who will love it and find this story fascinating. I just wanted to encourage people to really pay attention to the sample clip, and understand that's what you're getting for the long haul.
17 of 20 people found this review helpful
What made the experience of listening to The Orphanmaster the most enjoyable?
George Guidall is the perfect narrator for The Orphanmaster! His deep voice, pace, obvious literacy with several languages, and just plain story-telling abilities, renders this a totally enjoyable audiobook.
What other book might you compare The Orphanmaster to and why?
The Orphanmaster is historical fiction, heavy on both history and fiction, residing in the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam (what would be come lower Mahnattan). I remember getting a slight feeling of Jack The Ripper, Sherlock Holmes, Dances With Wolves, and The Winter Sea, not in the story-lines, rather a tinge of understory.
Which character – as performed by George Guidall – was your favorite?
George Guidall, the narrator, nailed the characterization of the Orphanmaster!
Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?
I was particularly moved by the scene where the Orphanmaster... Well, that wouldn't be nice of me to divulge, lol!
Any additional comments?
The author has pulled together an amazing amount of historical information and coupled it with just the right amount of political intrigue, superstitious myth (or is it really?), romance, and even a sort of feminism of the time period. It's a read to be savored for it's informative content, sub-stories, and implications. I loved the character development and the way the characters (there are many) are carefully introduced. The novel is beautifully paced and structured. You can tell I loved it, I gave it 5 stars.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
Would you try another book from Jean Zimmerman and/or George Guidall?
Not from George Guidall, who, despite having an avuncular, kindly voice, is irritating beyond belief. He tends toward a comic lilt that is ill-fitting in the best of circumstances, and I cannot stand his female voices. It pains me to say this because he is a "beloved" type; personally, I find his narration grating and irritating.
What didn’t you like about George Guidall’s performance?
His female voices have a sniveling quality. He lends a comic tone that often contradicts that of the story. There is a general irritating quality to his voice. I can't get through any of his books.
Any additional comments?
Wish I could get my money back, or listen to this intriguing story with a different narrator, preferably female.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
I initially read a hard copy years ago, and this novel found a spot in my Top Five Favorite Reads. After listening to a narrative version, it remains a favorite.
Historically accurate, The Orphanmaster takes its listeners through wild New England on a thrilling race to solve horrific crimes. The story's strong and youthful female character is nearly unbelievable at times, with her display of "well-ahead of her time" attitudes towards men and non-whites (a pleasure to see amongst otherwise sadistic and apathetic townsfolk). Her romantic interest is an interesting character -- a man with witty comments and a heart of gold (he'd never admit it, though).
A true page turner. Highly recommended this read/listen ... cannot wait for novelist's next book to again sweep me away!
I kept thinking about giving up, but finished because I wanted to know the answer to one of the minor mysteries in the story.
I was expecting something similar to Robert McCammon 's Matthew Corbett series. This felt like a middling mustering with moments of horror.
What disappointed you about The Orphanmaster?
I listened to the sample excerpt and thought that this book was a match for my taste. Instead I got a confusing, grotesque horror tale. Beware!
This was a very good book and I'm glad I listened. One thing to be aware of before you download this - I found the the historical names difficult to remember so I had trouble getting in to the story in the beginning.
1 of 3 people found this review helpful
This is a different type of book for me and I was delighted. I heard a brief excerpt on Book Radio and had to have this title. All of us in audio book land know that the reader can make or break a book. George Guidall is great! I would listen to this one again. Also have a new author on my "favorites" list.
0 of 1 people found this review helpful