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Ship of Fools

Narrated by: Grace Conlin
Length: 22 hrs and 6 mins
3.5 out of 5 stars (50 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

In the summer of 1931, a cruise ship sails for Bremerhaven, Germany. Among its many diverse passengers are a Spanish noblewoman, a drunken German lawyer, an American divorcee, a pair of Mexican Catholic priests, a number of Germans returning to their homeland from Mexico, and a corrupt, avaricious company of Spanish singers and dancers who scheme to defraud the other passengers of their money.

In the mingling and meeting of these varied personalities on board the ship of fools, a drama of good and evil takes place, from which no one will emerge unchanged. Rich in incident, passion, and treachery, the novel’s themes of nationalism, cultural and ethnic pride, and basic human frailty are as relevant today as they were when the novel first appeared in 1945.

©1945 Katherine Anne Porter (P)1995 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

Critic Reviews

“A creative feat… Ship of Fools not only crowns Miss Porter’s notable career but takes and should hold an eminent place among contemporary novels.” ( Chicago Tribune)
“Porter's passengers are extremely diverse in nationality, age, class, education and experience. Grace Conlin does a splendid job portraying them.” ( AudioFile)
“This vivid, beautifully written story is bathed in intelligence and humor.” ( New York Herald Tribune)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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

a literary ship...literally

I read "Ship of Fools" as a college student and loved it , also have always loved Porter's short stories. I revisited "Ship" because I was listening to a Ken Follet novel-- set in an airplane and chock full of fools and was reminded of this novel, so decided to give it a new listen, was curious how it would compare.

Here's the thing, I've said in reviews before that more literary novels do not always fare so well as "listens." So my 3 for performance is just an acknowledgement of that, the reader is perfectly fine, but given that much of this novel is psychological/interior it's simply harder to carry off a narration. This is NOT a thriller a la Follet. I think of Follet as storyteller, someone like the brilliant Bryce Courtney who puts together a brilliant story, and the story drives all, and the characters are quickly and proficiently sketched and the reader is quickly and professionally sucked in to a compelling narrative.

Porter's book is more complex, harder to sift through the characters, the narrative drive is multi-pronged. It's a GREAT book and good to listen to, but if you listen, listen twice OR read and listen. The time is well-spent. I LOVE Follet and Courtney, but their books are more transient, this is a book that you will think about longer, the characters' motivations and actions will stay with you longer. In other words, you can' not commute or walk or beach rest and relax with this one, it's not 100% storytelling entertainment, but will stay with you longer because it drills down deeper.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

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

Terrific reader.

Grace Conlin does a terrific job of narrating the story. The novel itself is actually more a series of short stories more than a coherent novel. But the characters are memorable and many parts of it are engaging. The themes of pre-WW II German culture and anti-Semitism are explored well. Her insights about marriage and relationships are spot on. Definitely engaging even if it doesn't have a compelling overall narrative.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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Guaranteed Depression

A ship of fools. The title says it all. A ship full of petty people with petty prejudices and self-righteous arrogance that, we know in hindsight, led to World War II. This is a book of character studies, and not one of these misfits is sympathetic. I stayed with it until the end because I kept hoping the boat would sink. I also hoped for an epiphany from the author, something to give this pointless tale a point. I've read over 1,200 novels and I've rarely encountered so many unlikeable characters (other than in the novels of Jonathan Franzen). Now I need some Prozac.

6 of 8 people found this review helpful

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

Oh what a ship of fools they are.

This book of course is much better than the film (which I love a lot) because this novel because gives a deeper understanding how these characters are oblivious to the horrors ahead and live in their own little bubble of utopia. The time is 1931 just as the Nazi party began to become more than an obscure political party and slowly gaining power. The tone of the book is ominous and dark. The only character I liked is Dr. Shuman.

It took Katherine Ann Porter 22 years to complete this novel and she was 70 years old when it was published. It is based on her own experiences as a passenger traveling to study with a Guggenheim fellowship. All the characters are based on people she observed during her voyage.

I love the story although I felt that there was too much focus on "David Darling" and "Jenny Angel". That is my only issue with this book. I found the relationship of Dr. Shuman and La Condesa the most touching of all.

It is a novel and I can't imagine why it is not required reading for any student of 20th Century American Literature.

Yes the cast of characters can be overwhelming but Porter includes a list of them at the beginning of the novel. I had no problem keeping up with the characters perhaps because I saw the movie prior to reading this.

It is a must read! The narrator is wonderful and keeps your attention. I actually have read and listened to it twice. I suggest having a copy of the book and listen as you read since the character list may overwhelm you if you do not understand the names of the Spanish characters (who are no more than petty thieves and prostitutes).

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

Great narration - very original storyline!

Great narration - very original storyline! I really like this one. You should try it.

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

Travel Through The Cosmopolitan 1930s

What made the experience of listening to Ship of Fools the most enjoyable?

The narrator wonderfully reproduces the speech of 1930s Europeans of many nationalities speaking English.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Ship of Fools?

There are many narratives in other books of people, refugees iin the 1930s, who managed to get out of Germany and ended up in Mexico, like the novelist Anna Seghers, trying to rebuild their lives in a rough and ready new place. Here, the characters are mostly unwitting travelers, leaving Mexico to go to Germany in the 1930s, headed toward the coming human hurricane, instead of away from the impending chaotic storm.

Which character – as performed by Grace Conlin – was your favorite?

All the German characters. Porter caught their speech, their accented English and syntax, just right, and Conlin does a great job of voicing for each of Porter’s characters.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

Descriptions of people inside their various cabins, often cramped, brought back old shipboard travel memories. One reader review found many of the characters/passengers disagreeable, but that made it seem more interesting and true to life for me.

Any additional comments?

Like “Casablanca,” afloat, but very much more sophisticated, detailed and complex. Literary art plus entertainment.

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

Wow...they actually made a movie about this book?

What disappointed you about Ship of Fools?

This book was so tedious and boring, I was absolutly frustrated to "get on with it already!"

Would you ever listen to anything by Katherine Anne Porter again?

no

What three words best describe Grace Conlin’s performance?

Good reading

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Annette
  • Manchester, TN, USA
  • 06-07-10

Tiresome

I am pretty easy to please but it was absolutely torture trying to get through this book.

2 of 7 people found this review helpful