I am very fond of Trollope's works but hadn't read "The Way We Live Now" before purchasing this audiobook. It has been so difficult to switch it off and I have been held captive throughout. I know the book has its detractors but I found it full of wisdom and compassion. It is not just of historical interest but says a lot about how we live now in the 21st century. The mistakes in the original text have been retained but it's quite fun to spot them as the reading goes on. Timothy West is masterful as always and does full justice to a wonderful novel.
I really enjoyed listening to this book. It's core story takes place in Italy between 1943 and 1945 (I confess I knew next to nothing about the struggle of the Partisans against the Germans and resurgent Italian Fascists at this time). The danger and confusion of this time leads to modern day murders and mysteries that are slowly resolved as the story unfolds. The book is well written, interesting from an historical perspective and evocative of Italy, particularly Florence.
The only criticism I have is that the book is too long. I think that some judicious editing would have tightened and improved the narrative. I also wasn't keen on the narrator's style which was too staccato for my taste. Despite these reservations, however, I would recommend this book.
I will admit to being prejudiced because Isabel Allende is among my favourite authors but this is one of the best audio books I have heard for some time. Although not in the same class as 'The House of the Spirits', 'Island Beneath the Sea' is the story of the Haitian slave, T?t?, her struggle to become free and a large cast of characters who impact on her life.
Although this is a book that reveals the horrors of slavery both in Haiti and in America, it is told with Allende's typical honesty and fairness that favours shades of grey rather than black and white when portraying her characters. Thus, with one or two exceptions, we are allowed to see three dimensional characters who are as much the products of their time as driven by sheer greed and cruelty. For instance, although I did not like Toulouse Valmorain, I was able to understand what drove him and did feel sympathy for him at the end. The book is challenging sometimes and I really had to struggle with my own prejudices and feelings over the story of Maurice and Rosette, which I didn't really find very convincing, but overall it is a book about the triumph of the human spirit and it is a rewarding read.
I wasn't particularly keen on the narrator, whose voice was too monotone for my taste, but I would still recommend this audio book.
I really wanted to like this book and ploughed through to the end in the hope it would improve but it never did. It would actually be only a third of the size it is if the author didn't seem to be entering a competition for the largest number of unnecessary adjectives and adverbs in one novel. Apart from that it is a poor Lord of the Rings imitation. The reader didn't help matters either - I suspect that if he was reading a train timetable he would make it sound as if he was announcing the onset of Armageddon.
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