Wakefield, United Kingdom | Member Since 2012
I wasn’t finding this a particularly easy book to read (or at least to listen to) until I was about halfway through. Then something clicked, and I realised what it was about the writing that felt strange: there’s no plot - or should I say that the plot is so old and well known that the author doesn’t bother with it. The characters are real people from our past and their life stories are history: set in stone, in a thousand textbooks, their fates are already decided, even if it's only us - the readers - that know it. And Hilary Mantel presumes we do, and so, freed from twisting and shaping a plot, she concentrates on their language: their thoughts and inner voices; the words they might have spoken; even their body language is used to take us deep into their lives and motivations, and Hilary Mantel certainly can write. Whether it’s Thomas More intellectualising his inhumanity or a coarse fisherman going on about some prostitutes her writing is fluid and believable.
Thomas Cromwell was unknown to me before I started Wolf Hall but now I’ve got the feeling that he’s going to stay with me as one of the great (non?) fictional historical characters. (I don’t know, or really care, if this is a true portrait of Thomas Cromwell, but the author made a great decision by putting him at the heart of this pivotal moment in history.)
He’s a wonderfully complex man: his fidelity to his friends, family, masters and ideals contrasts with the ruthlessness of his politics; his drive to free England of the shackles of Rome is bizarrely made possible by the whims of his King, and he accepts this and uses it; and most of all, his comfortableness with the commoners combines beautifully with his ability to motivate and manipulate his betters.
The narrator - Simon Slater - gives every character their own distinctive voice and he adds depth, menace or lightness as needed. So, overall, not an easy read but a beautiful and worthy challenge.
A brutal and marvellous re-telling of the classic dark tale of betrayal and destiny. Loved it!
I'm still none the wiser as to how the financial world's complex creations actually work, or how the Masters of The Universe get away with what seems to me to be nothing but gambling, but this book did challenge my general view that the econosphere is basically evil and bad for society in general. The rise of civilisation - seen through the prism of the financial markets - is certainly dependent on the movement of huge amounts of cash, and there's no doubting that our general prosperity and way of life is, to a large degree, due to the evolution of the markets, but what is certain is that the folks at the top of the money pile need a whole lot of regulation and accountability so as to reign in their all-too-human tendencies to get carried away with their schemes. A very interesting and thought-provoking book, well narrated.
To read or not to read? Easy - read the damn thing! A superb novelisation of one of the greatest works of literature in the English language, and brilliantly narrated too. Onto Macbeth now ...
I love Big History, and this 26 hour long blitz through the rise and rise of humanity - in all its multifarious and nefarious cultural forms - is pure bliss. Andrew Marr has basically taken the best bits from the best history books and strung them together into one very readable narrative. I don't think there's anything particularly ground-breaking here, but it successfully and entertainingly contextualises and compares the empires, technologies and memes that have shaped the society we find ourselves in now. An excellent story, well narrated - read it and feel glad you don't live back then.
To pay taxes, or not to pay taxes, that is the question ... To which the corporate, international financial and global criminal fraternity have answered with a resounding No. This is a wonderfully dark tale of money eating itself and spewing out more, on which it then feeds and grows, warping the laws and norms of civil society to their own needs to the point that all we can do is willingly, though blindly, throw ourselves into it to feed its relentless greed. A fascinating, inspiring and depressing book - brilliantly narrated, though poorly produced - that has left me angry and thoroughly intrigued. Read it. Then read it again.
There's a place for slow, epic and thoughtful science fiction, and Alistair Reynolds' Poseidon's Children series is a wonderful example. The universe he's creating is expanding with each chapter and book, and he's filling it with characters that you slowly get to know and care about as they deal with the never ending crises that he throws in their paths. It helps that it's extremely well narrated as the African-ness of the family at the heart of the story really comes across strongly and this adds a very interesting feel to the whole novel. Chilled but intelligent stuff - recommended!
This is a story full of ideas and brilliantly imagined technologies but unfortunately the characters lacked life, and their earnest humourlessness left me feeling irritated that their adventures were getting in the way of the view. And, though the audiobook was excellently narrated and produced, it couldn't compensate for this lack of humanity at the heart of the story.
The tone of the writing (and narration) is spot-on here. Loki is perfectly portrayed as the cunning, callous yet charming God he was. A brilliant, contemporary re-telling of the ancient tales - thoroughly recommended!
As always, after finishing one of Alain de Botton's books, you look up with a fresh perspective on something that had seemed sorted and steady in your mind; the world seems to be a slightly brighter and more interesting place. Here he takes on that multi-headed behemoth, the Media, and slowly dissects it and its relationship with us so that we can better understand its motivations and faults. A very good read, though the production (the music, and the constant interruptive numbers) was slightly distracting.
This is a fantastic book that puts some much needed perspective on the Europe we find ourselves living with at the turn of the 21st century. It filled in many of the gaps that lay in my ignorance of our continent, and opened my eyes - and mind - to many things of which I simply was not aware. Evocatively written, this is historical story telling at its best, and should be read by everyone with an interest in recent history.
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