In 1958, Adam Strickland, a Cambridge student, gains access to the garden of Villa Docci in Tuscany, designed and laid out in the mid-16th century by a grieving husband to the memory of his dead wife. Adam becomes fascinated by the Doccis, both by their recent tragedies and by the dangerous secrets hidden within the family domain. The garden itself seems to have a powerful influence over his imagination, containing a message that points to an ancient riddle that Adam is soon obsessed with solving.
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©2007 Mark Mills; (P)2007 Isis Publishing Ltd.
A Richard and Judy Book Club selection.
"An impressive performance by a young British screenwriter whose first novel, Amagansett, was much admired." (The Washington Post)
This is a great story with no boring bits in it's 9 hrs! It has a mystery about a garden + other mysteries. The couple of sex scenes are nicely done. The whole keeps you interested all the time. I thoughly recommend it if you like a trail of discovery in a novel.
My review is only about the narration as I have not read the complete book. Thank heavens for the excellent 'play sample' feature on Audible.com and for the readers' reviews. I read the comments above and thought I would decide for myself. After listening to a long sample, I could not agree more with the comments about the jerky style and inappropriate pauses. I am glad that I did so before buying the book as I would have found the style so irritating that I would not have been able to focus on the book itself.
In my opinion the quality of the narration is every bit as important as the quality of the book itself, if not more so. A really excellent reader can often lift you through a fairly poor book but a poor reader can ruin a good one.
If you are interested in how readers are selected and the books recorded, I recommend a download available on Audible called 'Reading Between the Lines : From Page to Production' which includes an amusing discussion between several readers including Rula Lenska and Derek Jacobi, as well as a very interesting talk by one of the BBC/Chivers audio book producers.
I've tried several times but have been unable to force myself to listen through to the end. I'm bemused that anybody can feel anything but impatience reading/listening to this story. I felt like I was being pelted with undigested information. It was like listening to a cobbled-together essay thrown together overnight by a clever, though distracted student. The scraps of narrative don't hang together and are crudely punctuated with with long, disjointed sections that sound like they've been culled wholesale from a selection of books on historic gardens, mythology and architecture. I heard the author being interviewed and he seemed like a pleasant, thoughtful bloke. He is obviously smart as he certainly knows how to please the book-buying public without breaking into any discernible creative sweat.
This is an excellent tale spoilt by sloppy reading - in the first 47 minutes, the sense is lost by inappropriate pauses etc.
EG 'The gardens rose - and fell towards the sea' Surely the gardens didn't really levitate?
I enjoyed this - a nicely-constructed mystery with a good balance of mythology and romance, and the author didn't let his research run away with him. The elaborate plot just about stayed within the bounds of credibility, although I found the ending a bit unconvincing. I thought it was well-read, too.
Firstly, I didn't think it was badly read at all to be honest, if anything one of the better audible readings as far as enthusiasm by the narrator goes. The reader gave colour to the different characters' accents and was easily listenable, as was the reading style. The story too, a light, atmospheric, sort of awakening of innocence, summer read, was handled quite well.
It doesn't go overboard on the academic side of things, there's a smattering of mythology, romance and mystery, and a neat little twist at the end. Although, I've given it 4 stars, my actual rating would be 3.5 if I could give halves.
Overall, for a first novel, I thought it was quite good for what it was. I reminded me a little of Radio 4 plays of the past that you can now only half recall thinking back, but at the time set a certain mood. This has the mood of young foreigner in a strange land.
This is an excelent book with the story line drawing you in and you are there on the touchline looking at the characters. The use of the English language is first class, and gives a first class read from beginning to end.
I usually like intelligent and erudite reads. But this just struck me as mildly annoying and show-offy, and I just didn't feel engaged with any of the characters. This was particularly aggravated by the very male oriented narrating style, with sex scenes written like some corny story from Forum magazine. All male fantasy stuff. I'm not a prude, but I do think male novelists should bear in mind that women read their books too and don't necessarily think or react in the same way men do. It felt like a very elementary error of judgement that an astute editor should have picked up.
And I agree the narrating left a lot to be desired, with some sentences rendered virtually incomprehensible by unwarranted pauses and emphases.
All things considered, the book just didn't pass the 'so what' test for me.
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