Life in Hallendorf seems idyllic, but outside Hitler's Reich is already casting its menacing shadow over Europe. Through her growing friendship with Marek, Ellen begins to encounter the dreadful reality of a world on the brink of war. And by the time she has figured out Marek's true identity and his dangerous mission, she is completely in love with him - and equally sure that her love will never be requited.
©1997 Eva Ibbotson; (P)2009 Macmillan Digital Audio
"Ibbotson...gives life to characters of great depth and beautifully re-creates prewar Vienna and its surrounding countryside." (Booklist)
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This book was quite nicely read by Emilia Fox, but gets its low rating from me on account of the poor abridgement. It has been so savagely and insensitively cut that at times the story barely makes sense. Far too much has been taken out, and it jumps all over the place, making for a rather unsatisfactory experience if you have not read the original novel.
"A Gentle, Uplifting Book"
There are not many books I would consider better as an audiobook than a print book, but this one just may be. Emilia Fox does this story just right. Her voice is perfect for the characters and the feel of the story and adds to the experience in every way. In this case, listening instead of reading allows you to loose yourself in the world of the characters even more fully than reading it on your own does.
Many of Eva Ibbotson's other titles: The Secret Countess, Magic Flutes, A Company of Swans, The Morning Gift, The Star of Kazan, The Reluctant Heiress, A Countess Bellow Stairs,
THE BOOK: This is a lovely, well written book, which keeps the reader engaged and connected to the characters.
Eva Ibbotson writes a number of books in the same style as this one - about romance and friendship and secret royalty, all taking place just before World War II in Europe (often in Vienna). The main character is always a young woman who is just coming of age and she is always a highly likable character - a kind hearted, generous and basically good human being trying to live her life with integrity, to be true to herself, and to improve the lives of everyone she comes into contact with. These are lovely books - some of my favorites and ones I return to re-read often.
I consider these books to be some of the best examples of a genre I made up for my own use, which I call Gentle. In this genre, the main characters are always good people, trying to do right in the world. They are people you come to love and rejoice in. And while the stories may deal with cruelty or painful events, these are not jarring or raw or abrasive. In these books, good ultimately triumphs, and the story always ends in a way that is uplifting and moving and leaves you bursting with happiness and warmth. These are stories you don’t have to guard yourself against - you can loose yourself fully in their world because you can trust that they are not going to spring something shocking or raw that will wound you. You can trust that in the end they will build you up and make you feel the good side of the world.
This is not to say that other genres are not valuable. I love a lot of books which are jarring or upsetting, which leave me shaken and raw, or which are simply exciting and fast paced with lots of action, violence or death. But I created the Gentle genre because I have found that there are times when I need to loose myself in a book which I can trust to be Gentle with me - a book which will nurture me, lift me up and heal me, letting me loose myself for a time in a world in which people are good and good people win in the end; A book which is like a hot bath by candlelight - safe, gentle, healing and warm. With a book like this I can truly surrender to the story - relax into it and let myself go without needing to protect myself from what I might find there.
"Abridging Ibbotson is sacrilegous!"
Despite my unending love for all of Eva Ibbotson's work, the audio abridgment of this one ripped the soul out of it. The reduction of gilded descriptions of a world verging on fairytale fantasy removes the very essence of Ibbotson's writing, making it almost cringey to listen to at places.
Nothing is disappointing about the story, her writing is beautiful, it is simply the abridgment of it I abhor. If you listened to this with no prior knowledge of Ibbotson's writing, please do yourself the favour of reading her books, they are far, far more wonderful than this portrayed them.
Make it unabridged!
"Wish it had been Unabridged"
The stripping out of all the incidental notes, the character details to bring it down to an abridged form really did kill this tale for me. The little, "unnecessary" details removal took away the feeling one develops for Ibbotson's characters and the depth that the original text bestows on the lives of the cast.
Eva Ibbotson does a fine job - had it been the full tale I am sure I would have enjoyed it.
Overall the Narrator was pleasant enough. Her voice isn't as listenable as some of the other narrators I've heard but that is a personal preference.
I look forward to if and when an unabridged copy of this becomes available.
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