Another astonishing tour de force from Hilary Mantel. A superb portrayal of a 'modern' politician in Tudor England - a brilliant, complex man both humane and brutal, subtle and blunt, ambitious and patient. Beautifully written, deceptively simple in style with flowing narrative, startling, vivid images and perceptive comments on life and people delivered with searing clarity and it all seems so effortless.
Not as well read as by the reader of Wolf Hall (who is superb) - the voices for the different characters are not well defined and the accents poor - but the narrative is well read and it doesn't detract from the excellence of the book.
This was recommended by a friend who read the book, and I was not disappointed by the audio version. I knew next to nothing about Franklin and little about the American process of independence and I found this biography really interesting about both the man and his time. It was a compelling listen and fascinating. Now I'd like to find a biography of his wife, who must have been an extraordinary woman in her own right! Highly recommended.
"Spoiled by the ending"
I agree with one reviewer that William Boyd does the spy stuff better - for me it was in Restless which also has a female central character. But I enjoyed the book, partly because it evoked elements of my own student days and early 20s and partly because it is, at least at the beginning, a good tale well told. I thought McEwan got inside Serena and her time very well. I also liked the artifice of the stories within the the story. But the contrived ending was a real disappointment and tainted the rest of the book for me afterwards. Brilliantly read by Juliet Stephenson.
"Depends on your mood?"
I like Michael Frayn and loved Spies but maybe I wasn't in the mood for the this. Humour is a strange and personal thing. It's a well written farce but it only made me smile a couple of times and sometimes, especially at the beginning, I found it irritating and over long. Martin Jarvis, though, can always be relied on as a great reader and is as good as usual here.
"Great story; poor reader"
This is a good story which kept me involved and wanting more, keeping up its pace until the end. The reader did not do it justice. She reads competently but with no voices at all, just her own same flat American accent and intonations and it's impossible to tell from her voice who is speaking even when the character is Australian. A great shame as I would highly recommend the book otherwise and I still enjoyed it.
"A poor sequel"
I thought this a poor sequel to the Secret River. Far too long is spent on the teenage passion of the eponymous heroine in the first part of the novel and I almost gave up in boredom. The tale eventually picks up although it lacks the pace and drama of the Secret River and doesn't make up for it in depth.
Like another reviewer, having come to Ford Madox Ford after the TV serialisation, I'm amazed I've never read any of his work before. This is a suberb series of novels, the story revealing itself through the internal musings of different characters and the same incident often depicted through different eyes and with a different perspective. It is ironic, self deprecating, funny, farcical, tragic and comic at different turns and manages to sustain a good deal of tension as you are never sure, for instance, of how much damage Sylvia Tiejens may wreak in her malice and cruelty. The parts dealing with the army and the war anticipate Catch 22 and Slaughterhouse 5 in farcical inaptitude, upper class incompetence and self defeating paperwork while at the same time being very realistic in portraying shell shock, mud and misery in the trenches. At first it can be hard to work out the time sequence of events (and here it helps to have seen the TV series) but if you let the book carry you along, it soon all falls into place and the story and the characters build like a painting or a tapestry. The narrator is magnificent; his accents and voices for all the characters are excellent and he conveys the gentle irony that imbues much of the books but which could be missed by a blunter reader.
If you don't want to embark on something as long as Parade's End as a first encounter with Ford Madox Ford, I recommend The Good Soldier. I listened to the Kerry Shale version which was excellent.
I suspect that Ford Madox Ford, like Marmite, you either love or hate. This book was my first taste of FMF (I thought I'd begin with something shortish before embarking on the Parade's End quartet) and I loved it. The story moves backwards and forwards in time and gradually unfolds and then pleats again but always leading to a fuller picture of what has been happening to the 4 characters of the novel. Nothing is what it seems and the idyllic picture of the four friends with which the novel opens is anything but. This is brilliantly written, funny and tongue-in-cheek at times, dark and penetrating at others. The interior world is contrasted against exterior social constraints and conventions, late Victorian manners with early 20th century psychology. Maybe think Virginia Wolf's Mrs Galloway but with heart and humour and without the pretensions. I listened to Kerry Shale as the narrator, who was brilliant. Highly recommended.
I don't listen to or read celebrity autobiographies - maybe if I did I wouldn't have been surprised by this. As someone who spent her late teens and early twenties with the Airplane and the Dead playing constantly, I looked forward to some insights from Grace Slick into that exotic, fast moving and drug loaded time and into Grace herself. There were none. It is a very short listen (the only version is the abridged one - probably for good reason) and it is very thin and superficial.
"It just goes to show ..."
... things are not what they seem. A deceptive tale of obsession, self delusion and possibly madness, simply written and impeccably read in a variety of excellent voices and accents. The story becomes a bit ponderous at times - the reason I've not given it 5 stars - but it is only as the detail builds that the listener starts to question the self awareness of the narrator. Highly recommended.
Like others I bought this because of five star reviews, despite not being grabbed by it when I caught a fragment on Radio 4. I can't finish it, it's just so tedious. Like a cream gateaux that's gorgeous when you have one mouthful but sickening after too much, the descriptions of the fabulously wealthy Ephrussi family in Paris and Vienna, their clothes, their furniture and their palaces, soon lie heavy on the stomach. There is nothing here of interest about their lives, presented as empty socialising, nor about the wider society in which they live, apart from speculation as to how they might have been affected by the high class snubbing of anti-semitism. The breathy excitement of the reader, especially at the beginning (or did I get used to it?) I also found tedious, an attempt to inject some life into this plodding tale perhaps.
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