"Amusing, engaging and thought-provoking"
Never having watched Dom Joly's TV programmes, I did not know what to expect, but the premise of the book was interesting, and the author's voice is easy to listen to, so I downloaded version 4, for my old iPod nano 2nd generation, and was hooked straight away. I wasn't surprised to find out that the author's been a researcher for the political comedian/activist Mark Thomas: the same vein of absurdism.compassion, and refusal to toe the party line runs through their respective works. I found myself having to ration my listening, since I had a long train journey coming up, and, once at my holiday destination, I kept sneaking off for a quick listen, to find out what happened next. Particularly poignant for me were the chapters on skiing in Iran, and the visit to Chernobyl in Ukraine, as well as the return to Dom's childhood country, Lebanon. Dom Joly manages to find quirky humour in situations where there is little to be jolly about (did you know, for example, that Osama bin Laden attended an International Quaker boarding school?) I, for one, will be looking out for more of his books. Alternatively, If he wants to create The Dark Tourist volume 2, I'll happily buy that. There's always the Communist Statue park in Budapest, and the Island of Hawar, Bahrain's answer to the Maldives (not!) where visitors are forbidden to leave the hotel compound without authorisation, and the ?7-a-throw cappuccinos are made with Nescafe...
In short, if you're after a funny listen that will still have the power to make you think about the themes long after you've finished listening, this is a winner.
Unlike Thea Kronberg, the heroine, a passionate and talented young girl, this semi-autobiographical novel burns slowly, and the 15 hours have taken me months to listen to, the story being not as gripping as my usual fare. I loved My Antonia, and liked O Pioneers! by the same author, but this tale was less engrossing.
The main character here is Thea, a girl from Colorado who eventually succeeds against the odds in becoming an opera singer. Not being an opera fan and not having a word of German, I found the theme less than riveting. There is also a lot about what I'd call "the struggle of the artist, and for integrity" and while I do not dispute that every artist of any sort endures this type of agony, it doesn't make great listening if you've been there before.
The narration was ok, but I found the voice a little harsh.
What I loved was the descriptions of life in a small Colorado town; the landscape; the story of the tramp; the description of remains of the caves of the Pueblo indians. No one does the landscape of the West or MidWest like Willa Cather!
"Captivating, engaging, enraging"
I got this as part of a two-for-one promo, so I wasn't expecting much. It started off as what I thought was a rather cliched love story across the class divide, and I don't like love stories much, as a rule, so I put it aside for a few days. It did, though, have an underlying teasing erotic tension, never explicitly stated, so I picked it up again! When I started listening once more, I rapidly became totally addicted to it, and listened to the book all over the house, on the bus, on my walks, in the garden while hanging up the washing, etc. Rarely do I find myself shouting at fictional characters, but I did desperately want these star crossed lovers to get together, and also for the woman, Clarissa to Just Say No to her overprotective Mama! However, that is a 21st century judgement...
Yes, this is at heart a love story set in the Edwardian era, but it is also a vivid description of the life and rhythms of a large country estate, and a moving account of the horrors and the waste of lives that war brings, and how it continues to affects the survivors.
I listened in format 4 on my ancient iPod nano, and found the narration faultless. The pace never dragged, and listening to this story took me miles and miles away from the no. 93 bus route in the rain to an altogether sunnier and more privileged place and time.
"Wry and entertaining"
This is not an average crime novel. Kate Atkinson specialises in character development, and there are some wild co-incidences! I've listened to all of the 'Case Histories' quartet now, in the wrong order, and loved all of them, particularly this one (the third) and Started Early, Took my Dog (the fourth, and latest). I love the wit of the observations, the pace of the story, the rapid twists and turns of the tale. While the narration of this is not as fine as Nicholas Bell's on Started Early, Took my Dog, I found the voice friendly enough, though I do agree with a previous reviewer that the Scottish accents are all over the place. geographically, and scarcely credible. If you can put that gripe to one side, you'll enjoy the white-knuckle ride of Jackson and Reggie's adventures in Edinburgh and the North of England.
"In a strange room, and a dark place"
Having listened to the audio of The Impostor and found it compelling and plot-driven, I had high hopes for this book. It was clear from the beginning that the nature of the tale would be more philosophical, a musing on the nature of travel and identity, but I struggled at times with the third part, where the narrator plays the role of the Guardian. One needs great inner resilience to listen and not to be reminded of other friends lost in a similar way. Clearly this is a true, and haunting tale, but too, too poignant at times.
That having been said, there is so much to praise here: the narration is good, and once again the landscape is vividly described and comes to life before one's eyes.
"Painfully funny poke at publishing and the media"
If you've ever entertained the idea of writing for a living, or set foot inside a publishing/media house, this should strike a chord. The grumpy old writer, fallen on hard times, drinking his Cotes de Rhone and happiest when puffing a stinking pipe, is a hoary old cliche, but plenty of these guys DO still exist, as Ed does for our entertainment. Ed's air of self-importance reminds me of Frasier Crane in Paramount TV's Frasier, though the characters are worlds apart. I laughed heartily at the character of Ping, his pretty, vacuous agent, and the 'bent jockey' James Derby Magee. for whom Ed has to write an after-dinner speech. If modern life ever strikes you as absurd, listen on... you won't be disappointed.
"Pioneering life, love and loss on the prairie"
As I am unfamiliar with pioneering history and American literature in general, I was not sure if I'd like this; but the love of the land shone through from the beginning and had me hooked immediately. The author's knowledge of Nebraska and her changing seasons is as deep as Thomas Hardy's feeling for his native Wessex. The separate but intermingled tales of the immigrant families and their unequal struggle to settle the land; their later drift away from the land towards town; their homesickness; the struggle of the girls, whose work is never finished and who must yet not be seen to enjoy themselves, all conjure up an exquisite picture of small-town Nebraska and its social mores.
The narration jarred at first, the pace seeming a little fast, but I soon adjusted. I have listened to this book for a little over a week, and on finishing it feel saddened, as if waving goodbye to an old friend.
My own comparison of this work with Thomas Hardy's novels had made we wonder if this too would have a tragic ending. I'm pleased to observe that Cather's charcters were not similarly fated: hope survives, interspersed with tragedies great and small. All in all, a true classic, engaging as it does with the broad themes of journeying and returning; of the roles of love, memory, and landscape. Highly recommended.
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