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Brian Keaney

London
  • 9
  • reviews
  • 35
  • helpful votes
  • 13
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  • Gone Girl

  • By: Gillian Flynn
  • Narrated by: Julia Whelan, Kirby Heyborne
  • Length: 19 hrs and 22 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 4,485
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,853
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,865

Who are you? What have we done to each other? What will we do? Just how well can you ever know the person you love? These are the questions that Nick Dunne must ask himself on the morning of his fifth wedding anniversary, when his wife Amy suddenly disappears. The police immediately suspect Nick. Amy's friends reveal that she was afraid of him, that she kept secrets from him. He swears it isn't true. A police examination of his computer shows strange searches. He says they aren't his. And then there are the persistent calls on his mobile phone.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Keep going with this

  • By E on 23-02-13

A First Rate Thriller And A Great Deal More

Overall
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 23-04-13

This is the story of a young woman who goes missing in Missouri. It's told in two contrasting and utterly believable voices: the woman's and her husband's and the truth about their relationship is gradually revealed as layer after layer of lies is peeled away.



It's hard to say much about the story without giving away the plot. What I can say is that the premise is wonderfully audacious and the structure is a labyrinth of twists and turns. Watch out for the really dramatic twist half way through the book that projects the novel into a whole new narrative dimension.



The result is a first-rate thriller but what makes it stand out from other first-rate thrillers, is the quality of the writing: the keen observation of human behaviour; the cinematic use of visual detail; the attention to even the most minor characters, the rigid control of narrative technique, and, above all the forensic examination of contemporary relationships. It's an acute commentary on love and infatuation, marriage and parenting, gender stereotypes and social class and it's perfectly read by the two narrators.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • The Grim Company

  • The Grim Company, Book 1
  • By: Luke Scull
  • Narrated by: Joe Jameson
  • Length: 14 hrs and 28 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 325
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 279
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 283

The difference between a hero and a killer lies in the ability to justify dark deeds. But this is the Age of Ruin. And there are no heroes...Five hundred years ago, the world was destroyed in the celestial Godswar. Seeking to throw off the shackles of the deities who created them, a cabal of mages rose up and made war upon the Gods.Though they won out, it was at a great cost: the ensuing cataclysm brought forth the Age of Ruin to the world.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Like Game Of Thrones But With A Lot More Laughs

  • By Brian Keaney on 09-04-13

Like Game Of Thrones But With A Lot More Laughs

Overall
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 09-04-13

Set in a world in which the gods have been murdered by a cartel of magicians who have since fallen out and now compete for dominion, The Grim Company is a multi-viewpoint fantasy with some distinctly original touches (for example, the decaying bodies of the gods are responsible for freaks of the climate), plenty of graphic violence and a dark but contagious sense of humour. Its central characters, deeply flawed and often thoroughly misanthropic, are boldly drawn and quickly take hold of the imagination of the reader. The result is a compelling piece of storytelling that keeps you listening until the last sentence. A bit like A Game Of Thrones but with a lot more laughs.

13 of 15 people found this review helpful

  • The Last Runaway

  • By: Tracy Chevalier
  • Narrated by: Laurel Lefkow
  • Length: 8 hrs and 46 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 210
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 175
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 174

Laurel Lefkow reads the stunning new novel from the bestselling author of Girl with a Pearl Earring. When modest Quaker Honor Bright sails from Bristol with her sister, she is fleeing heartache for a new life in America, far from home. But tragedy leaves her alone and vulnerable, torn between two worlds and dependent on the kindness of strangers. Life in 1850s Ohio is precarious and unsentimental. The sun is too hot, the thunderstorms too violent, the snow too deep. The roads are spattered with mud and spit. The woods are home to skunks and porcupines and raccoons.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Bad accents!

  • By Matt Watson-Power on 21-05-13

America, Land of Opportunity and Slavery

Overall
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 31-03-13

When Dorsetshire Quaker Honor Bright is jilted, she emigrates to America along with her sister Mary, who is intending to marry an established emigré from the same community now running a drapery in a small town in Ohio. But Mary dies of Yellow Fever on the journey and Honor finds herself a stranger in a strange land, entirely dependent upon the charity of her dead sister's fiancé.



A hasty marriage to local farmer Jack Haymaker seems to be the answer but Jack is part of an intimidating family, at the head of which stands his formidable mother Judith who is less than impressed with her son's choice of partner.



The gap between Honor and the Haymakers begins to widen when she becomes involved with the underground rail road of people smuggling slaves to freedom in Canada. Eventually a crisis is reached and both Honor and Jack are forced to make difficult choices.



Tracey Chevalier is an immensely visual writer, able to bring a scene to life with a few well-chosen details - the gleam of light on a bowl, the curve of a lock of hair, the colour of a ribbon - and this is a book that draws its strength from the intensely realised minutiae of domestic life.



It is marred a little by a tendency towards simplification and sentimentality in the latter third of the book, particularly in the depiction of the black characters, and the dénoument feels a little too neat. Nevertheless, I found this beautifully-read story to be both entertaining and moving.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The Conductor

  • By: Sarah Quigley
  • Narrated by: Sean Barrett
  • Length: 11 hrs and 39 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 26
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 18
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 20

June 1941: Nazi troops surround the city of Leningrad, planning to shell and starve the people into submission. Most of the cultural elite is evacuated, but the famous composer Shostakovich stays behind to defend his city. That winter, the bleakest in Russian history, the Party orders Karl Eliasberg, the shy, difficult conductor of a second-rate orchestra, to prepare for the task of a lifetime. He is to conduct a performance of Shostakovich's Seventh Symphony, a haunting, defiant new piece.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • A Powerful Study In Characterisation

  • By Brian Keaney on 16-03-13

A Powerful Study In Characterisation

Overall
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 16-03-13

Set during the siege of Leningrad, Quigley's powerful and enthralling novel focuses on the character of Karl Eliasberg, the conductor who managed to assemble an audience of half-starved musicians from the city's desperate inhabitants and coax from them a performance of Shostakovich's newly-composed seventh symphony. This performance, broadcast on loudspeakers to defenders and assailants alike, would come to stand for the resilience of the Leningrad people under the most extreme privation. Eliasberg is a man tortured by lack of confidence and low self-esteem. Yet in in the pursuit of a task so utterly demanding that there is scarcely time for him to drag his mother's corpse to the frozen cemetery, and no time at all to tell his friends and colleagues of her death, he manages to find a redemptive strength and purpose.

All the characters in this novel are powerfully drawn - they are, after all, individuals under the most extreme stress, inhabiting the very margins of existence; and behind them lurks the overwhelming personality of Leningrad, a city where bombs and artillery fall like rain and where the melting snow of Spring reveals dead bodies that have been partly cannabalised by the starving inhabitants. Despite its often cerebral concerns, this novel manages to be a real page turner and it is marvellously read by Sean Barrett. I was scarcely able to think about anything else until I reached the end.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Merivel, A Man of His Time

  • By: Rose Tremain
  • Narrated by: Sean Barrett
  • Length: 12 hrs and 33 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 163
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 133
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 132

The Restoration is over and Robert Merivel, renowned physician and courtier to Charles II, now faces the anxieties of middle age. Questions crowd his mind: has he been a good father? Is he a fair master? Is he the King's friend or the King's slave? In search of answers, Merivel sets off for the French court. But Versailles leaves him in despair, until a chance encounter with a seductive Swiss botanist allows him to dream of an honourable future.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Thoughtful, moving and gently humorous

  • By Linda on 19-12-14

A Wonderful Sequel

Overall
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 12-03-13

Rose Tremaine's 1989 novel, Restoration, was such a feast for the reader, so funny, so well-researched, so humane and so moving, that I doubted whether she could possibly succeed with a sequel, especially more than twenty years later. In fact, she pulls it off wonderfully. Though still liberally peppered with sex and low comedy, this is a more sombre tale. Merivel, King Charles and the other characters who careered through the pages of the first book, are fifteen years older. Old age and sickness are beginning to take their toll. The whole mood of the country has changed and disillusion with the monarch has set in. Merivel now bears the responsibility for the welfare of his teenage daughter, Margaret. Despite this, he is still a man inclined to pleasure, flawed but likeable, weak but disarmingly honest. It is this weakness that is the wellspring of the plot. When his daughter is given a place at court and Merivel finds himself alone in his big house, he decides to to set off for Versailles in search of a purpose and a position with Louis XIV. Instead he becomes enamoured of a captive bear and involved with the wife of a member of the Swiss Guard. What makes Tremaine a really first-class writer is the depth of her characterisation and the honesty of her writing. She is not afraid to tackle any subject. She goes wherever human beings go. There is a remarkable scene in a stagecoach in which a woman exposes herself to a group of male passengers that is simultaneously horrifying and hilarious. I can't imagine anyone else writing it with such ease and such obvious relish. I enjoyed this book enormously. It made me feel glad to be alive and this recording was perfectly pitched.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • The Girl Who Fell from the Sky

  • By: Simon Mawer
  • Narrated by: Anna Bentinck
  • Length: 11 hrs and 32 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 581
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 309
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 313

Marian Sutro is an outsider: the daughter of a diplomat, half French, half British, naive yet too clever for her own good. But when she is recruited from her desk job by SOE to go undercover in wartime France, it seems her hybrid status - and fluent French - will be of service to a greater, more dangerous cause. Trained in sabotage, dead-drops, how to perform under interrogation, and how to kill, Marian parachutes into southwest France with an urgent mission....

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • A great thriller, but also beautifully written

  • By Jill on 10-05-12

An Intelligent, Well-Crafted Thriller

Overall
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 27-01-13

Sensitively narrated by Anna Bentinck, Simon Mawer's The Girl Who Fell From The Sky is the story of Marian Sutro, a young Anglo-French woman parachuted into occupied France during World War Two by the Special Operations Executive to help run an espionage network in the south west.



With its focus on identity and loyalty, it's an intelligent, well-crafted thriller drawing its power from the inner world of its protagonist, where fear is an ever present backdrop, overshadowing friendship, love and sex, making the simplest judgement complex and the most cherished memory untrustworthy.



I felt a little unsatisfied by the ending. Nevertheless, it's a gripping story that convincingly portrays the shabbiness of wartime France in its daily accommodations with the Nazis and the claustrophobia of those who struggled to nurture the spark of resistance.

  • Slammerkin

  • By: Emma Donoghue
  • Narrated by: Charlotte Stevens
  • Length: 14 hrs and 49 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 78
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 59
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 60

Strangers might remember a trip to see a girl hang, but who would spare a thought for the who’s and how’s and whys? 'At thirteen, Mary, the daughter of a poor seamstress, longs for fine clothes as her neighbours hunger for food and warmth. For the love of a gorgeous red ribbon she finds herself seduced into a life on the cold, dangerous streets of late 1700s London. Her saviour is Doll, a gaudy young woman who takes her under her wing.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Beautifully written but deeply harrowing

  • By Brian Keaney on 11-12-12

Beautifully written but deeply harrowing

Overall
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-12-12

Set in London and Monmouth in the eighteenth century, Slammerkin is the story of Mary, a fourteen year old girl abandoned by her family and forced to resort to prostitution in order to survive. Be warned - it is often deeply harrowing. However, Emma Donoghue's eye for detail, coupled with her delight in language made even the darkest moments pulse with energy.



"The old man's tongue pushed past her lips as if looking for something, buried treasure. It tasted like a burnt thing. It thrashed like a dying fish and bruised the roof of her mouth. She thought she might choke."



This is an unflinching portrait of life at the bottom of a brutal society and from the first page, it's clear that things will not end well for Mary. Yet I kept on hoping until the very end, because despite all the squalor, there is so much that is life-affirming in these pages, and because the characters are so recognisably human. You feel you know them all so well and you desperately want their plans to prosper. Sadly, very few of them do.



The narration by Charlotte Stevens was first class: beautifully clear and fully engaged.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

  • By: Paul Torday
  • Narrated by: John Sessions, Samantha Bond, Fenella Woolgar
  • Length: 8 hrs and 35 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 587
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 341
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 340

A Richard and Judy Summer Read Selection.
Written as a "report into the circumstances surrounding the decision to introduce salmon into the Yemen", this is a novel that is made up of e-mails, letters, diary extracts, records of the prime minister's Question Time, interviews, and chapters from the memoirs of a fantastically weaselly Peter Mandelson-type figure.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Superb!

  • By Nicky on 03-04-07

Thoroughly entertaining

Overall
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 18-11-12

I'm not sure what this would be like to read but it makes terrific listening. It's the ridiculously high-concept story of an immensely wealthy Arab Sheikh who falls in love with salmon fishing on his estate in Scotland and hatches a plan to introduce it to the Yemen, despite apparently insuperable natural obstacles.



It's told from the point of view of a rather nerdy fisheries scientist who is reluctantly roped into the project but becomes entirely obsessed by it, and features a great cast of characters, notably, the self-important Director of Communications to the Prime Minister, who is clearly based on Peter Mandelson. The book is narrated by John Sessions who does a superb job in bringing the characters to life.



It goes a bit over the top in the middle with the introduction of a quiz programme for the Arab world dreamed up by Peter Maxwell whose occido-centric tunnel vision becomes a bit implausible. Nevertheless, it's thoroughly entertaining.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • The Cairo Trilogy (Dramatised)

  • By: Naguib Mahfouz
  • Narrated by: Omar Sharif
  • Length: 2 hrs and 50 mins
  • Original Recording
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 40
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 20
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 20

Omar Sharif leads an all-Egyptian cast in this three-part drama, recorded entirely in Egypt's capital. Adapted from Naguib Mahfouz's novels, this is a gripping family saga, with a monstrous father, a loving mother, and four children. It is set in seductive Cairo from 1917 to 1953, against a backdrop of political upheaval.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Authentic, evocative and moving

  • By Brian Keaney on 11-09-08

Authentic, evocative and moving

Overall
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-09-08

Naguib Mahfouz won the Nobel prize for this trilogy and I can see why. This trilogy tells the story of three generations of one family against the backdrop of the Egyptian struggle for independence. The remarkable authenticity of the production (it was recorded in Cairo), the quality of the acting, even the evocative background music all make this a really memorable listening experience.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful