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iris

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Splendid overview of tsarist Russia

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 17-05-16

This is a wonderful evocation of the life of the Russian courts in a three hundred year period. It is thoroughly researched and documented but told in a very accessible manner that said there is so much detail that it would be hard to content oneself with just one reading. I found the narrator to be marvellous because he tells the story in a neutral way which is perfect.
Through reading this book it dawned on me that Stalin was far more impregnanted by his culture of tsarism in his actions than that of Marx - secret police, autocracy, purges, promulgation of the self as Father of the People, drinking bouts, indifference to mass starvation or privations, censorship of the press, Siberian exile and so on. I had already read the author's excellent book on Stalin and now I can't wait to read his book on Jerusalem.


Stunning Account

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 09-05-16

This book is more than just an appraisal of the personal lives of two brothers it is an excellent account of the events leading up to and during the Second World War. The author manages to combine painstaking and thorough research with a highly accessible and readable narrative. The narrator does an excellent job reading in an unobtrusive way without thank goodness trying to imitate the voices of Churchill or other leading protagonists of the time. The historical events are so dramatic in themselves that they do not need histrionic flourishes on the part of the narrator.

The description of the evacuation of British troops from Dunkirk when France fell into the hands of the Germans was one of the best I have ever read. The Battle of Britain was wonderfully described too. What the author really managed to convey was the sense of isolation when Britain found herself alone facing the seemingly overwhelming might of the Nazis.

I loved the excerpts from the war diary of “Bertie” and his self effacing bravery and courage were remarkable compared with the selfish and egotistical behaviour of his brother David.

It was no doubt in my mind a good thing for England that King Edward abdicated his throne. He never seemed to attain adult maturity and there is a limit to the power of childish charm especially in times of real crisis. The bone of contention dividing the brothers remained the status of Wallis Simpson whom the new King refused to grant the title of Royal Highness. This dispute seems so childish when considered in the light of the terrible events facing the British people at the time. The author maintains a healthy distance and neutrality in describing the relationship of the tandem Edward and Mrs Simpson. It is up to the listener to forge his own opinion from the facts presented.

A splendid book and I can highly recommend it.

3 people found this helpful

Splendid Tale!

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 18-03-16

When a highly successful businessman from humble origins finds himself the winner of an Ethnic prize he is far from imagining that the very same night his world is going to fall apart. He finds himself arrested for the murder of a young woman whose body turns up in his hotel room. One of the best law firms is going to take on his defence and it is a humble law clerk who finds himself in the quest of the team to prove their client innocent. However, Flynn just happens to know the client personally and bears him a grudge from years back after an incident in his first year at Cambridge. His sense of justice prevails and he finds himself at the heart of a deeper more sinister mystery and the more he seeks to find out the truth the more he finds his own safety in jeapordy.
The narrator does an excellent job and really brings the characters to life. The twists and turns of the narration are wonderful and although this was a long listen I got through it all in under two days. This is a book where you feel quite bereft at the end and you almost wish there were more to come. An excellent tale.

Stunning First novel

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 01-03-16

This book is excellent and gripping from start to finish. The authenticity of the reporter is highly convincing. The psychological exploration of the "widow" is extremely well done and plausible without jargon or over simplification - much of it is left up to the reader to complete or imagine. Why would a woman stand by a man who has apparently done the most atrocious act is the central question the author sets out to explore and to my mind succeeds in providing a convincing argument. I especially liked the way in which the widow's grip on reality shifts and changes throughout the narrative. The reader is kept guessing and feels a distrust of the widow's version of events. I hope Fiona Barton will soon publish more books. The interview at the end of the book is full of insights from the narrator and the author herself. The narration is excellent and I would say it is more like listening to a dramatisation than a reading.

18 people found this helpful

Ludicrous plot saved by humour.

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 01-03-16

The story is told from a first person narrator the stand up comic Kim and third person narration for the police team leading the investigation. The first person narration is actually the supposed reading of a book Kim has written about her brush with the law and a murder mystery in which she should have been a victim. Books are at the heart of this tale and the killer's motive is closely linked to books too. The motive for the killings is perhaps one of the most ridiculous I have ever read and the police work is so far from any semblance of reality that suspension of disbelief is stretched to the utmost limit.
However the reason why I listened to this book straight through was the humour - there are passages which had me in stitches especially Kim's sex-mad lover who verges on the autistic. Her description of life with her husband is highly amusing and various scenes involving the police characters are also very funny.
The sub plot of Charley trailing her sister is also beyond credibility but also entertaining especially when Kim gets involved in this saga.
As a murder mystery I could not honestly rate this book very highly but as a tale of human foibles and eccentricities it does a great job of entertainment. The narrator was very good.

1 person found this helpful

Well-written tale and excellent narration

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 01-03-16

I am not a great fan of sci-fi but I did enjoy the gradual slide into the sci-fi elements - the book starts with the main character Ethan in a seemingly believable world although there are strange details which maintain the suspense. The narrator has a fantastic hypnotic voice which envelops the reader and draws him or her into the plot. I would expect science fiction to give me more of an analysis or critique of the world we actually live in but the book does not really dwell on that aspect. I think this is an enjoyable listen and has convinced me to try other books in the genre.

Delightful and enchanting!

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 27-01-16

Alan Bennet's lady in the van is none other than Maggie Smith who gives a wonderful performance. This true story recounts a tale of a real character, an eccentric. I was brought up in Camden in the early sixties and there were several eccentrics living there from the lady who accosted every man asking if he were Mr Daly, the old man in my street who lived in a house full of newspapers piled up everywhere and the shellshock man who wandered around spitting out imaginary mud from his mouth. As he was quite elderly I suppose he really had been in the First World War. Just to say that I do not doubt the authenticity of this lady. Bravo to Alan Bennet who allowed her to stay in his garden for all those years. It will have you laughing out loud at times, disgusted and maybe even tearful.

3 people found this helpful

Back on track - accomplished thriller

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 26-11-15

I hesitated about buying this after my disappointment with the second book but Galbraith has corrected most of the faults of the second book. He does not repeat endlessly the life stories of the main characters from the first book and he does not reiterate the story lines of the first two books either. However, you will have to follow Robin's engagement and planned marriage but it is not too ponderous although I cannot abide her fiancé!
Instead the author concentrates on the business in hand and the investigation is the main priority which is superbly worked out with plenty of twists and turns to keep you turning the pages. The supporting characters are fleshed out well and add comic relief to the main story line.
The narrator is sublime and really brings this book to life. At the end of the book there is a word from the author about how much he enjoyed writing this book and all I can say is that he really managed to transmit that enthusiasm and verve into the text.
I shall now look forward to the fourth book in the series.

Outstanding! Fascinating subject!

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 26-11-15

I suppose eveyone has heard of Guy Burgess but who was he? Andrew Lowrie makes a fine attempt to get to know him but it is not an easy task - it would seem there are as many Guy Burgesses as people who knew him! That said most witnesses would agree that he was brilliant, could draw marvellous sketches, promiscuous, drank enormous quantities and liked chewing garlic, wore tailor made clothes which were wrinkled and grubby and had dirty fingernails. He either charmed or revolted. He was amusing or boorish. He went from prep school to Eton with a spell at the naval school, back to Eton then Cambridge where he converted to Marxism and was enrolled as a spy. He then moved to London and worked at the BBC finally ending up in the Foreign Office. He also seems to have spent most of his time in London getting smashed in smart places in Mayfair and for the most part was in the company of smart people. It is hard to imagine why he should want a workers revolution which would have taken away the privileged life he led and it is also hard to understand why he remained faithful to the Stalinist regime even when he must surely have been aware of the dreadful acts perpetrated first of all on the Russian people. I'm surprised that as a well-known homosexual he could have ignored the condemnation of homosexuality by the communists who considered it to be a decadent, bourgeois affectation and whose persecution of gay people was not a secret.
Apart from his betrayal I could not help feeling immensely attracted to this man and found his portrayal highly entertaining in parts. I doubt if he could leave anyone indifferent.
Given the context of the 1930s it is easy to understand why communism would appeal to young idealists especially when faced with the growing numbers of aristocrats who were leaning towards an adulation of Hitler and the unseemly creed of anti-semitism; but after the war and especially events during the Cold War it is harder to comprehend a continuation of such an adherence in maturer years by these spies.
The narrator does a marvellous job in bringing this superb work to life. I was rivetted from start to finish and I know this is a book I will probably have to read a few times more to fully absorb the amount of historical detail.

4 people found this helpful

Enjoyable thriller, wonderful narration

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 26-11-15

This is a solid little thriller telling the tale of how reporter Rosie uncovers the truth about a pedophile ring and also exposes corruption in the Police. Her own life story is also touched upon and she has a love affair. Like so many reporters/detectives in crime fiction she has a dysfunctional background. It is not too heavy but there are quite frequent references to it. Her own problem is wondering whether she can sacrifice her job which drives her for the constraints of a love story. Probably a problem for many women.
I like this book because it takes place in Glasgow so I like getting the feel of the place through the characters and the language.
The narrator makes the story come to life and I think her contribution probably led me to thinking the book was better than it really is. No matter, if you are looking for an easy listen with a plot which is not too complicated you will enjoy this book.