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Alison

Chester, United Kingdom
  • 5
  • reviews
  • 7
  • helpful votes
  • 5
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  • Country Girl

  • By: Edna O’Brien
  • Narrated by: Edna O’Brien
  • Length: 16 hrs and 11 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 40
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 22
  • Story
    3.5 out of 5 stars 22

Edna O'Brien was born in 1930. Her brilliant debut novel, The Country Girls, was banned in her native Ireland upon its publication in 1960. Since then she has gone on to produce some of the finest writing of the 20th century. In Country Girl we hear of a life of high drama and contemplation, of encounters with Hollywood giants, pop stars, and literary titans. It is a life gorgeously, sometimes painfully remembered, in prose that sparkles with the effortless gifts of a master.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • More... everything

  • By Alison on 07-01-13

More... everything

Overall
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 07-01-13

Edna O'Brien reading Edna O'Brien? What more could I want? Well, I got what I wanted: haunting evocation of inhibited Irish childhood, the bliss and despair of love, the mythology of landscape and of fame, all transmitted with her inimitable language and verve. And with the bonus of her own voice: breathy, snatched, occasionally scornful (often of herself), wry, and always lyrical.



What I had not expected was honesty about her weaknesses - her inability to withstand her husband's demand for her earnings, her near-suicide - and a political engagement which is scorching in its attack on the Catholic Church and which takes on the complexity of the Northern Irish Troubles.



The earlier parts, about her childhood and young womanhood, and the later about her ageing, are the most vivid; her mid-life of fame and friendship with all the glossy names of the film world perhaps less so - though I admit I'm a sucker for such stuff. (Connery, Brando, Gore Vidal, Jackie Onassis, anyone?) Her method is somehow restrained yet sumptuous: as she says, there's 'more this / that / the other...more everything.' One anecdote towards the end will illustrate: she's staying at Antonia and Harold's delightful place in Dorset, and there's talk of Jude Law dropping by to discuss a script. She must be in her 70s at the time. She hopes Jude won't come - he'd disrupt the equilibrium. She wants to swim in the pool, but hesitates because she can't swim; she needs arm-bands, and knows that when her arm-bands blow up they advertise NIVEA CREME. Lurking near the pool, hoping for it to empty, she realises that Jude Law is walking towards her. He is an Adonis. He simply walks over and, without a word, kisses her. Pure, wonderful Edna O'Brien.



A wonderful book, a luminous journey through the loves and conflicts of a single life which is many lives in one, and a landmark of restraint and honesty.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • The Casual Vacancy

  • By: J.K. Rowling
  • Narrated by: Tom Hollander
  • Length: 17 hrs and 49 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 1,937
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,318
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 1,320

When Barry Fairbrother dies in his early 40s, the town of Pagford is left in shock. Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty facade is a town at war. Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils.... Pagford is not what it first seems. And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Stick with it

  • By Amazon Customer on 05-10-12

Vivid characters, tight plot - stunning, memorable

Overall
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 22-11-12

Potter-mania isn't my thing, but I admire the way JKR has conducted herself and thought I'd give her adult novel a whirl. 18 hours is a long time on audio - who better to spend it with than (Rev, Duke, King) Tom Hollander? So I approached A Casual Vacancy with an unusually open mind.



My admiration grew by the hour. I give it only 4 stars because it's not Middlemarch - nor Mugglemarch. (Tom Hollander gets 6 stars.) It's superbly plotted, interweaving relationships between widely differing characters. JKR knows her stuff: from how to run a parish council or a comprehensive school to how to take drugs or hack into a website. Her pacing of key plot features and placing of telling detail is stunningly accurate. Most impressive is her observation of the complex and often contradictory nature of human emotions and relationships. Yes, some of her characterisation is unpleasant. Yet affection for her younger protagonists shines out: Fats, Andrew, Sukhvinder, Gaia, and especially Krystal - these teenagers are portrayed with real love. Krystal is best friends with Sukhvinder in a rowing team in one scene yet howls abuse at her across a city street the next, and we understand exactly why. She (and I'll try not to spoil the plot here) tries to save Robbie and yet manages to... (ok, no more; read it yourself).



Pagford, where the personal and the political are tightly knitted and knotted, unravels at the end - but it re-ravels as well. I knew the story would end in death and break-up, but I couldn't predict who would die, who would abandon their relationship (or have it abandoned for them) or who would make it in the end.



I've been left with a huge tapestry which is now hanging on my imaginative wall, enriching my world. Hey, so she's left in the odd cliche, as accused by the broadsheets. Hey, so she's on the side of the poor and the scarred rather than the rich and the flabby, as screams the Daily Mail. It's simply a great novel. Thanks, Jo - and thanks Tom, too.

  • My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece

  • By: Annabel Pitcher
  • Narrated by: David Tennant
  • Length: 5 hrs and 55 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 469
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 299
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 299

Ten-year-old Jamie Matthews has just moved to the Lake District with his Dad and his teenage sister, Jasmine for a 'Fresh New Start'. Five years ago his sister's twin, Rose, was blown up by a terrorist bomb. His parents are wrecked by their grief, Jasmine turns to piercing, pink hair and stops eating. The family falls apart. But Jamie hasn't cried in all that time. To him Rose is just a distant memory.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Enthralling!

  • By Mrs A. on 18-05-11

Wonderful writing, wonderful reading

Overall
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 25-04-12

It's the quality of the viewpoint that makes this novel so special. Jamie is totally believable, and David Tennant's reading inhabits Jamie completely. It is difficult to believe that this is Annabel Pitcher first novel - it's pitch perfect. The enormity of child abandonment made me sick with rage, but Jamie's understanding of the grief that brought it about almost helped me to understand...

I feel mean pointing out small errors of geography (drive from Ambleside to St Bee's Head via a motorway? I think not) when the novel as a whole is so achingly brillant - but hey, there's always something to learn.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The Summer Isles

  • By: Ian R. MacLeod
  • Narrated by: Steve Hodson
  • Length: 13 hrs and 3 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 39
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 20
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 20

In this fine work of full-length fiction by award-winning author Ian R. MacLeod, a chilling alternate history unfolds.... An elderly English historian, swept along with the rest of his country by the march of history, sways between reminiscences of his life's true love and his efforts - in his own fumbling way - to change his nation's course. In this tale, Britain has lost the First World War and turned to fascism.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Extraordinary, and beautifully read

  • By Alison on 26-02-12

Extraordinary, and beautifully read

Overall
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 26-02-12

I came across this book by accident, attracted to it by the reader, whose work in radio drama I'm familiar with. From the very beginning I was drawn into the novel's slow burn. MacLeod does not immediately lay out the 'alternate' history: that Britain has lost the Great War, suffered economic meltdown (a wheelbarrow of notes would buy a cabbage) and turned to a very English kind of fascism. Instead, we follow Geoffrey Brook (or is it Griffin Brooke-with-an-e?) as he secretly pursues his desires and persists in his surprising academic success. Sinister developments - the trashing of a suburban house and disappearance of seemingly ordinary citizens, the blank on the map where trains pulling cattle-wagons shuffle towards an unknown destination - are described coolly, steadily. As readers, our emotions are never exploited, our sense of 'real' history never assumed. Steve Hodson's narration is by turns wryly ironic and restrainedly emotional; calm and warm, distant and analytical. Some of the scenes must have been extremely difficult to read: they are certainly difficult to listen to. I finished the book, with its many astonishing twists, feeling that it should be compulsory reading for all historians, all politicians, all citizens who talk about 'British values' as if they were immutably wholesome.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

  • By: Rebecca Skloot
  • Narrated by: Cassandra Campbell
  • Length: 12 hrs and 30 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 270
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 187
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 186

Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer whose cancer cells – taken without her knowledge – became one of the most important tools in medicine

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Interesting

  • By Tessa Darby on 28-04-15

Rivetting listening

Overall
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 02-02-12

This is a must-read for all who are interested in how science develops and what is its place in our society. I found Rebecca Skloot's enquiry into the woman (and her family, and the scientists and the labs) behind the cells which have furthered medical and genetic research more than any other fascinating on so many levels: scientific, historical, political, psychological. Here is a woman who has aided medicine immeasuably, but her family cannot afford US health care... And that's just the start. It's beautifully read by Cassandra Campbell, and had me hooked from start to finsh.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful