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David

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Powerful, compelling and original

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

Reviewed: 05-11-14

Unknowingly I downloaded this, the day before it was awarded the Booker Prize, so it is especially interesting to be both listening to and learning a lot about the author, his father (who was a Japanese PoW), and the writing of the book every time I turned on the TV, the radio or opened a newspaper. I have only just finished it and it is utterly compelling, in an hypnotic, almost unbearably poignant, and at times painful way. It is a work of genius without doubt. I won't try and describe the plot. The key is the main character - deeply flawed, but monumentally strong-willed. As a private man he is weak - a womaniser, somehow incapable - even before the trauma of the camp - to achieve intimacy with family, friends and lovers. As a public man - a leading surgeon in Australia and the colonel in the camp - he absolutely reliable, an outstanding leader of men, and a tower of strength. The scene where, half-starved as everybody in the camp is, he is brought a stolen cooked steak can never be forgotten. Sorely tempted, he almost succumbs, but the will power kicks in and he sends it to the sick men in the hospital. Another outstanding achievement is the author's ability to get completely inside the culture and mind-set of the Japanese officers at the camp. I understand that Richard Flanagan or his father went to Japan and actually met one of them. This adds another powerful dimension to this truly original novel. It is read by the author. I was turned off at first because of his slow, almost lugubrious delivery. Don't be - soon it becomes compelling and hypnotic. It really wouldn't be the same it wasn't read by the author.

Be transported to Tudor England

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

Reviewed: 13-10-14

This well written and finely read story of the life of Thomas Cromwell, is so vivid that you really feel you have entered his life and the England of Henry VIII. I do hope it is as accurate as historical fiction can be, because it has formed my view of all the principal characters, particularly Cromwell, the King, and Thomas Moore and the period in ways which will be hard to dislodge. The narrator somehow captures what I imagine to be Cromwell tone and manner - so it works really well as an audio book. It's massively long (over 20 hours of listening) and I fear I may not have had the stamina to read the book, but I just loved listening to it and it keep me engrossed on several journeys and visits to the gym. I may take a break before moving on to Bringing Up the Bodies, but I will certainly listen to it in a while.

Enjoyable and comic social commentary

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

Reviewed: 02-09-14

Not Marina Lewycka's best - that remains 'A short history of tractors in Ukranian', where all new readers should start - but still an enjoyable romp through through the last forty years or so. The characters are great: the parents - Doro and Marcus who spent much of their life in a commune; their children - Clara, the conscientious school-teacher, Serge, the gullible Maths Ph,D. who drifts into the City, and Oolie with Down's Syndrome, who longs for independence for her over-protective mum. Don't expect great depth from the characters - as in Dickens, they are designed to illustrate social situations, drive the story, and provide opportunities for great dialogue. Don't expect too much from the social commentary either - it's a wry and gentle poking of fun at the delusions of 1980s Marxism, the naivety of youth, the amoral absurdity of modern investment banking, the ageing process, and the nature of relationships, which ocassionally reaches the level of laugh-out load farce. As someone of Doro and Marcus's generation, I enjoyed it, but I've no idea how other generations would find it. A perfect book for Radio Four listeners.

Flawed and uneven, but brilliant in parts

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

Reviewed: 16-08-14

This is a novel about university life in the 1970s, seen from the perspective of today. For one of that era ( I went to a new university at the same time) it is richly evocative, capturing both time and place, but more importantly how the world appeared to us then. This makes the first third utterly brilliant. Adele, a tough Liverpudlian, who is caught up in the world without ever internalising its assumptions, makes a great narrator, particularly when she is describing the seventies as if she were in them. When she and the story graduates, it is never quite the same. That is the author's intention - both because something dramatic happened there ( as prefigured in the title) which changes the lives of Adele and her small circle, but also because, with the possible exception of Rose, life somehow could never live up the promise of world-changing freedom that the new universities held out. Both may be true, but after they leave the narrative flounders and the reflections from the present day become somewhat sour and occasionally cliched. She allows her characters to age more quickly, certainly than my contemporaries have. Her description of their return to the University in their late fifties, makes them all sound old and more than a little decrepit, and her view of the period is relentlessly bleak. I know it's a novel, and each of the characters is a singular individual, but the author is very clearly making a statement about an era. Her earlier novel, 'We had it so good', which starts earlier and maintains its narrative drive over several decades, is a more balanced and nuanced portrayal of both the joys and the follies of our baby-boomer generation. It certainly struck more of chord with me. Read them both and make up your own mind.

1 person found this helpful

The most talked about non-fiction book this year

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

Reviewed: 08-08-14

This is a mega-work - both in length and impact. The most detailed study of the distribution of wealth for decades - a monumental work of scholarship - and a powerful polemic for the effective global taxation of wealth. It's not the ideal Audible Book because you need to print off loads of PDF charts to really make sense of it, which, since I was listening to it at the gym, was a bit of a problem. Also because it has provoked a lot of debate, including over the accuracy of some of the data, you may prefer to spend your time tuning into the debate on-line; unless you are a professional economist, in which case you will have already read it and have an annotated hard-back copy on your shelf. I committed to the twenty plus hours of listening and learnt a lot. I especially like some of the incidental historical detail and the sections where he goes off-piste and gives us his views on the Euro crisis. I was convinced by both the analysis and the polemic. He is open enough to put all his data on-line. The critique by the FT's economics editor casts doubt on some of it, but Piketty's response is strong, and the fundamental argument that inequality is growing because the returns to capital are growing at a faster rate than the standard of living of the majority of the population survives intact.

29 people found this helpful

Everyone should be familiar with Steven Pinker

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

Reviewed: 26-05-14

Steven Pinker, a Harvard-based, evolutionary psychologist, is one of the world's top thinkers. You simply have to come to terms with what he has to say about the mind, language and human nature. His books are long. Having read some and listened to some, I'd say listening is best. This is probably his seminal work - it is certainly the one he is most proud of. I enjoyed 'The Blank Slate' and ' The Better Angels' more because they apply his ideas more widely to politics, history and society. But in this book he is developing his core idea - that the mind is a natural phenomena, a product of evolutionary change, and that if we understand how it has adapted, particularly during the millennia when we were hunter-gathers, we will appreciate both how remarkable it is and what its limitations as a tool for thinking and perceiving are.

As other reviewers have said, it is very detailed. This is essential for Pinker to show how deeply he has thought about the issues and to display his command of the available research. Some bits will appeal more to some readers, I was more interested in the behavioural stuff about the way we interact with each other, than the way the mind interprets and uses data from our eyes. All in all it is a tour de force, which lives up to its title. I was utterly convinced by it and have accepted what he calls the 'computational theory of mind'. Now I want to read his crtics to see if there is a viable alternative view.

4 people found this helpful

The secrets of high speed trading revealed

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

Reviewed: 15-04-14

Where does Flash Boys rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

Michael Lewis never disappoints. I read his first - Liar's Poker - but listened to his second - The Big Short. He's an ideal writer for audio, given a good narrator, because his books are packed with characters and the stories, although not by any means fiction, always grip the reader or listener. Comparatively to recent audio, I 'd give it 8 out of ten

What did you like best about this story?

The ability to capture atmosphere - whether it's a construction gang laying a cable across the country, or a meeting of Wall Street big shots - you feel as though you are there. The cast of characters are equally vivid. And all the while you know you are listening to somehow important - in this case about high frequency traders and their impact on stock markets - learning something about the weird world of high finance.

What does Dylan Baker bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

He brings both the characters and the story to life. Some of the financial and software stuff might be a little tedious to read if you were tired. Listened to on audio it keeps your attention.

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

To be honest - no. My strongest emotion was -'wow how did Michael Lewis get the idea, master all this complex detail, and turn it into a story as gripping as a thriller'..

5 people found this helpful

Enjoyable comic novel that tries to be poignant

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

Reviewed: 04-04-14

If you could sum up Expo 58 in three words, what would they be?

Fun in the Fifties with spies.

If you’ve listened to books by Jonathan Coe before, how does this one compare?

This is the first that I've listened to, but I've read most of the others.. Whilst hugely enjoyable, I wouldn't rate it as highly as the Rotters Club - still his best.

What about Julian Rhind-Tutt’s performance did you like?

Yes - another really good narrator.

If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

Naive Brit let loose in 1950s Europe

Any additional comments?

Much of the book is very funny; although some of the plot is predictable and that robs it of its potential comic drama. Some of the attempts at poignancy don't work, but then it's very hard to create a comic character, like the main protagonist,Thomas Foley, and then try and introduce poignancy. It's still good fun to listen to and I would recommend it as a undemanding listen - great for a car journey or a crowded commute.

2 people found this helpful

A work of genius - brilliant but flawed

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

Reviewed: 28-03-14

Would you listen to The Goldfinch again? Why?

Probably not for a few years, but I would recommend it to other people. I think it works so well as a audiobook - I couldn't imagine getting though such a long book.

What other book might you compare The Goldfinch to, and why?

It's in a class of its own, but as a audobook experience I'd compare it with Tom Wolfe's Back to Blood. They are different, but they are both brillliantly read, long, and work because the authors have such a brilliant ear for dialogue, create really memorable characters, and transport you into a different world.

What about David Pittu’s performance did you like?

He is excellent. Particularly when he does Boris and Andy, Theo's friend and room-mate.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

No - I don't think it's that kind of book. To me it was so surreal that I never identified with any of the characters. I enjoyed being transported into their world, but I didn't share their emotions. I just wanted to tell the characters to get real, particularly Theo.

Any additional comments?

Although I enjoyed all 30 plus hours, there really is no justification of such a long book. The length detracts from its power and impact. I often found myself saying 'yes, we got the message - get on with it'. I guess Donna Tartt is such a megastar that she won't accept the advice of her editor, when the truth is every writer benefits from a good editor.

Truly a masterpiece

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

Reviewed: 17-10-13

Where does The Better Angels of Our Nature rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

I'm a great fan of Steven Pinker, so I started with a favourable opinion. This one doesn't quite match up to The Blank Slate, but comes close. The subject matter - that the human race is getting progressive less violent - is counter-intuitive, but Pinker's case is made relentlessly, logically and empirically. I was completely convinced. It's dauntingly long and I don't think I would have got through the book, but listening to it worked really well.

1 person found this helpful