I was really excited when I discovered this BBC audio dramatization of Tolkien's classic Lord of the Rings trilogy. It was highly recommended by a staI was really excited when I discovered this BBC audio dramatization of Tolkien's classic Lord of the Rings trilogy. It was highly recommended by a staff member at the Ventura County Library in Ventura, California. Even though sections from the original books had been cut and altered for the dramatization, she said that it was an experience that any Tolkien fan would enjoy.
The box and the CDs are beautiful! They have images, maps, and other useful information about the trilogy and author on each case. On the back of the box it reads:
This stunning dramatized BBC production of Tolkien's classic is presented in thirteen hours on thirteen compact discs. Starring Ian Holm and featuring a cast of 25 performers, specially composed music and sound effects, this beautifully packaged boxed set is a perfect gift for every Tolkien fan.
This introduction and every colorful display on the CD cases kept my excitement high as I listened through the entire series with my husband during our long car rides. It didn't take long to breeze through the discs.
One aspect that made the experience less enjoyable was the fact that the library copy contained badly scratched CDs. Often, the car player wouldn't recognize that there was a CD in it, and we would spend countless minutes cleaning them until they could be played. Ventura library should invest in a DVD doctor or a similar device. Since this collection is so popular, they need to maintain the quality of the discs.
I enjoyed the dramatic presentation more than my husband, who kept comparing it to Peter Jackson's films. In all honesty, this audio book cannot compare to the films. Thus, it's really important not to expect a similar Hollywood/movie experience. Otherwise, you will not enjoy the dramatization. I kept thinking about radio dramas and radio shows. That constant reminder made it easier to get wrapped up in an auditory experience where my imagination roamed free.
All the actors in the production were amazing! I especially liked Frodo, played by Ian Holm, and Sam, played by William Nighy. My least favorite actor was Peter Woodthorpe, who played Gollum. The problem wasn't the actor, per say, but the way that Gollum was presented to the listener. The character mumbles a lot, screams, and makes other random noises that make it difficult to determine what is happening in the audio drama. Too much sound can be a detriment, and that was the case with Gollum. We paused the production numerous times to ask each other questions about what was going on with Gollum. These moments happened at important points in the story too, which was unfortunate. For example, at the end of the book, the characters are on Mt. Doom. Gollum's actions during this section was very confusing! Luckily, we knew what was going to happen because of the films. Gollum's actions and speech were equally unclear. In order to understand what Gollum was saying, we had to go back to previous tracks and put the volume up really loud to understand his mumbling.
The sound effects were spectacular! I really felt drawn into the story, as if I was on the journey with Frodo. The music, however, was hit or miss. Most of the songs weren't as good as we had hoped, especially compared to the epic score from Jackson's films. We both agreed that Sam's singing was the best; he also had the best lyrics for his songs. There was one song that was sung by a single young boy that was really moving. The music at the end was decent too. My favorite score was the one they played when introducing and ending each disc, which is probably why they reused it so often.
As I haven't read the original books in a long time, I can't comment on how authentic the dramatization was in comparison nor indicate where the sections were altered and cut. My husband did complain that there wasn't enough narration and that there was too much character dialog. From what I know about radio dramas, this is often the case. The listener wants to hear the voices of the characters rather than being read a story. However, more narration would have made it easier to understand what the characters were doing. Unfortunately, they mainly used the narrative sections as an opportunity to transition segments of the story and to show the progression of time rather than as a tool for telling the story.
The breakdown of the CDs compared to the original books is as follows:
The division was perfect, and our favorite section was the fist book, CDs 1-6. The end felt drawn out, but this is also how I felt when I read the books. So, I wasn't as surprised as my husband.
When it comes down to it, there are a lot of reasons to listen to this audio book. First, from what I have read, it is the best radio drama on Tolkien's infamous trilogy. The drama provides another way to experience the books; this one was produced in 1999. Peter Jackson's first film wouldn't be made until 2001. Second, the actors did a stupendous job! Ian Holm is the star, as he received top billing, but every voice actor provided a new, dynamic element to the dramatization. Third, the music. Even though it's hit or miss, some of the songs were moving (absolutely loved Sam's song about The Shire). Finally, how can you not want another production of Tolkien's trilogy, especially with one as artfully created as this was? The production received numerous awards, such as the Prometheus Hall of Fame Award (2009) and The Big Read, BBC (2003). These awards were not given to a sub-par production!
Even with all this praise, there are still some cons to consider before you listen to the audio dramatization. First, make sure you have high quality CDs! Our low quality discs really soured our listening experience. Plus, it was just plain frustrating having to stop the CDs so often in order to clean them. Second, be forewarned that some of the actors might be difficult to understand. For us, it was Gollum. However, there are other characters that might be difficult to hear or understand with all the dramatic special effects and music. Third, it's not an unabridged version. If you are a stickler for unabridged reading experiences, you will not enjoy this rendition. Lastly, if you are not a fan of Tolkien or fantasy novels, I recommend viewing Jackson's films over listening to this audio book. There are places where the history of Middle Earth will cause the drama to lull. A lot of these moments are not included in Hollywood's rendition.
Overall, I am happy that I took the time to listen to this book, and I would listen to it again if I owned a copy of it. In fact, I wonder how better my experience would be if I had an undamaged set (Perhaps some of the audio sections would be easier to understand too). I would love to own this as part of my literary collection. Unfortunately, I don't think my husband was as thrilled or that he would listen to it again with me. It's definitely not for everyone. ...more
I debated a long time over whether or not The God of Small Things deserved a +4 or a +5 rating. The difference between the two ratings seems rather arbitrary, but it's really not. Giving a read a +5 rating means it was perfectly written, and that it is a must read. Upon many days of reflection, I declare that this novel is in fact perfectly written, and it should be read by all even though it won't be understood by all, which is the unfortunate truth of many classic contemporary world literatures. This happens because many Western readers don't understand other cultures (the strangeness of things written or foreign words). This can cause many readers to feel isolated and disconnected from the narrative. To prevent this from happening, before reading The God of Small Things, one should have some knowledge/understanding of India, the Indian Caste System, and postcolonialism. With a little research and a group discussion with other readers, this book comes alive and leaves you wanting more from Arundhati Roy.
The God of Small Things takes place in 1969 in the state of Kerala, on the southernmost tip of India. This is a turbulent time for India because of Marxist movements that are occurring, which threaten to overturn India's caste system. The workers are rebelling while the authority figures (police officers) continue to condone the status quo to keep certain Indians in their place. According to one news article, in 1968, "160 complaints were filed against the police for activities ranging from murder, torture, and collusion in acts of atrocity, to refusal to file a complaint." Even though "untouchability," as the lowest caste members are described, was officially banned in India in 1950, discrimination continues past that date, as demonstrated by the actions in the novel (which are semi-biographical) and by current events. Another website further elaborates how the caste system is especially present in India's rural areas. The statistics say that there are about 250 million Untouchables and "the United Nations estimates that there are 115 million child laborers and 300 million starving people in India, most of which are Untouchables."
The setting is very important in the novel because it describes and defines these injustices (how the caste system tears people apart, even in one's family) as well as the influences of religion (traditional and Christianity) on the peoples. Without some knowledge of India's history and current affairs, the setting loses much of its significance.
The setting is only one piece to a very complex story and plot. Because of constant shifts in time, it's difficult for the average reader to follow the narrative. The disjointed narrative is important, though, because Roy shows that time and history is not linear. Things that happen in our pasts can launch unforeseen complications in our lives, like throwing a stone in a pond and watching the ripples spread out from the origin point. All of history is connected, and it often repeats itself. Roy shows this and more. She forces the reader to stay alert. This isn't a "beach read novel." This is a piece of literature that asks the reader to step outside her or his comfort zone and take a glimpse into someone else's lives, in this case three main characters:
1. Rahel (girl) and Esthappen Yako (Estha): fraternal ("two-egg") twins
2. Ammu: their mother, born 1942. Married to "Baba" ("father": his real name is never given) and divorced.
There are a slew of other important characters, but delving too deeply into them would spoil the story for any who desire to read this magnificent novel and be surprised. Here is a simple list of other characters without any spoilers compiled by Paul Brians:
***Baby Kochamma (born Navomi Ipe): Rahel and Estha's grandfather's sister--their grand-aunt. "Kochamma" is not a name, but a standard female honorific title.
***Sophie Mol ("Sophie girl"): the twins' cousin, daughter of their Uncle Chacko and Margaret Kochamma. Throughout the novel, "mol" is "girl" and "mon" is "boy."
***Margaret Kochamma: daughter of English parents, former wife of Chacko, then of Joe, mother of Sophie Mol.
***Mammachi (Shoshamma Ipe): blind grandmother of Rahel, Estha, and Sophie Mol, founder of the family pickle factory. "Mammachi" simply means "grandmother."
***Pappachi (Benaan John Ipe): late abusive husband of Mammachi. ("Pappachi: of course means "grandfather.")
***Chacko: son of Mammachi, divorced first husband of Margaret.
***Joe: second husband of Margaret, died 1969.
***Kochu Maria: "Little Maria": the tiny cook of the household.
***Larry McCaslin: Rahel's American husband.
***Velutha Paapen: Paravan untouchable around whom much of the action revolves.
***Vellya Paapen: his father.
The story centers around the twins' lives and their relationships with those around them, mainly their family members and a few of the servants who work for their family. There are a few key events in the twins' childhoods that define who they become as adults, i.e. the visit to the movie theater, Sophie Mol's visit to India, etc. It's important to note that Ammu and her family come from money even though they don't have a lot left. They are high up on the social caste and interact with their Untouchable servants as little as possible.
The plot is really complex with many stories being told simultaneously. The central one, however, is called "The Terror." To disclose what it is would spoil the journey Roy takes her readers on to discover "truths" about family and history. Needless to say, there are choices and decisions in the characters' lives that change who they become.
The character development is intense and complex because of the time-shifts. The story begins twenty-three years after the main events with tons of flashbacks and flashforwards in the rest of the narrative. At the start of the novel, the twins are young, just children. At various points the reader glimpses them as adults, how their lives as children ended abruptly (the loss of innocence). Other family members change over the course of time, many becoming broken shells, ghosts of their former, lively, and carefree selves.
Arundhati Roy's largest triumph with her character development is her ability to enter the mind of children without compromising their innocence or being condescending about childhood in general. She enters into their thinking in a way that few authors have ever been able to. She does not make them sentimental characters, but instead reveals fierce passions and terrors that bring the twins closer together even as it almost destroys them. These fierce passions and terrors live with them as adults. Some might even say their growth and maturity was stunted because of what happened to them as children. You will have to read more and discover the truth in Roy's magnificent language.
Language is both the saving grace and often the most cited failing of this novel. Some describe Roy's writing as "poetry," which is how I view it. Others explain that her story lacked focus or that her writing techniques confused them, particularly some of the Salman Rushdean stylistic tricks such as capitalizing Significant Words and runningtogether other words. If this didn't make the reading a little slower for some, the Malayalam words and phrases she uses would do it for many others, although Roy provides contextual translations for those who are close and critical readers to spot these definitions when they are given. Basically, I can't stress enough how important it is to really READ this novel. Like any good poetry, one needs to take her or his time, process a little bit, and then come back for more. I highly recommend taking notes and even insist on multiple readings to truly understand the complexities of the story and language. This is when reading this book in a class or with other people would be helpful for one's understanding. I also highly recommend perusing the Arundhati Roy: The God of Small Things Study Guide after having read the book (hence the second reading recommendation). It's important to read it afterwards because there are many spoilers revealed in the study guide.
There are a plethora of themes and motifs found in The God of Small Things. They vary from love, madness, hope, infinite joy, family relations, trust, and regret, to name just a few. They might read simply here, but they are complex and intertwine with all the characters from the twins to their Uncle Chacko to their little cousin Sophie Mol. Everyone is affected by the decisions made by a few. The themes should resonate with all readers, even if you have no experience with India's culture. Who hasn't loved so deeply that they would break all the rules? Just think of Romeo and Juliet. Love and tragedy go hand-in-hand when it comes to classic literatures. And it's not just romantic love discussed in The God of Small Things. Even Ammu's children don't feel they deserve to be loved by their mother and families. They are just never good enough...never white enough.
Just like the themes and motifs, there are myriads of literary elements used. This book was discussed in an undergraduate postcolonial literature class taught by Sr. Aaron at Dominican University of California, and for good reason. Arundhati Roy is a literary genius. She uses traditional literary conventions, like metaphors, similes, sycophancy, alliteration, and more to make her writing lyrical and poetic. She also creates her own masterpiece language, inspired by other great authors like Rushdie. I would say only "inspired by" because she creates her own disjointed rhythms, her own language that is described as being "at once classical and unprecedented." Roy's book and writing is truly magical, weaving a story that few will ever forget.
The message and purpose of Roy's story is multi-fold. First, she wanted to tell some of the story of her mother's life, who she dedicated the novel to. Paul Brians describes it as follows:
Mary Roy is the author's mother, who struggled to raise Arundhati on her own while teaching in the rural village of Aymanam (called "Ayemenem" in the novel) in southwestern India, in Kerala State. Arundhati left home at age sixteen to study architecture in Delhi.
Another reason for writing this novel was to give the readers some history about India, specifically Kerala, which is known for its relative freedom for women. Paul Brians warns in his Study Guide that Western readers should not read the female characters as being constrained. Instead, Roy depicts the women as having been hurt by male domination but constantly fighting and struggling against this dominance with a courage and assertiveness that gives hope to those who are oppressed. Although things can't always end happily, the characters keep fighting for what is right and praying that "The God of Small Things" will hear their prayers and change will take root. It only takes one person to make a difference in another's life, good or bad.
The third and final reason for writing this novel was Roy was partly protesting the South Asian prudery which stands in the way of love, one such aspect being the Indian Caste System.
I haven't read a novel as good as this one in a long time. The God of Small Things reminds me of readings from postcolonial classes, such as Heart of Darkness and many of V.S. Naipaul's works. This is a novel that I hope to teach someday, and it puts many other works that focus on a child's perspective to shame, simply inferior writing, such as Jack in Room.
Arundhati Roy is truly an amazing writer and storyteller. She was trained as an architect, yet she left this career to pursue writing, first as a production designer and then a writer of screenplays, two of which were made into films. Then, she wrote this masterpiece. As far as I can tell, this is her only novel, although she is reported to be working on her second. Even though she doesn't have another novel, she continues to write screenplays. Arundhati Roy is a social activist and feminist speaking out for various causes. She cares about the world and its people, especially those in her own country.
Overall, my emotional reaction was tremendous. While reading this novel, I went up and down as if I were riding a roller coaster. When the book ended, I even cried, not from the tragedies that were described but from the passions of the characters and the love-- an all consuming love that is worth any sacrifice. There is a sense of hope that runs deeper than any of the family wounds. I couldn't imagine a reader not feeling something as they progress through this novel, even if it's annoyance that the book is forcing them to think.
As I already stated, I recommend this book to everyone. It's a "must-read." I do recommend that younger readers wait until they are in college before attempting this novel purely because it is a complex piece of literature. Plus, much of the subject matter is rather depressing, and it might be difficult for a younger reader to get through it all.
The God of Small Things is an important novel and everyone should read it because of the messages enclosed in its pages: equality, the affects of religion, and the importance of showing and sharing love with everyone in your life (such as your own family and children). These themes cross boundaries and many of the issues stop becoming just India's problems and reach across oceans as something all peoples can work on despite our differences.
The most important thing I recommend to all those reading this novel is keeping some important resources nearby to help with your understanding. I recommend the following websites:
There are many facts and research information available in this novel, but without a preliminary background and understanding about India and its people, this repertoire of knowledge will be lost on most readers.
Get the most from this novel by putting in a little extra effort and work while reading it....more
I had read this narrative before, at least three different times, but the repeat reading only brings more of the details to the reader's attention. SiI had read this narrative before, at least three different times, but the repeat reading only brings more of the details to the reader's attention. Since the previous readings were so long ago, I didn't remember too many of the details of the narrative. It was like I was reading Jacobs' story for the first time. Harriet Ann Jacobs is very deliberate in her language and the way she acts as supplicator and judge. The complexity of the language is often overshadowed by the "flowery" writing of the time period. Jacobs is a complex individual and narrator who tells the story from the first person perspective of Linda Brent, a fictional pseudonym. Even though I read Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl for a graduate American literature course, I was inspired to write a research paper about Jacobs' story and present it at a literature conference. This narrative enlightens the reader on many levels and offers a critical examination of one of America's darkest periods of history-- African American slavery....more
As most of Nabokov's books are, this one was an exceptional joy to read. Even though the subject matter is deplorable, the writing style, imagery, andAs most of Nabokov's books are, this one was an exceptional joy to read. Even though the subject matter is deplorable, the writing style, imagery, and emotions that comprise this story make it a great piece of literary fiction.
As I read the book, I found myself in another time and place that was described by a detestable pedophile named Humbert Humbert. From the very beginning of the book, it's easy to tell that he is an unreliable and disturbed narrator. His distorted view of life and his "relationship" with Lolita is supposed to make the women and men of the jury pity his pathetic existence. He considers himself an educated individual who was unjustly accused of a crime. Instead, his musings reveal him as an unstable monster; no better than the "brother" he tries to protect Lolita from.
Every person the reader meets is distorted by Humbert's eyes, especially little Dolores Haze. He not only takes her innocence but her very name, which transforms from Dolores to Lo, Lolita, and eventually his nymphet. It is difficult to tell the nature of the characters because Humbert polarizes them: They are either a threat to his way of life or a mere annoyance not worth notice.
There were many questions I asked when reading the book: What is the truth? What is fiction? Is the entire book merely the imagination of a crazed pedophile? Who is Lolita outside of Humbert's prisoner? Often, these questions did not have any answers, but glimpses of solutions kept me feverishly reading, especially as they concerned Lolita. She is the real mystery. Even though the story is about her, the reader never sees anything from her perspective, which leaves us feeling helpless. We are a victim of Humbert's madness as well!
There were numerous slow spots to the story, which detract from the main interactions between Lolita and Humbert. After a short break from the reading, though, I was able to engage myself in the description of scenery during the characters' travels. The places they go to are reflections of their personalities. The beauty of nature starkly contrasts with Humbert, who is an abomination to all that is right and moral in the world.
Thankfully, there are no pornographic scenes in the book. Instead, Nabokov hints at the sexual intrigues that occur with clever word play. Anyone with an imagination and an understanding of the English language will know what is going on in certain scenes. This type of writing reminds me of the older horror films where a lot of the macabre killing happened off-screen.
Overall, I can see why this book has been challenged and censored in many parts of the world. It forces the reader to look into the darkest parts of human nature. What we find there is disheartening; there is no hope for redemption. ...more
Flowers for Algernon is about a mentally challenged 32 year old man named Charlie Gordon and a mouse named Algernon. Charlie is chosen by a team of scFlowers for Algernon is about a mentally challenged 32 year old man named Charlie Gordon and a mouse named Algernon. Charlie is chosen by a team of scientists to undergo an experimental surgery that will boost his intelligence. The book is written in a journal/progress report style told through Charlie's perspective. Because of this style, the story is very one-sided and the action is limited and slow at times. The scientific information in the book is not overwhelming and is suitable for any audience. Some parts are overly dramatic and feel as if it is written for a teen rather than an adult audience. Overall, this book causes the reader to examine all types of people and how they are treated in society. This book was especially moving for me because I have a mentally-challenged brother with Down Syndrome. This book gave me a small glimpse into what his world might look like. I hope Flowers for Algernon inspires people to change the way they treat others. Being different does not mean weird, mean, bad, etc. Differences make humanity beautiful, and more people should embrace them rather than shy away from them....more