I learned a lot about late antiquity and Justinian's reign from this book, but the writing style is distractingly weird! Very incohesive! Way too manyI learned a lot about late antiquity and Justinian's reign from this book, but the writing style is distractingly weird! Very incohesive! Way too many analogies made between things like the Roman Empire and like, outer space? WTF? The audiobook was narrated by a guy with the flattest monotone EVER, which didn't help. And for the love of all things holy, please stop anthropomorphizing/dramatizing/personifying the plague bacillus. So. Insanely. Annoying. It is not a "demon." It is a BACTERIA. I really don't see why this is so hard....more
My brother expressed interest in reading this, which of course inspired me to start rereading it. I was instantly reminded of how dense and difficultMy brother expressed interest in reading this, which of course inspired me to start rereading it. I was instantly reminded of how dense and difficult it can be, but also how worthwhile and amazing. It is not an easy book, by any definition, but it is so rich and rewarding. I mean, it's not just a mystery novel, it's an immersion course in 13th and 14th century history and theology. And it's not just one of the most ambitious historical novels ever written, it's a whodunnit!
Now the question is whether I can stop rereading it and give my brother a chance to take on this rather intimidating tome. I might need to just buy the poor kid his own copy ...
(Goodreads wants to know if this book has a "fast pace" or a "relaxed pace." Too bad there's no checkbox for just "forget about the pace, this book will totally kick your ass.")...more
This is excellent history writing. You barely notice the writing at all - what you do notice, throughout, is the voice of John Adams himself, describiThis is excellent history writing. You barely notice the writing at all - what you do notice, throughout, is the voice of John Adams himself, describing his own life and times. It is absolutely seamless and entrancing.
This was a very long audiobook, but I was genuinely sad to see it end. Highly recommended.
This is a delightful and readable history of domestic life in Victorian England. I especially recommend it to readers of Victorian fiction - thanks toThis is a delightful and readable history of domestic life in Victorian England. I especially recommend it to readers of Victorian fiction - thanks to this book, I'll never read a fictional meal scene, or a sick-room scene, the same way again. Actually, one of the most delightful things about this book is the way the author relies on descriptions in Victorian fiction to help her flesh out this portrait of the Victorian home, which makes this almost as fun to read as the fiction she quotes from.
I also recommend it to people who occupy Victorian homes. I learned so much about the scullery that was once attached to the back of my house!
This picture of middle-class Victorian life is not the least bit nostalgic, which in general, I loved. This is not a book that glorifies "old-time" methods of housecleaning. At all. Oh no. But if anything, I think Ms. Flanders verges on being too critical of women's occupations. For example, she calls Victorian needlework and embroidery "useless" occupations in scathing tones. Well! I happen to enjoy useless occupations, myself! More to the point, I would have loved to see a discussion of the ways that women's decorative works provided an outlet of expression in an otherwise very constrained life.
In the end, it's rare to come across a historical account of private life that qualifies as a "page turner," and this is one. Lots of fun....more
Informative and interesting? Yes, I'll grant you that.
"Reads like a nineteenth century thriller set in South America, filled with high adventure andInformative and interesting? Yes, I'll grant you that.
"Reads like a nineteenth century thriller set in South America, filled with high adventure and botanical wonder, crisscrossing snowcapped mountains and jungle valleys"? Uh, not so much, Los Angeles Times.
I learned a lot from this slow to get going and at times rather dry history of malaria and quinine. And I admit, at times it almost got exciting. Almost. But I can only assume that the LA Times reviewer has never read an actual nineteenth century thriller, because those are quite a bit more interesting. There was certainly a lot of high adventure involved in the quest for the cinchona tree. Sadly, much of it is lost in this rather dry narrative.
Unless you are especially interested in malaria, epidemiology, or Andean history, you can skip this one. (If you are especially interested in any of these things, I actually recommend this book, but don't expect a thriller, per se.)
P.S. Packing every sentence with multiple place names? This may be more precise, but makes a book a bit rough-going. Thanks....more
I am 20 years late to this party: Ulrich got a Pulitzer for this book in 1991.
But it's still a rockin' partyOkay, this is how history should be done!
I am 20 years late to this party: Ulrich got a Pulitzer for this book in 1991.
But it's still a rockin' party!
This is pretty much everything I love, in one really excellent book. To wit: history, feminism, the role of domestic labor, birth, epidemiology, diaries, historical medicine, herbal remedies, science, gardening. I mean, it's like Laurel Thatcher Ulrich sat down and asked, "Exactly what kind of book would please Inder the most?" And came up with this idea. And then did a kick-ass job of following through.
I can see how this might not be everyone's cup of tea (no, I take that back, I can't see that), but I loved every word. I didn't want it to end. I raced through this history of pioneer settler life in the woods of Maine the way other people race through vampire porn or trashy crime fiction. Gah. So. Good. ...more
Definitely my favorite book of the series so far, this book combines meaty character study with brisk action and you can feel the serial aspect of theDefinitely my favorite book of the series so far, this book combines meaty character study with brisk action and you can feel the serial aspect of the Aubrey/Maturin series beginning to gather steam and then, slowly at first, leave the station. (I need a ship of the line metaphor there instead of a railway metaphor!)
Master and Commander, the first novel in the series, is brisk, funny, and wonderful, but very self-contained and the characters are not yet fully developed. Post Captain, the second novel, is frankly a slog at times, as you work your way through many pages of character development and the establishment of long-range plot trajectory. H.M.S. Surprise is the reward the reader richly deserves after making it through Post Captain - a fast paced, witty, fun, dense and emotionally rich book. Really fun. Also, there is a duel! Can't wait for the next in the series! ...more
I read most of this in the middle of the night while taking care of my newborn baby boy, which was a bit ironic (or something). It's an entertaining aI read most of this in the middle of the night while taking care of my newborn baby boy, which was a bit ironic (or something). It's an entertaining and sometimes disturbing tour of vintage 1940s-1970s magazines, advertisements, charm, and home ec books, and the way they educated women in gender roles. While I enjoyed the awesome quotes, I felt that the book was lacking in subtlety - the author simply sees all traditionally women's work as drudgery, and never analyzes this more deeply....more
This is such a wonderful story! I enjoyed every moment. It reads like something your extremely interesting grandmother might have written, and the detThis is such a wonderful story! I enjoyed every moment. It reads like something your extremely interesting grandmother might have written, and the details of East End London life in the 50s are fascinating. However, it needed a better edit! So many typos! And it could have flowed so much better. At times the narrative jumps to an unrelated topic, or strangely colloquial statements are thrust into medical descriptions. It's a shame, because the amazing stories of midwifery in the slums and convent life merit an easy five stars, but the quality of writing deserves closer to three stars (actually, it wouldn't be so bad, if this was a draft rather than the final version - it really just needs a firm edit). Still, highly recommended to anyone interested in the history of midwifery or the East End....more
One of the most interesting things about the book is its unique form: alternating historical and personal essays centering around California and its hOne of the most interesting things about the book is its unique form: alternating historical and personal essays centering around California and its history. I would not call it a "memoir" (though it is often billed as such). If you approach this expecting a cohesive story, you may be disappointed, but as a collection of essays, it is quite wonderful, full of interesting tidbits, literary references, and juicy history. Didion tries to grapple with some of the most basic tensions underlying Californian identity, and the results left me more ambivalent than ever about this crazy state (but no less fond of it). The next time I feel a pang of nostalgia for the "old California" I will surely think of this book, and wonder if the "old California" was really all it was cracked up to be (or whether it was maybe just a figment of my imagination).
I recommend this for anyone identifying as "Californian." I imagine the deeper your roots in this state, the more you will appreciate this book.
(The only reason this does not get five stars from me is a general lack of forward momentum that makes sense when you view this as a collection of stand-alone essays. While this is in every way a worthwhile read, it cannot be classified as a "page turner.")...more
"It was okay" pretty much sums this book up. I learned some things and it was not a total waste of my time. But, it was not well written. Attempts at"It was okay" pretty much sums this book up. I learned some things and it was not a total waste of my time. But, it was not well written. Attempts at poetry came off sounding stupid. I'm sorry, but anthropomorphizing the bubonic plague bacillus? (A) It has been done. (B) It was stupid the first hundred times. Yawn.
Yet, I did learn some things. My goodness, I have never read such brutal and explicit accounts of the anti-Semitic pogroms that occurred during the European plague epidemic. Shit! Totally horrifying. That was definitely glossed over in other accounts I have read, and while it's absolutely awful, I think it is important history that should not be forgotten.
I learned other things as well, about the current debates over whether it was indeed bubonic plague that caused Black Death. But for these morsels of edification, I had to slog through a ton of tripey crap about the various "adventures" of Versinia pestis (but you can call me V. pestis for short, blah blah blah).
In striving for "readability" this book veered into "I think my readers are idiots" territory. Unfortunately, a common problem with layperson's history but still irritating. ...more
I finished the Gospel of Thomas, and I'm generally baffled. Lots of it sounds very familiar, and echoes the canonical gospels. Other sayings are basicI finished the Gospel of Thomas, and I'm generally baffled. Lots of it sounds very familiar, and echoes the canonical gospels. Other sayings are basically nonsense. I'm not a scholar, but I don't think that this adds anything to the canonical gospels.
So I'm putting this back on my to-read list in case I decide to read any of the other non-canonical texts. ...more
It's been a long time since I read a book (fiction or nonfiction) with a beginning this gripping and scary. After this incredibly tense start, the eneIt's been a long time since I read a book (fiction or nonfiction) with a beginning this gripping and scary. After this incredibly tense start, the energy of the book starts to drain once more details of the crime emerge. Nevertheless, this is by far the best-written "True Crime" account I have ever read. I am not a fan of the genre, but In Cold Blood is irresistable....more