This book did not fit ME! My rating is not a judgment of the book; it shows only how I personally reacted to the author’s lines. The majority of the bThis book did not fit ME! My rating is not a judgment of the book; it shows only how I personally reacted to the author’s lines. The majority of the book I did not like, thus I can only give it one star.
I did appreciate the author’s description of places - sites on the fringe of San Francisco and the dessert environs of Death Valley, California. The setting is predominantly Polk Street, San Francisco, at the turn of the 20th century.
Am I glad I read the book? Actually, I would say yes. Why? To have experienced those descriptive lines. To test another author of the naturalist school of writing. One clearly sees similarities with Theodore Dreiser, another author of this school.
Naturalism is a literary movement that emphasizes observation and the scientific method in the fictional portrayal of reality. Novelists writing in the naturalist mode include Émile Zola (its founder), ThomasHardy, Theodore Dreiser, Stephen Crane, and Frank Norris. (Source: Wiki)
So what gave me trouble? The dialogs. While they may accurately depict how people speak to each other, reading such can be extremely tedious and boring. Phrases are repeated over and over again, first as a question, then an answer followed by a person’s confirmation, another’s reconfirmation and then maybe the question gets posed all over again! On and on and on with the exact same words! A lengthy paragraph may be devoted to two people saying goodbye! This may be accurate, but it is pushed too far in the dialogs of this book. Not once and not by just one character, but by all of the characters over and over again. This drove me bonkers. Writing in this manner makes the characters sound stupid, but are all of them stupid?! That is what went through my head. Well, perhaps; the author is clearly critical of how people behave…. which leads to the next problem I had with the book.
The central theme of this novel is avarice, but don’t all of us see avarice with distaste? And don’t we all know this even before picking up the book? Norris’ message is loud and clear. Too loud and too pushed to the extreme. Money is hoarded. Money is gloated over, killed for and what people do to collect it, pile upon pile, is drawn to an extreme. The story loses touch with reality. What the author wants to say with the book becomes a rant, a lesson pounded into our heads. What unrolls is absurd. In reading the book we obligingly let ourselves be bashed over the head with the author’s message concerning the evils of greed. The climax at the end is metaphorically a clash of cymbals.*
The characters did NOT pull me in. They become too absurd to be taken seriously. There is a love affair that sours. The characters are merely the means by which the author delivers his message, his resounding warning against avarice and greed.
There is an anti-Semitic sentiment to be found in the author’s lines.
I downloaded this free of cost at at Librivox. It is accessible here: https://librivox.org/author/842?prima... It is fantastic that the site does exist! I recommend using the Librivox app. Without the app maneuvering within the audiobook becomes difficult.
This Librivox recording is read by Jeff Robinson. The speed varies. The reading is uneven. Parts are fantastic, other portions less so. The end was very well read, but I cannot disregard some of the earlier sections. I disliked the cinematically rendered intonations for the immigrants of Swiss / German origin that speak in this book. These immigrants do have a dialect and they do use incorrect words. I am fine with added dialect touches as long as I can decipher the author’s words. In parts I couldn’t. I will rate the narration with three stars and I will in the future choose other Librivox recordings performed by him. Overall he does a good job.
**************** *So you wonder why I call the ending a clash of cymbals? Here is why, but it is a BIG spoiler: (view spoiler)[ McTeague is out in the Death Valley dessert with the money he has stolen from his wife, after killing her. His arch enemy turns up!The mule is running off with the money on his back! So they must shoot him, but splinter also the water canteen. The mule is the only way the two can get out of the dessert and now they have no water! THEN McTeague fights with his enemy and shoots him, but before he dies the enemy puts handcuffs both on himself and McTeague. They will die together. (hide spoiler)]My God what an ending. See what I mean about a clash of cymbals?...more
This novel, Carson McCullers's second, first came out serialized in Harper's Bazaar in 1940. The following year it was published as a book. She wroteThis novel, Carson McCullers's second, first came out serialized in Harper's Bazaar in 1940. The following year it was published as a book. She wrote it in 1939, originally entitled Army Post. The idea for the book grew from both a visit she had made as an adolescent to Fort Benning in Georgia and then later her husband's mention of a peeking Tom incident at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. I assume you know what a peeping Tom is.
The story is laid up as a mystery. You are told at the beginning that it concerns two officers, two women, a soldier, a Filipino and a horse and that there will be a murder! You cannot help but be curious. The characters are strange and you cannot help but wonder how the elements fit together. There isn't a possibility of guessing what will happen. I was surprised at how the characters and what they did ended up making complete sense. What was strange to me in the beginning made complete sense! What this says to me is that if we don't understand people, it is simply because we lack adequate information. For me this is a mystery because you want to figure out what has happened and why and how the people are as they are.
It is through McCullers talented writing that you become curious. The writing is sensual and tantalizing. It is important to note that McCullers herself was bisexual and here she is writing about homosexuality. She writes well of the pull, the physical attraction between people, and how you might act if how you feel is not acceptable. The writing is not graphic. She was ahead of her time, not that that influences my rating. My rating is purely personal.
The audiobook I listened to is narrated by Christopher Kipiniak. I understood him, but I disliked his dramatization. I do not think his intonations fit the characters speaking. I will give the narration two stars; it is just OK.
I like the book. It kept my attention. Details and lines are thrown in that had me thinking. Why did the author put in that? Why did she express herself in that way? What is she trying to have us think? There is a conversation between two men, discussing whether if you are a square peg should you try to shove yourself into a round hole or should you look for a square hole? The men disagree. This says a lot about the two men....more
Do NOT be as stupid as me. Don’t pick a book by its cover. Particularly when the cover does not accurately portray what the book will give you. I wantDo NOT be as stupid as me. Don’t pick a book by its cover. Particularly when the cover does not accurately portray what the book will give you. I wanted to re-test John Cheever and the cover drew my attention. Big mistake!
The primary focus of this novel is sexuality. The author was bisexual, so I have full understanding that one’s sexual identity was a topic of particular interest to him. Halfway through the book, not yet understanding that ambivalent feelings about one's sexual identity is in fact the book's central focus, I exploded, saying '"For God's sake, doesn't a person instinctively know when sex is good?" I am quite simply the wrong reader for this book. It should be noted, the book looks at men’s rather than women’s bisexuality.
I thought the book was about living near the sea or about appreciation of aquatic surroundings or about a fisherman's life or something to do with the sea! Look at the cover! We are told in the book’s description that this is to be a family chronicle of the Wapshots living in St. Botolphs, a "quintessential Massachusetts fishing village". We are told there will be stories of Captain Leander Wapshot, a venerable sea dog, but this is only where the story begins. The chapters flip between Captain Wapshot's journal entries about his youth (written in staccato, abbreviated, incomplete sentences) and the coming-of-age experiences of his two sons. What is often a central ingredient of coming-of-age stories? Well of course, sex. Here the author’s own bisexual leaning influences the telling. The youngest son, Coverly, is sixteen when the story begins. The older, Moses, is in college. We follow the father and these two sons until they are married and have their own children. There is a question of inheritance. (view spoiler)[Leander’s eccentric aunt Honora has willed her money to Moses and Coverly, but only if they have children. It is she who has the money in the family. (hide spoiler)] The two sons flee the village, one to NYC and the other to San Francisco and then as far afield as islands in the Pacific. So just forget that cover!
A secondary theme is estrangement; you feel this in each character’s loneliness, separateness and inability to relate to others. (Sex is often the Band-Aid stuck on a wound! Or a do-it-all pill to remedy unease.) We readers observe at a distance, just as the novel’s characters seem incapable of reaching out to each other. The result is an overall sadness and despondency.
Finally there is a message that what is important in life are “the ordinary things”. This is delivered by Leander in what he writes to his sons.
There are some beautiful lines. There is ironic, satirical humor. If you pay close attention, you come to realize that the author is in fact quite often joking with us. Well at least, that is my interpretation.
The audiobook I listened to was narrated by Joe Barrett. It is easy to follow, so the narration is good. One hears a melancholy that I think should be there. It expresses an inability to properly communicate.
Maybe this sounds like I liked the book? Well I didn’t. It didn’t give me at all what I was looking for. It was boring to listen to the stupid things the characters did. I simply couldn’t relate. Sex is portrayed in a fashion that put me off. The sex isn’t graphic; it just left me cold. Should sex leave you cold?! Both the cover and the book description led me astray. The central failure of the book is that the author failed to make it possible for me to empathize with the characters' ambivalent feelings. ...more
Another book I would not classify as belonging to the young adult genre. Sure, teenagers can read this but so can adults. Should one classify all bookAnother book I would not classify as belonging to the young adult genre. Sure, teenagers can read this but so can adults. Should one classify all books about young adults as YA books? My answer is no. Furthermore, in this book the focus is not merely on the young ones but the adults too.
Three central components of all novels are: 1. The language, the dialog, the words used. 2. The story told, i.e. the plot. 3. How all the different parts are drawn together, the novel’s construction. In this book it is the language that drew me in most, which made every minute spent reading truly enjoyable. I was either smiling or chuckling or thinking. Just great lines! Then at the end I had my ear strained toward the loudspeaker intensely curious to see if what was happening really could be true! Now it was the plot that drew me. Sitting back, digesting what had happened, I marveled at how the author had forewarned me, but I had not taken note. Why? Because I had been so involved in the telling. I marveled at how perfectly the threads had been pulled together. Fiction of this quality is remarkable.
Great humor. Subtle humor about the pains of growing up, of becoming an adult, of figuring out what kind of life you choose to live. And boys and sex and acceptance of one’s own body. I believe very few adolescents think they live up to even the norm. Total failure is what most feel.
Some really good characters. Personally I loved Paula. I understood Marigold, or let’s just call her Bilgewater as everyone does here. She is seventeen. Her mom died at her birth. Her father is a housemaster at a boys boarding school near Middlesbrough, England. Her father and his cronies will make you smile. Jeez, you have to meet each one. Each one is special and none are flawless.
The audiobook narration was almost perfect. I was about to give it five stars but I felt the ending when everything was happening at a lickety-split I had to backtrack and re-listen several times. I absolutely adored Bentinck’s intonations for the old men, for Paula, for Grace. Wait till you meet Grace! You knew exactly who was speaking without being told. Really, I whole-heartedly emphasize that this is a book to be listened to rather than read, but you must choose the narration by Anna Bentinck! It is truly marvelous.
You know when I immediately choose to add another book by the author to my wish-list that I am impressed. I have to read more by the author soon. The next will be Crusoe's Daughter.
I finished this book wondering if I had understood correctly what the author was trying to say. I have all sorts of ideas, but they don't hold togetheI finished this book wondering if I had understood correctly what the author was trying to say. I have all sorts of ideas, but they don't hold together into one cohesive message. If I don’t understand the book, how can I give it more stars?
The pluses are that the book keeps you thinking, it has sentences that cleverly hint at philosophical messages and lots of amusing lines. The humor is satirical irony.
The sentence in the GR book review stating that this novel is, “an ironic story epic that humorously tenderly erodes sacrosanct values: childhood, motherhood, revolution, and even poetry” is an almost perfect description of this book! I have replaced the word “epic” with “story” and “tenderly” with “humorously”. Little is sacrosanct in this book. Not politics. Certainly not sex. Kundera’s books always contain a heavy dose of eroticism.
So how does the story unroll and what does the book deal with? First and foremost, the relationship between an adolescent son and his doting mother. He is tied to his mother's very short apron strings. I cannot imagine any reader liking any of the characters. The plot jumps around; it is meant to confound; it is meant to be confusing. It is meant to keep you thinking. It is not the steps of the story we are to follow but rather the underlying philosophical messages we are meant to think about. The author himself interrupts the events and speaks directly to the readers explaining why he has chosen to flip to another episode. The setting is Prague at the end of the forties and early fifties.
Maybe we are not supposed to draw any deep conclusion. Maybe we are simply to laugh. Laugh at society? Laugh at ourselves? What I kept thinking about was how the son never said anything original; he spoke only clever lines that someone else had said or expressed views that one should say. When what one should say changed, what he said changed too.
The book was written by the author in 1969 in Czech. Then it was translated into French. In 1985 the French translation was revised by the author in an attempt to better correspond to the original. An English translation from the revised French translation was done by Aaron Asher. This was done in close cooperation with the author to insure that no new distortion should occur.
I enjoyed the audiobook narration by Richmond Roxie.
Three stars does mean I liked this book, please don't forget that.
I found the first half of the book better than the last half. In the beginning I feThree stars does mean I liked this book, please don't forget that.
I found the first half of the book better than the last half. In the beginning I felt it was atmospheric and well depicted the complicated relationship in the South between black servants and their white employers. Feelings of love and deep family relationship coexist with white supremacy and power. Feelings of love do easily grow, but it is clear who decides. Never was there real equality in the relationships between black servants and their white masters. It is interesting to note the story unfolds in 1976. For me this doesn’t seem all that long ago. Something happens then and we watch the decisions made and the consequences that follow. I like considering what I might do in a given situation. I enjoy a moral dilemma where it feels impossible to decide what would be the right thing to do. I like it when opposing choices can be argued for. This is what the first half of the book has in spades.
The story is told by Ora Lee Beckworth twenty-five years after the event spoken of. That is the first problem. We are being told what happened. She has decided to write down what occurred. She doesn't want to go to her grave with the secrets she has kept hidden for these twenty-five years. In the beginning we are drawn into the dilemma and we are torn. In the latter part of the book a long time period is covered quickly. We are told what occurs, but we don't get inside Ora’s head or feel her emotions. We understand with our intellect but don’t feel with our heart. The character portrayals become dead.
If you are a realist as I am, there are at least two aspects of the story that are not believable. Please, do NOT read this spoiler if you intend on reading the book. It is very explicit. (view spoiler)[That Marcus was using Ora's car in the accident when he was killed would have to lead to further legal investigation. The story doesn't deal with this properly. Secondly, Eddie, who is charged for the death of Ralph's son, Skipper, decides to plead guilty because he fears he has not the will-power to stop drinking. He reasons it is better to be in a prison with food and a roof over his head than to die as he envisions alone out in the woods. I do not believe such an unstable person would not waver and change his mind. I don’t find his decision plausible in the long run. (hide spoiler)]
The audiobook narration is totally marvelous. Suzanne Toren is one of the best narrators I know of. Her intonations for the different characters are marvelous and totally believable. You feel you are watching rather than listening.
I can recommend this book even if it isn’t perfect. ...more
I bought this book because I was intrigued by its first line: "The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.” It certainly is an inI bought this book because I was intrigued by its first line: "The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.” It certainly is an intriguing line, but so much more could have been done with the message than is done here.
The story is told by a sixty-two year old man, Leo Colston. He writes of his experiences in the summer of 1900 when he was almost thirteen. That summer he was invited to stay with his upper-class friend Marcus Maudsley in their Norfolk estate, Brandham Hall, in England. The story revolves around what happened in those few weeks and how what happened changed Colston's life forever. The story does not feel told, but vividly experienced as the elderly man relives the events of that summer. You never forget that it is the elderly English man speaking. You hear this in his manner of speaking.
The themes are interesting: a child's incomprehension of adult behavior and ambiguous speech, love, death and deception. It is about the simultaneous process of losing the naivety of a child and the abrupt awakening to the deceptions of adulthood. It draws a rather negative view of British upper crust values and mode of life. I find the consequences of the events as they are drawn in the story to be exaggerated.
I felt nothing for any of the characters. The events left me totally unmoved. There is a coldness, a steeliness in the manner in which the story is related. This coldness reflects who Leo Colston came to be, but I find it questionable that such a man would have any interest in telling us his story!
The audiobook narration by Sean Barrett is easy to follow and properly displayed the cold manner of the central protagonist. ...more
I am dumping this after having listened to one fourth of the audiobook. I thought I would avoid the author's annoying propensity of never using commasI am dumping this after having listened to one fourth of the audiobook. I thought I would avoid the author's annoying propensity of never using commas by listening to the audiobook. My mistake!
This isn't worth my time. The language is filthy. The book is boring, and it goes forward at the pace of a snail. I don't have trouble reading about the "down and out" if handled with finesse. Songdogs by the talented author Colum McCann is just one example. Cormac McCarthy seems to believe that I will be impressed with fancy words. Wrong again. I am not.
The audiobook narration by Richard Poe is superb. However it is impossible to turn a bad book into a good one through excellent narration.
It is wonderful that one may return audiobboks which one dislikes to Audible. ...more