This book is based on the author's paternal grandfather. The following is to be found on the author's web site:
The Book of Harlan was inspired by theThis book is based on the author's paternal grandfather. The following is to be found on the author's web site:
The Book of Harlan was inspired by the life of my paternal grandfather; Harold Isaac McFadden (pictured on the cover).
I never personally knew the man and neither did my father. All I had to recreate his life were a birth certificate, census schedules, a few newspaper articles and my imagination.
In many ways, this book is the culmination of twenty years of family history research.
From this information I cannot determine which of the events in the story are fictional and which are factual. There is no author's note at the end of the audiobook offering further clarification.
The end of the book takes an unexpected turn, which of course can be captivating in a book of fiction. Yet this book is supposed to be based on the author’s grandfather, making it important to differentiate fact from fiction. For me too many events were improbable, too coincidental! In the book Harlan is sent to Buchenwald and there he comes in contact with Ilse Koch, the wife of Karl-Otto Koch, the first commandant of Buchenwald. Both husband and wife were convicted Nazi war criminals and their fate is to be found in history books. In this book the author fabricates history when Ilse is said (view spoiler)[to be living in New York, disguised as a man and killed by Harlan (hide spoiler)]! Playing with historical events in this manner is unacceptable to me.
Even before the dramatic ending, I struggled. I wasn’t convinced the story could be true. My only explanation was then that fact can be more surprising than fiction, but now having completed the book and having seen how the author altered historical events I believe nothing! I am only left with questions.
The audiobook narration by Robin Miles was very good. Her narrations are always exemplary. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
ETA: it takes a while to get into this book. Don't judge it too quickly. The longer interviews are more interesting and it takes a while until you getETA: it takes a while to get into this book. Don't judge it too quickly. The longer interviews are more interesting and it takes a while until you get to them.
I definitely recommend reading this book. I think it has a few shortcomings but it is still well worth your time. It is an important book; it captures Russian history through the voices of the people who lived through Stalin’s terror, the disintegration of the U.S.S.R. and the first decade and a half of the 21st Century. It captures what is the Russian character remarkably well.
The words in the book are not the author’s, but it is she that has spoken with the many Russians interviewed. It is she that has transcribed what they said. It is she that has decided how to organize the information, what to include and what to exclude. It is she that has posed questions and gotten the people to talk. That is an art in in itself. She realized the value of recording these Russians' experiences.
The book is based on interviews from 1991- 2012. The printed book has also an appendix covering the years 2013-2014, thus the Crimean invasion of 2014. This is not included in the audiobook version; I was annoyed by this.
Subjects covered? Life during the Stalin years, the Great Patriotic War, camp prisoners as well as Siberian exiles, the Chechen Wars, terrorism, the disintegration of the 90s with corruption and gangsters, unemployment, all that could now be bought but no money to spend, the discrimination and hatred that arose between different cultural groups (Armenians, Chechens, Tajiks, Uzbekistani) as the U.S.S.R fell apart. Always from the perspective of the ordinary person. How did these events impact on the people personally? That is what is shown here.
The book has both longer interviews and short bits of conversations. I preferred the longer interviews, but at the same time the shorter snippets give the reader a general feel for the sentiment of the masses, of the Russian people as a whole.
It is ordinary people that are talking. Some of these people have riveting stories to tell, others were of less interest to me. Some spoke eloquently and clearly, others were confusing. Some used colloquial terms and referred to officials few Westerners will have heard of. Explanatory notes from the author would have helped.
There is scarcely any order to the interviews.
While this book is predominantly about suffering, there are moments of love and happiness too. There is a crazy tale about a married woman with three kids who divorces her husband to marry a murderer in prison! I just could not relate to this! There is appreciation of nature - lilacs and wheat bending in the wind, almond trees in bloom and sun-warmed pavement. Some people, when they have absolutely nothing, do find beauty. Some speakers are superbly eloquent in the simplicity of their words.
The audiobook has a full cast narration - eleven different narrators, both men and women. It was clear, easy to follow and had a good speed. Some narrations were stunning, others less so. One of the narrators was exceptional; always she captured the personality of the person speaking to a tee. A reason why the audiobook should not be chosen is that the appendix is not read.
The book is translated by Bela Shavevitch. While I cannot compare the English to the original Russian I was impressed by the flow of the lines. The words felt alternately horrifying, heartfelt and gripping. Always genuine. This is how people talk.
What do I do? I am worrying about my rating of A Death in the Family. I was uncomfortable with all the stuff about religion in the book. This and theWhat do I do? I am worrying about my rating of A Death in the Family. I was uncomfortable with all the stuff about religion in the book. This and the funeral at the end were difficult for me to bear. I am altering the rating to four. The rating reflects my personal preferences.
I have chosen to give this book five stars because it so very accurately portrays death in a Southern family. It has in-depth character portrayals and excellent writing. I didn't enjoy reading the book. I was glad when it was over, but the reality it depicts is so pitch-perfect that I was utterly amazed. It is for this reason the book is amazing. This is why I am giving it five stars.
The book is autobiographical. Rufus, a young boy that loses his father to death in a car accident, is one of the central protagonists of the novel. It is a rewriting of the author’s own experience. In fact the author’s middle name is Rufus! It is set in the South, Knoxville, Tennessee. Discrimination of the colored and the poor play in. The importance of religious faith too. The book is about a father's death and how this impacts on the lives of his children, his wife and every single member of the family. The children's relationships to each other and to their classmates are superbly depicted - through dialog and behavior. The widow is a devote Catholic. Her father is not. We watch a skeptic and a faithful interact. Others waiver in their religious beliefs. We observe how each behaves and what they say. There are kind figures and there are cruel figures. The brother of the man who dies is a drunk. We watch how he behaves too. His words are perfect even if they make you cringe. Every single one of this diverse group of individuals, young and old, those with and those without faith, those who are good-for-nothings and those who are moral and upright and strong are convincingly and accurately drawn. Tremendous lines. Humor and grief. Accurate, accurate, accurate - that is the defining adjective to describe the book. Even that the book drags a bit in the middle makes sense; we are viewing how the children perceive what is happening in the confusing world around them. To draw a star off for this is just wrong.
The audiobook narration was tremendous. Young and old, jokes and sobbing, women and men, Blacks and Whites, sober and tipsy - all are perfectly intoned. The speed is perfect.
I close this book with admiration for the accuracy with which the death in an ordinary Southern family is drawn. We watch through the eyes of the children as well as the adults. My discomfort while reading this book is appropriate. It is how I should feel. It is a direct result of its accuracy and its potency.
There are two versions of this book. I have read the McDowell version. The book was first published in 1957 after the author’s death. It is this version that won the Pulitzer in 1958. In this original version the editor David McDowell both rearranged and deleted sections of the original manuscript. The beginning of the novel, as it was first published by McDowell, was not originally part of the manuscript. It was another short piece of the author’s writing. You know you have the McDowell version if the story begins with the heading “Knoxville: Summer of 1915”. The McDowell edition has flashbacks. They do not exist in the version compiled from the original manuscript by Michael Lofaro in 2007. There are 20 chapters in the McDowell version and 44 short chapters in the Lofaro version. The flashbacks are in italics in the printed McDowell version. As an audiobook these sections are quickly perceived as flashbacks from their content. ...more
Interesting and well written. Filled with pertinent information, yet a bit long-winded at times.
The book is not merely a biography covering the lifeInteresting and well written. Filled with pertinent information, yet a bit long-winded at times.
The book is not merely a biography covering the life of one man, Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859). It starts with a description of the world he was born into - Prussia, Pre-Romanticism and the eminent philosophers, poets and writers of the time, i.e. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Immanuel Kant and Friedrich von Schiller, to name but a few. Humboldt came to spend long hours with Goethe. These prominent thinkers influenced who he was to become. Their lives and the lives of others Humboldt associated with are discussed. Another two such men are Simón Bolívar and Thomas Jefferson. Humboldt’s theories, experiments, books, travels and companions are covered. The book does not conclude with his death. It continues, showing how he directly influenced others, in particular Charles Darwin, George Perkins Marsh, Ernst Haeckel and John Muir. It is through these men that ecology, conservation and preservation has become what it is today. Others are mentioned too. The book ends with the hope that we reclaim Humboldt as our hero or at least re-acknowledge the importance he has played in how we view nature. Humboldt's thoughts and writings lie at the beginning of a chain of men who have brought us to where we are today in the field of environmentalism.
How much do we learn about Humboldt’s personality? Well he never kept his mouth shut, and he was indefatigable. In a conversation you couldn't get a word in edgewise. Being with him must have been quite a strain. Whether he was homosexual or not is unclear. How he could have possibly had time for anything other than his artistic, philosophical and scientific pursuits is the prime question. He seems to have had neither the time nor the interest for a lover. He was a fervent abolitionist.
The audiobook narration is by David Drummond. I found it too fast, particularly in the beginning. There is just too much information to absorb. Later it gets easier. Some words are unclear. Narration does not influence my rating.
Rivers, minerals, lakes, parks and many, many places are named after this Prussian. I didn't even know who he was! It is stated that more places have been named after this man than anyone else. His views have shaped our very concept of how we see nature. He realized back in 1800 the interrelationship between all aspects of nature. He understood that nature is one unified whole, and that an interdisciplinary approach is essential to solving problems, one such being climate control. ...more