I will tell you why I had trouble with this book.The primary reason is that the author flips back and forth between two different time threads. One thI will tell you why I had trouble with this book.The primary reason is that the author flips back and forth between two different time threads. One thread begins immediately after WW1 and the other during the 1940s. After each chapter you flip to the other thread. Each thread progresses forward in time. And there was nothing achieved by this - except confusion! People die and then there they are again!
Secondly, I disliked the way it was written. It is written with "show talk". OK, Vaudeville and what then became the burlesque scene and strip tease IS a world of glamor and excitement and lurid language. I, personally, did not like it. And all the dropping of names irritated me. He was there and she was there, but nothing of importance is said about the presence of these stars and famous people.
I wanted to understand Gypsy Rose Lee's life. This is a biography. She and her mother reinvented facts over and over again, so I wanted the author to explain in a clear fashion this very messy life filled with lies and inventions. The jumping between different times and numerous versions certainly didn't lend itself to clarity. Some of the sentences were unclear - so what is the author saying with that?! Also, everybody is switching names!
When you read a biography you cannot always like the person. The author must present the facts and the person as he/she really was. You can read a book about an important, but disgusting person and still like the book because the author made that person's personality and life clear. Yet here I did not find the way the story was written to be clear, and Gypsy Rose Lee is really just not someone all that important. Investing a lot of time in understanding her feels wasted, even if she was one of the most famous American striptease artists. Why do I dislike her AND her mother? Her mother in fact was even worse than Gypsy Rose Lee. Their sole aim in life was the search for money and fame, and they used people. They treated people as objects, as a means to attain their own goals. Mothers that push their own children toward glory and fame in the performing arts, when this is to the child's detriment, portray despicable behavior. Very hard to stomach. Being in their company was intensely disagreeable. Sick people. The author could have explained why they were who they were so that I could feel sorry for them, but that never happened, even if I can understand that having such a mother could destroy an individual. Having a bad mother is still no excuse for an adult's own misconduct. Please let me state clearly that their sexual conduct has nothing whatsoever to do with what I am criticizing both mother and daughter for!
Bernadette Dunne did an excellent narration. I loved the tone she used for Gypsy Rose Lee. Through her tone you heard the magnetism and the attraction this woman drew as a stripteaser.
I am glad that is over, now I can move on to something more worth spending my time on. I gave it two stars, rather than one, because I did learn about the Roaring Twenties and Vaudeville, and I do understand that perhaps due to the Depression people needed an escape valve.. The era is well depicted. The book continues to her death in 1970. Except of course at the very end it has to flip back again to the 1940s!
Enjoyable and informative, definitely worth reading if you are curious to know more about the Mau Mau Rebellion 1952-1960 which lead to Kenyan IndepenEnjoyable and informative, definitely worth reading if you are curious to know more about the Mau Mau Rebellion 1952-1960 which lead to Kenyan Independence from Britain in 1963. Laid before you are the author's childhood memories up to his acceptance and arrival at high school. He is today a famed, contemporary African writer. This book focuses upon his quest for education, something all too many of us take for granted. It is about native Kenyan life. He was born in 1938, the fifth child of his father's third wife. Twenty-four siblings, four mothers, what is it like to be one in a polygamous family? You learn about life as one of the Kikuyu ethnic group in colonial Africa. Their land was taken from them, not once, but four times. Their culture was denied. There is a lot of history here, and it is not always told linearly. Furthermore the names are difficult, more so if you are listening to it as an audiobook. The narration by Hakeem Kai-Kazim is at times difficult to follow, particularly when the trial of Jomo Kenyatta is related with an angry tone, in an effort to emphasize the injustice of the events. I had to look on Wiki (Mau Mau Upprising and Jomo Kenyatta) to fully understand the scattered events splayed before me. It helped to see the names, to tie up the different threads. The book gives more depth than just reading at Wiki. What was his life like? How was it to have one brother as a Mau Mau rebel and another supporting the colonials? And what is it like to fight for the right to an education, to achieve that when you have no food, no shoes, no books and sometimes no light at all to work by. He succeeded. He didn't just succeed, he succeeded magnificently. His mother always asked him, "Is that your best?"
The prime message of this book is clear. Look at the title. In times of "war", we must have dreams to survive. ...more
Theodore Roosevelt was the 26th US president. There are several charts ranking the US presidents and in all that I have seen he places fourth or fifthTheodore Roosevelt was the 26th US president. There are several charts ranking the US presidents and in all that I have seen he places fourth or fifth from the top. Lincoln, Washington and FDR, they are the ones that sit at the top. Jefferson and Theodore vie for the fourth position depending on which chart you look at. Maybe for this reason I can convince you to read this trilogy, written by Edmund Morris. This book is the last of the trilogy. In my view they must all be read together. The trilogy reads like one book. Although the last does cover previous incidents in his life, it does this summarily with the assumption that you have read the previous books. To understand the true marvel of the man you must read all three books, which are in chronological order. It is in the details that you learn of his character. For me it is his character, not only his deeds as President, which makes him such a remarkable person. This is the second, and I believe the strongest reason, to read these books, ie to meet the man. At the end, when I knew he would die soon, I was in tears. Well, my eyes were damp, but I do not cry when I read sad books. What a man! A vituperative bully and a pain in the butt, but moral and hardworking and a cyclone of energy, and he always tried to do the right thing….. even if it wasn’t to his own advantage.
The first two books had little about his relationship with those in his family. That you find in this book, in good measure! His charting of the Amazon is found in this book too. In addition, you are given fascinating details concerning WW1. I believe that had he been president, rather than Woodrow Wilson, he may have been able to change the course of history. Just maybe. He was a tremendous negotiator, having received the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in ending the Russo-Japanese War. He knew on a personal level almost all of the leaders.
There are paragraphs where I don’t understand the reasoning behind or the import of the lines or the conclusions drawn. Some words used are not the most typical, plenipotentiary rather than ambassador, is one example that threw me at first. Particularly if you are listening, there are parts where you must pay close attention and sometimes rewind. There are names and ideas quickly thrown at you, and the narrator who is excellent (Mark Deakins), speaks rather quickly. As I pointed out in my review of the first book of the trilogy, the voice he uses for Theodore is absolutely perfect! You can hear this for yourself by listening to the real Theodore on You-Tube. Deakins’ French isn’t perfect, but understandable. You hear that he is an American speaking French, and he does pronounce some of the French cities wrong.
I really did love learning about Teddy. You are making a huge mistake if you think this book is just too long and not worth your time. It is a delightful read, filled with humor and sadness…… and lots of interesting facts!
Thoughts while reading:
Read carefully the GR book description. Look what I have ahead of me. Marvelous! AND, yes, a bad narrator can perhaps wreck a good book. The narrator of the second book, Jonathan Marosz, really was terrible. The minute I start listening to this, the third volume narrated by Mark Deakins, I began laughing again. YAY for Mark Deakins! I enjoy good non-fiction books that make you laugh, that teach you and are so very interesting.
I just wonder, if Theodore had been re-elected into presidency in 1913, would he / could he have averted WW1? He was perhaps the only one capable of doing this. It is utterly fascinating to watch the lead up to the war. Colonel Roosevelt, as he was called after his presidency, was present at King Edward VII's funeral. Everybody was there. Fascinating. And damn I was laughing at what he says to the kings, leaders, dignitaries and even the Pope while in Europe in 1910.
This was an absolutely excellent book. It gave me everything I want from a biography. It chronologically relates all aspects of TheodorOn completion:
This was an absolutely excellent book. It gave me everything I want from a biography. It chronologically relates all aspects of Theodore Roosevelt's life up to his presidency, after President McKinley's assassination in 1901. The next in the trilogy covers his years in the Presidency: Theodore Rex. I will very soon continue with that! I was worried that it might be repetitive, having years ago read (and loved)David McCullough's Mornings on Horseback. Such a worry was unnecessary. Edmund Morris' book went much further in depth. I completely know now Theodore's personality. I know what he would do and what he would most probably say in a given situation. This author had me laughing at some of the things Theodore had the nerve to say and do! His ego was rather inflated, to say the least, but that doesn't mean I didn't also find him highly worthy of admiration.
Gosh, I have never run into someone with so much energy. Absolutely never. Please read the comments left below this review if you want more details of some of the events in this book. I should say that not a word have I mentioned about Theodore's "Rough Riders" of 1898 and his role in the Spanish-American War. You simply must read the book to find out about that! It is engaging and amazing and funny! This author made some of the events of that war hilariously amusing! Is that possible? Yes!
I honestly cannot think of anything to complain about in relation to this book OR its narration by Mark Deakins. OK, only one thing, and it is so very minor that it is pitiful. The narrator would read the date July 1, 1900, as "July one 1900" rather than "July first 1900". THAT is the only puny complaint I can think of. I compared Deakins narration to the Theodore's own speeches found on Utube. Deakins perfectly bit off and spit out his words, as Theodore learned to do in his fight against asthma.
If you are in the least interested in Theodore Roosevelt, then read this book.....even if it is very long! I will soon be reviewing the next in the trilogy to see if it too is as amusing and interesting and engaging as this one as proved to be! In fact you do not even have to be interested in reading about presidents to choose this book. He is an amazing person. I have never run across someone like this.
I have listened to about 3/4 of the book. I am thoroughly enjoying it. By that I mean sometimes I feel like clobbering Theodore and then later I want to hug him. He has qualities that are m-a-g-n-i-f-i-c-e-n-t. I like that this author has shown me both sides to such a degree that I hate him and love him. In the comments below this review I have gone into details. If you are looking for more details, please check them out there. Really good book and really good narration by Mark Deakins. Yes, this is long, over 26 hours and only the first of a trilogy, but well worth every minute.
My first impressions: Once you get beyond the prologue, this book grabs your attention. I do understand that the purpose of the prologue is to show the outstanding characteristics of the man, but it throws in names and details that have no depth. That is impossible in a prologue; that is why you are reading the book, and this is the first of a trilogy on Theodore Roosevelt. The next, Theodore Rex, covers his two terms as president. Colonel Roosevelt concludes his life story.
What you immediately draw from the prologue is the energy of the man. In 1907 in the White House he shook hands with all those invited to say: “Happy New Year!” Quickly, at the speed of 50 per minute. (Skeptical me….is that possible?) He set a record with this, no one else for a century shook hands so quickly and with so many. But what does this says about him? Think about it. What we immediately grasp from the prologue and then the following chapters on his youth is how the hyperactive youth develops into a man of strength and vitality. From a very young age he has serious bouts of asthma. His father takes him aside and discusses his physical disability. Theodore declares that he will conquer his body! “He will make his body.” His fight for survival shaped him and it strengthened him; it made him a fighter.
From the very first chapters we see the man who came to be a conservationist. He started his “Roosevelt Museum of Natural History”, to the disgust of family and servants. Smelly! He learned taxidermy. He had is head in a book, often standing on one leg that gave him the pose of a flamingo. He scientifically observes the world around him, and what delight he discovers when he finds that with glasses he can actually see the world around him. He had no idea the world could be so sharp. He wrote in a diary. He wrote letters. Many, many remain and they reveal his personality, his inborn humor. In a letter to an Aunt when he is on tour in Egypt he remarks, “I may as well mention that the dress of the inhabitants up to ten years of age is nothing! After that they put on a shirt descended from some remote ancestor and never take it off until their death.” He did like Egypt. He now had glasses and he scientifically observes and records all that he sees of the fauna. The birds, so many birds! But he is still an ordinary boy. He learns to box, to defend himself vis-à-vis peers. He groans over his father dragging them all off for a year in Europe.
How Theodore views his own illness is reflected in this quote from a letter sent to his father when he was a young teenager, alone with two siblings in Dresden. (His father thought it important to encourage his children’s independence.) Here are the lines:
I am at present suffering from a very slight attack of asthma. However, it is but a small attack, and except for the fact that I cannot speak without blowing up like an abridged edition of a hippopotamus, it does not inconvenience me much. We are now studying hard. Excuse my writing; my asthma has made my hand tremble awfully. (chapter 2)
He views even himself with humor. The importance of books, his interest in fauna, his asthma and his staunch character are all evident in these lines.
The prologue was too stuffed, although I do understand its purpose, but then the book takes off with delightful details of Theodore’s youth, the characteristics he was born with and the events that shaped him. This book starts well. I hope it continues so. I just had to tell someone.
Haven't you seen CNN reportage documentaries starring Christiane Amampour? Well then you have an idea of the feel of this book. It is thorough, filledHaven't you seen CNN reportage documentaries starring Christiane Amampour? Well then you have an idea of the feel of this book. It is thorough, filled with history and geography and it focuses on political issues. The focus is much more political than cultural. How can you expect otherwise when dealing with an ethnic group that has over the centuries been decimated, split and torn by inner and outer violence. If you ask someone to tell of their life, you will soon be hearing about the violence they have survived. One hardly can concentrate on marital ceremonies, poetry and myths and food traditions when there are more vital things to mention. This book offers both, but much more time is spent on the politics, because for these people politics is a matter of survival.
The author during 2002, before the Iraq war of 2003, traveled through the four countries of Greater Kurdistan, Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria to talk with the Kurds. She talks to the people and tells you their stories. She fills in with history and information about the geographic sites she visited. You are told what the people wear, what cars they drove and what they ate and drank. (It feels like a TV reportage!) You get the dates and measurements. How many square meters is Lake Van? You will be told. OK, what I am saying is that sometimes the details get a bit excessive. You meet many people, all the ones she has talked with and interviewed, but perhaps a little more depth with a fewer number of individuals might have given more. All these people, for me they turned in to a bit of blur. Still, I learned a lot and it was a very informative book! Please note that the book was published in 2004, so much has happened since then. I still feel to understand the present you need the history of the past first.
Suzanne Toren reads the audiobook, and as usual does a magnificent job. She speaks clearly and slowly so you have time to absorb the facts....more
ETA: I adored this book when I read it, but now my perspectives are a bit changed....... I am currently reading American Prometheus by Kai Bird. It isETA: I adored this book when I read it, but now my perspectives are a bit changed....... I am currently reading American Prometheus by Kai Bird. It is essential to get another view on Truman's actions and choices concerning atomic weapons, the arms race and the Cold War. To get a fuller understanding of the time and era I strongly recommend reading American Prometheus too!
I listened to the audiobook format of this book, that means more than 54 hours, and I enjoyed every minute of it. Little content could have been removed. The narration by Nelson Runger was wonderful. I have complained about his slurping before, but the producers have removed the slurps. His steady clear pace perfectly matches the informative text. His intonation for Truman, was perfect, both the strength of his speeches in the presidency and his reflections, to-the-point remarks and sarcastic jokes of the elderly man. Our voice does change with age, and Runger has mastered this. (Some voices were, however, in my opinion, too low and ponderous.) At the end, and this is a book that covers all aspects of Truman’s life, from birth to death, i.e. 1884-1972, there were tears in my eyes. This is a book about a man dedicated to fighting for his beliefs, but he was a politician at heart. Keep in mind that I tend to instinctively distrust politicians. It is rather remarkable that Iso loved this book. I will try to never again shy away from a book about politicians……well, at least such books written by John McCullough.
Why did I love this book? You learn about American life and values as they were when America was still a land of pioneers to what it had become by the middle of the 20th Century. What the political parties stood for has changed dramatically with time. On completion of this book you have a thorough understanding of the American party system. You travel from an agrarian Midwest value mindset through WW1, the Depression, the New Deal, WW2, the emergence of atomic weapons, the birth of the UN and NATO, the Berlin blockade and successful airlift, the Cold War and McCarthyism, the focus on civil rights, the Korean War all the way up to Kennedy’s presidency. You follow this time-period through the life of a man living through its events, and a man who as president shaped many of these events. McCullough gives you a thorough understanding of all these events and a thorough understanding of the man Truman.
It is an honest book that never shies away from the mistakes made. I wasn’t thrilled with Truman’s friendship and dependence upon Pendergast. I felt that Truman’s relationship with his wife was at first not adequately clarified. By the end I understood Truman, all of him. I believe I comprehend both his familial relationships and the value he put on friendships, which explain his relationship with Pendergast . You see both the good and the bad. I very much admire the strength and forthrightness of Truman who was at heart a marvelous politician. Yes, definitely a politician who fought for his party and made mistakes, but dam he tried his best. Always. He never shirked his responsibilities. He never ran away from a problem, but faced them head on. He was not infallible. I still don’t understand why they never had more children……
I was born in 1951. I understand now what my parents lived through and why they were who they were. I understand now what lead up to the world I was born into. I totally loved this book. ...more
I am in fact amazed to what extent I enjoyed this book. How many times have I said I don't like books that focus on military strategies? This book doeI am in fact amazed to what extent I enjoyed this book. How many times have I said I don't like books that focus on military strategies? This book does focus on war strategies, but I was never bored. Hopkins and Roosevelt together planned how to best win the war. Roosevelt relied on Hopkins more than any other individual. They discussed every step. Hopkins resided in the White House for more than three years; he was at Roosevelt's beck and call 24 hours of the day from 1940-1945, unless he was in the hospital. He attended almost all the important conferences except for Potsdam; Roosevelt was dead and Hopkins had resigned at that point. The discussion of when the channel crossing should be set was fascinating, along with the decision to invade Northern Africa. Hopkins was the glue that kept the Anglo-American and Soviet tripartite coalition together. How did he do this? He could read people. He was an expert negotiator.
This could all be very boring, couldn't it? All I can say is that it wasn't. It was in fact fascinating, probably because you come to recognize the idiosyncrasies of Stalin, Churchill, FDR and Hopkins too. Small amusing details are thrown in: Churchill in his dressing gown. Did I hear correctly that it was pink?! The guy was always drinking and then there was the funny moment at the a conference in Quebec when Churchill remarks to Hopkins that the water tasted funny. Hopkins replied that was simply because it lacked any trace of whiskey. Parts are exciting - when the Iowa battleship was torpedoed by friendly fire! The entire American delegation was on that boat. The book is interesting, clear, amusing and well worth your time!
It is remarkable what these two men, Hopkins and Roosevelt, achieved. Two men who were seriously ill. Roosevelt died in April 1945 and Hopkins February 1946. This is something to consider - how hard these two pushed themselves! Hopkins’ digestive system seriously malfunctioned.
So what could have been improved? What is lacking? There is only to a lesser extent information about the youth of either man. The book is instead about the war and what jobs Hopkins held before the war, thus giving him the training necessary for the job, but do you learn to read people? Isn't that an ability that you are born with? Neither is the focus on the respective men's illnesses; their medical illnesses are stated; how they conquered/ignored their disabilities is instead the main issue. Other family members are discussed, but not in depth, just enough to make the reader feel acquainted with them or to make you laugh about particular habits! Maybe I would have liked to know more of Hopkins personal reflections…..but perhaps this is quite simply not known!
The narration by Fleet Cooper was OK. I would have preferred that he less dramatized his reading, and he had a peculiar pronunciation of the word material. Every time he said that word I jumped; the emphasis on "al" was all wrong! Heck, these are not serious problems, none of them.
One other complaint: the author all too often stated that so and so "must" have thought that, and he "most probably" did that. Find out and tell me. I don't want a bunch of suppositions. In 1941 Hopkins was in England during the Blitz, and yet it is implied that he was carousing out about town; I thought he must have been sleeping. He was terribly ill, tired and worn out! Sounded like a bit of an exaggeration!
My complaints are not significant. What is important is that this book was extremely interesting and had a good mix of humor and quirky details. It keeps your attention and makes what could easily be a big bore fascinating. ...more
I liked this book a lot, so four stars. It is interesting, well told and easy to follow. Although filled with facts it is never dry or boring. The sciI liked this book a lot, so four stars. It is interesting, well told and easy to follow. Although filled with facts it is never dry or boring. The scientific details are well explained so any lay person can understand. It is about the creation of Oak Ridge, Tennessee - a city created to produce the first atomic bombs' fuel source. This book not only follows the historical facts surrounding the creation of this fuel source but also the creation of the city where the people employed to do the first enriching of uranium worked. It is really quite fascinating.
The “secrecy of the town’s very existence” is depicted through the people that lived there. Suspense is further increased as the author switches between different topics. The extent to which one's mouth had to be clamped shut is exemplified. You are not just told but shown. It is hard to really imagine. It makes complete sense that unmarried girls were central to the town’s work force; why this was so becomes clear when you read the book. There were however many men there too. I wish the author had also spoken of them. There were plenty of jobs for men too. We are told that 75 000 people came to live there at its peak. I wish the author had specified how many were women ad how many men. I wanted that figure. Although the title does clearly point out the importance of women I would have preferred a book that discussed the men too; their role was vital too. In the name of equality, not just one side of the story should have been told. This is my biggest complaint with the book.
I liked how the story of the Oak Ridge was described from its beginning, through the war and AFTER the war too. Our view of the atomic bomb and atomic energy during the war and AFTER is discussed. This too is well done and gives a more rounded perspective. How the residents of the city saw themselves while working "to win the war" and afterwards when they discovered what their role really had been was honest - a mix of both pride and shame.
The audiobook I listened to was narrated by Cassandra Campbell. She is very popular with many, but my experience with earlier audiobooks was less favorable. Kiernan, with her particular choice of words sometimes wanted to get across and implied meaning and this came across loud and clear through Campbell’s reading. Bravo! Campbell also well captured both feminine Southern Appalachian dialects and official government documents. The narration was very well done! ...more
Too episodic for my tastes. The author travels in Japan after the earthquake / tsunami / and nuclear power melt down in 2011. Each chapter is a shortToo episodic for my tastes. The author travels in Japan after the earthquake / tsunami / and nuclear power melt down in 2011. Each chapter is a short little episode, many quite varied in character. There are blog entries, scientific facts about the melt down, criticism of government policies and travel notes. The best parts are poetically written; they relate how particular individuals experienced the waves, the fear, the typhoon.
Sumalee Montano, with her Japanese accent, gave a delightful rendering of the lines. Very good narration in fact.