Definitely funny.....but maybe too funny? Do you know what I mean?
Of course I chuckled at lines like these:
"You will never persuade a mouse that a blDefinitely funny.....but maybe too funny? Do you know what I mean?
Of course I chuckled at lines like these:
"You will never persuade a mouse that a black cat is lucky." (chapter 5)
"I had such a good memory.......once!" (chapter 6)
"I have never planned anything illegal in my life! How could I plan anything of the kind, when I have never read any of the laws and have no idea what they are?!" (chapter 7)
"A little honest thieving hurts no one." And then, "It was all very harmless and gave employment to many."(chap 8)
Have you noted how the statements get more and more criminal in tone? Can Graham Greene write a book without turning it into a mystery or a crime novel? (view spoiler)[Interpol, smuggling, art theft and counterfeit are on display here! (hide spoiler)]. What exactly is the relationship between Aunt Augusta and her nephew, Henry? It helps to enjoy crime mystery novels. Here you get an amusing spoof.
Back to the humor. I read somewhere that Graham Greene wrote this, his sole purpose being to compose a f-u-n-n-y book. The humor changes as the book proceeds. It becomes sharper, more satirical. Politics, sex, religion and human behavior are often the brunt of the joke.
I would like to give you a feel for the humor because what appeals to one will be dishwater to another.... and yet I fear that you have to know the characters to understand the message conveyed. On sex, Aunt Augusta declares, keep in mind she is in her seventies, "I have always preferred an occasional orgie to a nightly routine." Or, if you are annoyed at your kids, this line might speak to you, "They go away from you. You can't go away from them." The lines are clever and funny, and certainly I chuckled often, but it is exactly that that I cannot deal with. I cannot read a joke book from start to finish.
Have you noted that I have shelved this book in many different countries? The book is about travel and all the countries where I have shelved it are visited.....but you neither see nor smell nor experience the different couture of the lands visited. You get a teeny bit about Paraguay. The two, aunt and nephew, travel on the Oriental Express. So much more could have been done with that!
This is a book of humor. The narrator of the audiobook, Tim Pigott-Smith, did an absolutely marvelous job of revealing that humor. He uses different intonations for the different characters in a wonderful way. Five stars for the narration.
Please keep in mind that you may totally love this book even if it was not a good fit for me. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
A novella about an unusual love affair between a lonely Brit and an illegal immigrant from Yugoslavia. When? At the end of the 70s. The central themeA novella about an unusual love affair between a lonely Brit and an illegal immigrant from Yugoslavia. When? At the end of the 70s. The central theme is the complicated love affair, but also the plight of illegal immigrants and the lies we tell each other. The stories we fabricate. I never knew for certain exactly what was told to attract and what was truth.
What makes this book are the lines. Relationships are captured through the words of the two, each telling their own version of the story. There is humor. There are lines of adolescents perfectly portraying pubescent behavior. Even if the story is told more than shown, I just didn't care. Authors can break most any rule if they do it right.
The narration of the audiobook is done by two, Jeff Rawie for the man and Siân Thomas for the girl. Both were very good. I felt they were the characters speaking.
The lines and the unusual story are the charm of the book. A woman needing to talk and to be heard. And the man? Sexually aroused but also seeking contact. What happens at the end? You will have to read to find out, but I thought the ending was good. Little things happen in life, but these little things may have huge consequences. ...more
I cannot recommend this book. I have given it only two stars. I am almost thinking of giving this one star. I will be very specific in listing what diI cannot recommend this book. I have given it only two stars. I am almost thinking of giving this one star. I will be very specific in listing what disturbed me. Let me mention immediately that those readers who enjoy fantasy novels will enjoy this more than I did. The events are so fantastical that I cannot classify this as a book of magical realism, but rather fantasy! I love magical realism, but dislike fantasy.
The themes covered are war, Balkan myths, death and man’s relationship to animals. I feel the author, Téa Obreht, is too ambiguous. What is she trying to say? I do not want messages hammered into me, but in this novel you can think whatever you damn well please. In addition, Téa Obreht shocks the reader with gruesome events. Once again, I am not averse to books that expose horrible behavior or horrendous crimes of humanity, if there is a point to be made, if there is a lesson to be learned. Here I felt the prime goal was simply to shock. There are many gruesome events involving animals. You have been warned! I am not going to give you an excerpt. Some passages are utterly revolting. Animals eating themselves: was this necessary? If this did happen during the war, I want a note to anchor it to reality.
The author chose to not use real names of cities in the Balkans, although one can guess that it takes place at the Croatian / Bosnian border or perhaps Belgrade, Serbia. Anyone would assume this is because she wants to express the universality of war’s horrors. Is that such a profound idea? Couldn’t the author have been a teeny bit more explicit? I found the author’s view expressed in an interview.
The plot concerns the relationship between a grandfather and his granddaughter. Both are doctors. At the beginning of the novel the grandfather dies. The book’s central plot line is the granddaughter’s search to understand the missing links in her grandfather’s life, to better understand who he was. This is done by flipping to the past. Past events are told as stories that have a fantastical character. Two primary stories concern a man that never dies and a woman who feeds a tiger escaped from the town’s closed zoo. I found it disorienting to constantly be flipping between different time periods and stories. The strange stories were long and detailed. The characters acted in ways beyond my comprehension, and I felt there was too much extraneous information. Is this another way of saying that I was not captivated by these stories?
While the villagers of Galina are reluctant to talk about the tiger and his wife, they will never hesitate to tell you stories of one of the lateral participants in their story. (page 239)
That was a nasty kick from me. Even the author herself states that “lateral participants” are depicted! And what a peculiar choice of words: lateral participants! I see them as minor, unimportant characters and I certainly do not have to know everything that has ever happened to them. Better editing, please. Or if I am kind, let me just say that I personally could not feel empathy for them. .Perhaps one mist enjoy books of fantasy to enjoy this novel.
So what did I like in this book? Some lines beautifully describe a place. You see the landscapes. The author is great with coloring in the nuances. Natalia (the granddaughter) will travel to Brjevina, where her grandfather died:
It was a small seaside village forty kilometers east of the new border. We drove through red-roofed villages that clung to the lip of the sea, past churches and horse pastures, past steep plains bright with purple bellflowers, past sunlit waterfalls that thrust out of the sheer rock-face above the road. Ever so often we entered woodland, high pine forests dotted with olives and cypresses, the sea flashing like a knife where the forest fell away down the slope. (page 17)
I have driven along the Croatian coastline. This was a perfect description of what I saw.
And then there is a dog called Bis. I loved what he did. This too made me appreciate the book.
So maybe, if you like fantasy novels, you might have less trouble with this than I did……. For the reasons listed above, I cannot recommend it. I haven’t even gotten into a discussion of what the book supposedly has to say about death! IMO, nothing all that profound.
I think this book is incredible – incredibly bad. Everybody loves this book, and this astounds me. I absolutely hate it. The writing is jumbled, fullI think this book is incredible – incredibly bad. Everybody loves this book, and this astounds me. I absolutely hate it. The writing is jumbled, full of nasty depictions and often indecipherable. It is a mixture of history, biography and fiction.
(But my opinion changes by the time I reach the end of the book, so please read on!)
Here is a chapter that plays with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand:
The horses are trotting stolidly and the coach is bobbing steadily, and Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s eyelids are listlessly sliding down his corneas. The weighty eyelids are about to reach the bottom, but then the horse on the left raises its tail - embarrassingly similar to the tussock on the Archduke’s resplendent helmet – and the Archduke can see the horse’s anus slowly opening, like a camera aperture……The left horse is dropping turds like dark, deflated tennis balls. (page 89)
This is to be found at the beginning of the story entitled the “Accordion”. I don’t find this enjoyable to read. One such description I can take, but repeatedly, over and over, this I find disgusting. I am sure you recognize that the author is playing with the facts, since the Archduke was assassinated traveling in a car. The writing is considered “experimental”. I can do without such experiments.
In a story called “Islands”, a child is speaking:
I went down the stairs and announced my thirst. Aunt Lyudmila walked over to the dark corner on my right-hand side - suddenly the light was ablaze – and there was a concrete box with a large wooden lid. She took off the lid and grabbed a tin cup and shoved her arm into the square. I went to the water tank (for that’s what it really was) and peeked over. I saw a white slug on the opposite wall. I could not tell whether it was moving upward or it was just frozen by our sudden presence. The dew on its back twinkled, and it looked like a severed tongue. I glanced at Aunt Lyudmila, but she didn’t seem to have noticed anything. She offered me the cup, but I shook my head and refused to drink the water which, besides, seemed turbid.
So they brought me a slice of cold watermelon and I drowsily masticated it . (page 8-9)
So tell me, does a nine year old speak with these words: masticated, turbid, “announced my thirst”? Every paragraph, if not every sentence is gruesome. And for what purpose? Just to be “experimental”?
As I mentioned above the writing is jumpy and confusing. What is the point with all this depiction of horrid situations? Why? I see no important message being imparted. Well, everyone else seems to understand, but I do not. I do not enjoy, do not see the point or the important message that is being imparted. So why am I splashing around in this muck?
And then I came to the story, “Blind Jozef & Dead Souls”. This is longer than the others. It could be classified as a novella. This is about an émigré, a young man who has left Bosnia. He has gone to the States and he remains there while the war rages in his home country. He reads of the Siege of Sarajevo of what is happening there tohis kin and childhood friends. It is about his emotions, how it feels being separated from home, how it feels in a strange culture, where nothing makes sense, how it is to be a foreigner in a strange land. It is also about how he sees life in the US. It is about where he belongs. Of course his views on life in America are absurdly true and comical at the same time. This is wonderful writing. It shows how it feels to be a refugee. It is amusing and poignant and sad all at the same time. You are still aware that this is the same author of the shorter stories. The reader does recognize the author’s unique style.
I am glad I read the book to the end. I would have to conclude that the author has a distinctive style and in at least one of the stories I empathized, laughed and learned how life as a refuge might feel. I am going to give the book three stars, because I liked that one longer story.
Just a word of warning: don’t expect a smooth comfortable read. Please keep in mind that I don’t even like comforting reads….. I prefer to be grabbed, aroused, upset, moved by the books I read. Such books in fact comfort me by their ability to distract me! ...more
Tesla was an ethnic Serb living in Croatia. I am wondering if I can deal with the fantastical elements of the story. Is ther a good author's note clarTesla was an ethnic Serb living in Croatia. I am wondering if I can deal with the fantastical elements of the story. Is ther a good author's note clarifying what is fact and what is fiction? On the other hand reviews are quite rosy. Please somebody help me decide!...more
Finished. About a bridge, a beautiful bridge. Through this bridge one finds hope. But the book is also about the passage of time and the folly of manFinished. About a bridge, a beautiful bridge. Through this bridge one finds hope. But the book is also about the passage of time and the folly of man and the peoples and cultures of the Balkans. One percieves the smallness of man. There are no clear answers. Is it foolish to hope for a better future, and what is better? How does one judge progress? If there is kindness isn't life good? People are weak and mean and foolish, but at the same time they are kind and good and hard working. Both are true, and both will probably always be true. I believe the book says this.
Through page 199; One minute I am thinking I cannot go on reading because the cruelty of one human to another is just more than I can take. The writing moves me so, but then the lines change and the author makes me see the beauty of life. I am totally stunned. The writing flips me from one emotion to its opposite. The words in this books do this to me. This author can write, and he can see how people are - how terrible and how wonderful.
Through pPage 81: Still marvelous. Beautiful writing. Legends and myths and history all intertwined. The bridge is built (1571-1577) and it certainly wasn't easy. These troubles became the basis of fabulous legends. Then in the latter half of the 1700s their was a flood more terrible than any ever before. The waters rose a good thirty feet and the bridge was submerged, only to become visible again as the river's level lowered. The damage and devastation wrought by the flood was horrible, but of course time rolled on, life in the village continued:
"So, in the kapia(the terrace at the center of the bridge), between the skies, the river and the hills, generation after generation learnt not to mourn overmuch what the troubled waters had borne away. They entered there into the unconscious philosophy of the town; that life was an incomprehensible marvel, since it was incessantly wasted and spent, yet none the less it lasted and endured 'like the bridge on the Drina'."
I recommend looking at this bridge when you read the book. It is easy to find pictures on the web of this beautiful eleven-arched stone bridge. How what happened became myth is fascinating. The Serbian, Croatian, Bosnian and Turkish cultures and their respective religious constraints are described through the history fo this bridge, the bridge over the Drina at Visegrad in Bosnia.
Page 52 read: This author can write. A Nobel prize winner that can really write, that not only has a message but can truly write. Dam this is GOOD. He makes you see beauty and he makes you see horror. There is no skimming here; you want to catch every nuance. My heart is beating and I don't know what to do with myself. I have to stop before I can go on....more
A different bridge, a different river and a different time but the story of this book's bridge and the story of the bridge depicted by the Bosnian autA different bridge, a different river and a different time but the story of this book's bridge and the story of the bridge depicted by the Bosnian author Ivo Andric in The Bridge on the Drina are ultimately the same. I prefer Andric's story. There is a beauty in Andric's story that shines. Here desolation is the prominent tone. I was haunted by the similarity. How can one author copy another like this?! Read the original by Andric. ...more
Tremendous writer who depicts war through the eyes of a child and then 10 years later through the eyes of a young adult. Mostly it is about war and loTremendous writer who depicts war through the eyes of a child and then 10 years later through the eyes of a young adult. Mostly it is about war and love and imagination and all the opposite things you can imagine. I loved the imagination of the writer. A totally new writing style that I loved....more
This novella of only 80 pages is about one Croat in the Croatian Serbian civil war of the 90s. I am choosing 5 stars, "amazing", because that describeThis novella of only 80 pages is about one Croat in the Croatian Serbian civil war of the 90s. I am choosing 5 stars, "amazing", because that describes my feelings better than four stars, I really "liked it". I have a hard time saying I LIKED this book, but the book is amazing and excellently executed. You are there with him in Croatia - in Dubrovnik, in Split, in the small villages along the Dalmatian coastline, on the islands. The writing suberbly conjures the landscape of Croatia - its beauty, its harsh stone shorelines and the startlingly blue water.Astoundingly beautifully written. But the Croat is half dead, and you feel that too. He is a soldier, and you are too. I know I would not last one second in a prison. This book has brought me closer to being in a war than I hope I ever will be.
I have been in Croatia. I have been in these villages, in Split and in Dubrovnik, one of the most beautiful places on earth. It was completely restored after the war with EU money. It is a teeny little white marble gem of a city, surrounded by sparkling blue water. Clothes lines cross the alleys above your head. Underwear, flowered house-dresses and jeans flutter in the wind. It all came back to me. We visited a small museum in Dubrovnik about the war, but this book said so much more. It puts the reader there - in an unbelievably gorgeous place in an unbelievably terrible war....more
WOW - this is good! I just finished the episode in Venice 1609.
Now I have finished the book, and it definitely gets 5 stars. Wonderful storytelling aWOW - this is good! I just finished the episode in Venice 1609.
Now I have finished the book, and it definitely gets 5 stars. Wonderful storytelling and skillful interweaving of truth and fiction. Don't worry - at the end you know clearly what exactly is true and what is fiction. Just marvelous!...more