I am no literary critic. I will merely try and express what I experienced while reading this book.
I am glad I read it, but I admire the author's opusI am no literary critic. I will merely try and express what I experienced while reading this book.
I am glad I read it, but I admire the author's opus more than I enjoyed it. Honestly, it was often a struggle.
It has a very slow start. The book's narrator, after a third of the way through, states that only now will the story begin. All that before had just been an introduction to the characters! That "introduction" doesn't read as a normal introduction; you are thrown into events that you scarcely comprehend. Often I was confused, and so also upset, but always I did eventually come to understand what was happening. There are lots of characters. Actually, the number is not the main problem. The confusion is caused by the immense amount of details thrown at you. When I begin a book, I have no idea where the book is leading so I try and remember e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. I was swamped. From all these details the author does periodically summarize and clarify so you do understand. These details do serve a purpose; they very accurately depict life in Paris in the early 1840s.
The book was first published in serial format in Le Constitutionanel. Balzac wrote it to compete against another popular feuilleton author, Eugène Sue, of a socialist bent. Balzac supported the House of Bourbon and venerated Napoléon Bonaparte as a champion of absolutist power. Balzac’s aim was to realistically describe life after Napoléon’s fall. Given that it was published as a feuilleton, he was writing for people of his day. References are made to individuals and events that were the talk of the town. So they understood what he was referring to much better than we do! Much is left unexplained. In addition, the popularity and success of the writing depended upon keeping readers engaged. Melodrama, excitement, titillating scenes and moralistic elements pepper the writing. This very much affects the writing style. I think he magnificently depicts the different social classes vying against each other in Paris, but as with other books written in serial format something quick and exciting must happen in each episode. Do you see why I admire the writing, but don't really love it?
Then there are the characters. Some critics say his figures are complex. I didn’t see them that way. The reader easily spots different character types: Bette - think of one seeking revenge. She is the cousin of Adeline. Valérie Marneffe - the beautiful, seductive, greedy mistress of four. And she is married! Baron Hector Hulot - consumed by sex. Let’s just call him the dirty old man. Baroness Adeline Hulot - Hector’s saintly wife. Célestin Crevel - the wealthy, retired tradesman and rival of Hulot. Here and elsewhere Balzac shows the importance of wealth. Wenceslas Steinbock - the artist. Here Balzac has a chance to spell out what it takes to succeed in art – hard work! You can reflect on Balzac’s own efforts. He wrote this novel in two months! His health suffered.
There are several more figures in the families: Hortense Hulot - daughter of the Hulots married to Wenceslas Victorin Hulot - the Hulots' son married to Celestine. Celestine - Crevel's daughter married to Victorin Maréchal Hulot - Hector Hulot's honorable brother Johann Fischer – an uncle of the Hulot family, someone handy to send to Algiers to embezzle funds
And mistresses and lovers: Josépha Mirah - singer, Jewish, abandoned child Baron Henri Montès de Montéjanos - another Baron, another lover, but Brazilian this time Agathe - kitchenmaid, mistress and........
I am listing the characters for two reasons. To help those planning on reading the book and to illustrate the caricature each represents. I prefer more complicated, complex characters. I don’t see them that way. There is a strong moral message conveyed.
Yet, Balzac did have a great idea in writing his Comédie humaine, a multi-volume collection of interlinked novels sharing many of the same characters. He completed over 90 novels and had begun over 40 more. You hit upon characters that have turned up in other novels. You remember other things they have done and said. This added depth for me. In Père Goriot I met the criminal in-hiding, Vautrin. Here he is in the police force, and we meet more of his family! Doctor Bianchon was one of the diners at the lodging house Mason Vauque. We meet him here too. I liked this very much. You don’t have to read the books in a particular order, but the more you read and the more you know, the fuller the story becomes. As in real life, as with real people, the more you learn about each, the more interesting they become. You become curious for more.
The audiobook I listened to was narrated by Johanna Ward / Kate Reading. She knows how to pronounce French correctly. That is important. For me she spoke too quickly. She dramatizes, but she does this well. Me, I would give the narration four stars.
So the book IS worth reading, but it is difficult. You have to pay close attention. It is by no means an easy read. For me it was a bit too didactic, a bit to melodramatic, its characters a bit too simplified. The next I will read from the Comédie humaine will be Eugénie Grandet. My curiosity has been piqued and I do want more, but I need a breather first. ...more
ETA: I simply must add something! How to do this without giving a spoiler? Below I have only hinted at what made this book move from three to four staETA: I simply must add something! How to do this without giving a spoiler? Below I have only hinted at what made this book move from three to four stars. Something happens about 2/3 of the way into the story. It has to do with the hidden criminal, also mentioned below. One of the boarders leads to the discovery of that criminal. It is the behavior of the other boarders toward the criminal and the betrayer that made me love the book. The book doesn’t have a rosy ending, so that makes it real, but neither does it leave you in total despair. Not many authors can achieve such.
Let me describe the writing first. It is dated, wordy and at times almost flowery. Due to its old-fashioned style, the book was published first in 1834 and 1835 in serial format, you must read or listen very carefully. The writing is chock full of details. The opening meticulously describes a lodging house on Rue Neuve-Sainte-Geneviève, in the quartier of the Faubourg Saint Marcel. A sordid, mediocre area. Dirty and dark, in the shadows of the looming Dôme du Val-de-Grâce and the Dôme du Panthéon. Its residents struggling to survive. Then the descriptions take you inside the lodging house Mason Vauquer, room by room. The widow who manages the house, the lodgers, there are seven, down to their clothing, facial attributes, behavioral quirks, social standing and aspirations. We learn of each one's past, or at least we are told what may have been their past lives. That all is not revealed or known is hinted at. Your curiosity grows. It is these characters and a few others that the story revolves around. At dinners, paying diners from the neighborhood fill the seats up to 18 or 20, circling the table, joking and talking, arguing. At breakfast the cook, the handyman and the cat and the seven boarders in their bathrobes and slippers; this was a "Parisian family" as any other. I have been in houses like the one described. I could picture the wall paper, the tiles, the tall windows, the attic, the creaky boards. I could smell the dampness, the musty air. I like descriptive writing. Do you?
The book opens with that setting. I was made curious. I wanted more. Others may be bored.
Then the story develops around the seven boarders and what each is up to. There is a father who loves his two daughters. There is an aspiring law student from southern France. There is a criminal in hiding. There are secrets. Who will betray whom? The story is about love and money and social standing, about how to succeed. What it does best is describe life in Paris around 1819 (i.e. during the Bourbon Restoration). It is not about history. It is about a time and place. It is about people and how we behave, then and today. Balzac was critical of his times. He sought to describe it realistically, honestly. I think he succeeds magnificently. Some betray others. Some don't see what is before their eyes. Some value friendship and shared experiences.
The audiobook narration by Walter Covell is mediocre. Sure, it is not hard to follow and you can hear the lines. There is zero spark. It is flat. Pick another narrator if you can.
Seriously, I didn't like this. Yeah, I like how Vladimir Nabokov writes but this book just doesn't have the sparkle, the humor or the polished writingSeriously, I didn't like this. Yeah, I like how Vladimir Nabokov writes but this book just doesn't have the sparkle, the humor or the polished writing of Lolita or Speak, Memory or other books by the author. It feels like a piece that still needs more work….or maybe you can work something to death. Look at the history of this book. Despair first came out in 1934 as a serial in the Russian literary journal Sovremennye. It was published as a book in 1936, translated by the author into English in 1937, but what exists today is the author's reworking of 1965. Clearly he did have time to rethink this.
Why doesn’t it work for me? Despair not only was a forerunner to Lolita, published in 1955, but it feels like that too. One can compare Hermann of this novel with Lolita's Humbert Humbert. Both are unreliable first-person narrators, but one is a shadow of the other. Not in who they are but in the strength of their characterizations. Lydia, Hermann's wife, doesn't come close to Lolita's Dolores.
So what is the theme of this one? It is a murder story, but more! It is really about doubles, about identity and what connects one person to another. Hermann is delusional. Anything he says has to be questioned. Of course that is true too of Humbert Humbert, but there it is easier to just see the facts presented as his point of view. In Despair the story is so much more complicated; you are thrown between the writing of a story, how authors write stories and what actually happens, i.e. the events of the tale. Too complicated! Not properly thought through. Similar themes but quite simply not as good.
There are also funnier and more noteworthy lines in Lolita. More to chuckle at. More to think about on all sorts of themes, having nothing to do with sex or murder.
Christopher Lane does a good job with the narration, even if occasionally when he personifies dubious characters of Russian origin it was practically impossible to hear the lines. Arrogance, self-satisfaction and delusional traits, as well as furious explosions of temper all are well intoned.
For me this was quite simple a forerunner to Lolita. That I gave five stars. ...more
Each author has their own special style. How would I describe Nevil Shute's? His books have a “feel good” tone, and yet at the same time they don't sh Each author has their own special style. How would I describe Nevil Shute's? His books have a “feel good” tone, and yet at the same time they don't shy away from difficult themes. As with fairy tales, you get scary and suspenseful tidbits, but at the conclusion you feel satisfied. Content.
This novel is said to be based on a true life story. Yet nobody calls it non-fiction. There are just too many coincidences for me to accept this as being totally true to life. The story is about a seventy year old English man from Essex who decides to take a vacation trip to France to go fishing. He is a widower and recently his son has died. His son was RAF pilot. He misses him terribly. It is the summer of 1940, and anyone with a little knowledge of history knows that this was not the summer to traipse off to France. When things start heating up, Howard, that is the central protagonist, ends up agreeing to take two children and then another and another.... back to England. Well, finally it gets to be a total of (view spoiler)[seven (hide spoiler)]! Children of different nationalities - (view spoiler)[two English siblings with parents living in Switzerland, two French children of which one has an English father and the other is now an orphan, his parents killed on the road by German bombing, a very young Dutch child stoned by French villagers claiming him to be a “German spy”, a son of a Polish Jew, and one more child….which I am not going to mention even here in the spoiler because there is a final twist at the book’s end. Let's try with a spoiler within a spoiler - (view spoiler)[The last child is the niece of a German Gestapo official. (hide spoiler)](hide spoiler)] So with a hidden spoiler within a spoiler you see the story has a final exciting twist! This all could have happened. Maybe it did happen. The story is said to be true, but exactly how much of it? That is the question!
Several aspects of the writing make the story feel genuine. The children behave as children do, and at the same time each is an individual different from the other. Each is a character with distinguishable weaknesses and strengths. And Howard, the seventy year-old, he can manage only so much! You should see what a wreck they are when they reach the end of the trip! What also makes the story feel true is that there are both villains and kind souls. The history related is accurate.
Yet some events go too far: 1. Would parents (view spoiler)[send their two young children, one eight and the other five, off with an elderly man whom they scarcely know (hide spoiler)]? It is possible but rather unlikely. It is more likely that the (view spoiler)[wife would have followed along with Howard, taking the children back to England together (hide spoiler)]. 2. Not all Germans behaved badly during the war. They were instructed to set a good example, to show the excellence of German ways. I can understand that the child in the story is returned de-loused and clean, but that (view spoiler)[brand-new clothes were bought for him (hide spoiler)] is stretching believability! 3. It is just too coincidental that the German Gestapo (view spoiler)[ also had a niece whom he wanted taken out of harm’s way. Nice that Howard was so wealthy and had a daughter willing to take care of all seven children (hide spoiler)]!
I am fine with an elderly man helping kids get away from France and the war, but the coincidences are a bit thick. We have here a “feel good” story with accurate historical events and of course it could be possible. I would say there is a core of truth with some extra embellishments added.
It is nice how a love story is woven in. It is satisfying that Howard (view spoiler)[gets to know and hear of how his son fell in love (hide spoiler)]. Again, nothing is to say this couldn't have happened, and it is beautifully told. The horrors of war and the beauty of love are intertwined, just as it should be in both a good fairy tale and in real life.
I enjoyed the narration of the audiobook. David Rintoul can and does speak French properly. This adds authenticity. His ability to capture how English often incorrectly pronounce French adds humor too! Very well done and easy to follow. Only a little knowledge of French is necessary to understand the untranslated lines.
The book is satisfying and tells accurate history. I found only one silly mistake - St. Malo is in Brittany not Normandy. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
By the end of the book my heart melted and I did feel empathy for Zelda. For Zelda, but not Scott. If the book is giving you trouble andOn Completion:
By the end of the book my heart melted and I did feel empathy for Zelda. For Zelda, but not Scott. If the book is giving you trouble and if what you are looking for is understanding of and empathy for the characters continue to the end.
Yet, I cannot give the book more than three stars. Why?
The first thing I did on completing the book was to search the web for more information about Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald (1900—1948) and F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940). There are two camps - those who say Scott suppressed Zelda's creative abilities and those who claim that Zelda's mental health, or more correctly her lack thereof, was detrimental to Scott's writing career. Which is it? He suppressed her or she suppressed him. It depends on whom you talk to. This novel is written from Zelda's point of view; she is telling us her life story.
I don't think we will ever know the whole truth. My view? In any relationship fault is usually found on both sides. Scott and Zelda fit each other. They lived dizzying lives. Both sought a life that would put them in the center of high society. Along with that followed infidelity, boozing and bitter recriminations. Their daughter, Scottie, wrote after their deaths:
I think (short of documentary evidence to the contrary) that if people are not crazy, they get themselves out of crazy situations, so I have never been able to buy the notion that it was my father's drinking which led her to the sanitarium. Nor do I think she led him to the drinking. Wiki refers to Dear Scott, Dearest Zelda: The Love Letters of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald as its source.
Into which camp you fall will probably be influenced by how you view Hemingway. He was Zelda's enemy from day one. She absolutely detested the complicated friendship that grew up between F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway. She accused Hemingway of being a fairy! Hemingway!
The book accurately details the known events of Scott's and Zelda's life together. It concludes with the death of Scott, but an afterword fills in with facts about the remaining eight years of Zelda's life, her death and information about their daughter.
There is little humor in the book. You need a bit of that now and then. I have read very funny things about Scott. True details that will make you smile. They are not here in this book.
I wasn't engaged until far into the book. The dialogs and the writing didn’t move me. So much more could have been done through descriptions of the places they lived.
Jenna Lamia narrates the audiobook. Her accentuated Southern drawl fits the young, spoiled Zelda superbly. However her intonations for Scott and Hemingway are just so-so. Zelda matures a bit at the end. I don’t think this is well reflected in the intonation.
Well, at least the book improves by the end. It finally pulled me in. It gives one view of the conflicted relationship between Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald.
After 24 chapters:
I am about half way now.
I didn't give up, and I am glad I didn't. It is improving. Quite simply b/c I am beginning to get into the head of Zelda. I don't have to like her, I just have to understand her and understand the relationship between her and Scott.
I want to be fair in my judgment; it is wrong to just criticize and not praise when a book does improve.
After chapter 13: This is excruciatingly hard to read. It is that bad! It is terrible. Not only are the people more than despicable, the writing is deplorably bad.
- Empty dialogs. The yapping (i.e. the conversations), which should show us each individual's soul, is empty - No depth to the character portrayals. - Events are insufficiently depicted.....a trip to Europe (London, Paris, Venice, Florence and Rome) is done in a few lines. The first child is born, but never do you feel with depth the mother's or the father's emotions.
The audiobook narration by Jenna Lamia is, I guess, appropriate It fits the empty dialog.
What a bad start to the year. A total waste of time. I don't know if I can bear to continue.
I am sorry, I never believed this would be so bad. I just cannot keep my mouth shut any more.
The audiobook narration is so distracting that the book's content becomes extremely difficult to absorb. I managed, but only barely, to continue to thThe audiobook narration is so distracting that the book's content becomes extremely difficult to absorb. I managed, but only barely, to continue to the end. I was drawn in by the topic - the relationships between Mary Shelley(1797-1851), the author of Frankenstein, the poet-philosopher Percy Bysshe Shelley(1792-1822), whom she eventually married, her stepsister Claire Clairmont(1798-1879), her half-sister Fanny Imlay(1794-1816), poet Lord Byron(1788-1824) and others of the family. Aaron Burr was a family friend and his remarks made me laugh. These characters’ relationships were certainly out of the ordinary! My rating does, in this rare instance, reflect the audiobook narration! I am not sure I can separate the two.
Percy Shelley’s and Lord Byron’s poetry are quoted. You learn how Frankenstein came to be and how it reflects the era. You learn, perhaps, what Mary was trying to express through the book, although this was rather fuzzy for me. I would have appreciated more about Mary’s mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, writer and advocate of women’s rights. The book ends soon after Byron’s death, 27 years before Mary’s death. .
Want my opinion? I find these characters so despicable that I wonder if it is even worth my effort to try and understand them. I know what happened in Mary’s life, but don’t know if I understand her. Byron and Shelley may have written great lines of poetry, but for me this does not outweigh their actions.
There is no author’s note. I assume what is fictional are the dialogs.
Please read below; I explain explicitly the faults of the audiobook narration.
2.5 hours left of a 12.5 hour audiobook:
This book about Mary and Percy Shelley plus Byron and Mary's stepsister, Claire, is difficult. Their horrid behavior is more than unbelievable. Adultery is not something that usually shocks me.
Do I like the book? NO! I don't think it is well written. I find it extremely difficult to not be influenced by the worst audiobook narration I have ever encountered. I can scarcely think about the words. Yes, it is well-researched, but not well written. The story, what they did and what happens is told point by point, but the dialogs and insight into the characters' internal thoughts are lacking. Ridiculous dialogs. The lines are antiquated. Maybe my judgment is too harsh b/c the lines do reflect that time period. For me they do not flow well.
I will finish this book to get the information but I am not enjoying myself in the least. This is pure torture.
Do NOT choose the audiobook narrated by Susan Duerden. Her narration is monotone. the women are shrill and squeaky or breathless. The melody makes the words almost impossible to follow. The tempo is usually OK, but in one section I thought she was racing to the end, only to discover hours remained.
I will be honest. I have a very hard time judging if the written words are acceptable and if it is only the narration that is destroying the book for me. I believe it is also poorly written, but am not quite sure.
I am thoroughly enjoying myself! Vibrant colors, island life, folklore and history all rolled into one. Real life characters that draw you iAfter 1/3:
I am thoroughly enjoying myself! Vibrant colors, island life, folklore and history all rolled into one. Real life characters that draw you in. Physical attraction and love.
I totally loved this book. Every aspect of it. Life on the island of St. Thomas (one of the American Virgin Islands) pulled me in and kept a tight grip on me, from the first page to the last, even the epilogue. I was engaged emotionally and intellectually. I breathed the air of the island, saw the colors and came to intimately understand life there. History is told through the people we meet, so we care. I looked at pictures of the island but they didn't come close to capturing the atmosphere of the place. The time period is the 1800s. After reading this book I feel like I have been there for a l-o-n-g stay, and yet my feet have never touched that soil. I came to understand its delights and its restrictions. Race and religion and social standards all intertwine. Alice Hoffman clearly knows that different places have different lights, sounds, smells.
You have certainly heard of the famed father of the Impressionist Movement - Camille Pissarro. He was born there, in 1830.His mother in 1795. She mothered eleven children. A twelfth was buried unnamed. You start by learning about his mother's life. This is interesting, engaging and movingly told. You have to understand her story to understand her son's. To understand his art you must understand him. The book is so wonderful because it captures family relationships amazingly well. It captures how those we love are also those we hurt. Love isn't easy. The author knows people, and her lines beautifully capture how we hurt, love, tease, entice and question each other.
The book covers what has shaped the artist - his family relationships. It is not a book that follows his artistic life, his paintings, his adult years in France. That is for a biographer. There is a lengthy sojourn in Paris though, his years spent at school.
The audiobook is narrated by four. Tina Benko tells the mother's story. She was my favorite. I utterly adored her husky voice. Santino Fontana is the young Camille. Gloria Reuben is the book's narrator. Finally Alice Hoffman, the author, follows with the epilogue. All do an excellent job. Each captured the feel of the lines being read. ...more
July 29, 2015 Free coupons are being given for this at the Ford Audiobook Group here at GR.
I am appreciative of having been given a free copy from theJuly 29, 2015 Free coupons are being given for this at the Ford Audiobook Group here at GR.
I am appreciative of having been given a free copy from the Ford Audiobook Group here at GR. Thank you. I think it is wonderful that Europeans were able to take part in this offer too.
Rating this book is very difficult. Is it how you feel at the book's end that is most important? Should I disregard all my negative thoughts concerning the first 2/3rds? I admit, by the book's end I was moved, but I was also glad it was over.
This is a story told in retrospect. A woman is looking back on her life. She is telling us her story and what she has learned about life. Such makes for sentimentality!
What is the gist of her story? Well, she lived through the war, her and her sister. It is another WW2 tale. Two sisters living in a small fictitious village in the Loire Valley. One remains. One goes to Paris. The two sisters, Isabelle and Vianne, are very different - in every way imaginable! So the book is about sisters, what binds them and what divides them. Ultimately, what makes family family? It is a book about redemption and forgiving. It is also a book about women during WW2, or any war. What role do women play in war?
This is a long book. Why? Because every darn theme of all the books you have read about WW2 in France are here in this book. OK, I am exaggerating a bit. Not everything, but almost. For me this decreased the book's credibility. Such events did happen, but all in one family? It was like a checklist had to be followed. The book is written to be exciting. It is cinematic in tone. Maybe you like that. I don't. There are anachronisms. Antibiotics were becoming available, but primarily only for military use. Coincidences abound. As a result the story just doesn't feel real. (view spoiler)[There is a RAF pilot in Paris. He is told to go to a particular address later that day. He would never find his way there! First of all, that he would even be in Paris is strange. In another instance, papers are arranged in the blink of an eye. (hide spoiler)] There is just too much unbelievable. (view spoiler)[ That Isabelle, with so little training, was able to cross the Pyrenees guiding allied airmen is not credible. That she was not caught sooner, neither was that believable! She talked too much, she lost her temper too much, her face was an open book. We are told this over and over again. It doesn’t matter that another woman did do this, but Isabelle couldn’t have. (See below.) (hide spoiler)]
There is an overload of romance. Don't believe me? Look at the quotes listed from this book: https://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes.... A very large portion of them are about love. In any case, the lines are pat, ordinary, clichéd. True, there are different kinds of love. By the book's end only the familial relationships felt sincere and moving.
Overall, the language employed is ordinary, nothing special and often too graphic. The French culture is brought to us via a few repeated phrases - "mon Dieu", "merde", "pain au chocolat" or "oui"..... over and over again. I never felt I was in France!
So I really wanted to quit this book, but I stuck it out. By the book's end it feels so brutal, so cold, not to care for these individuals who have had such a VERY hard time. Of course I sympathize with them. You have to be a stone not to feel anything!
The audiobook narration by Polly Stone was good. It was not necessary to know a lot of French! She read with feeling, but not too much feeling, and she read at a steady, even pace, which I like!
Kristin Hannah’s book is inspired by a Belgian Red Cross volunteer, Andree de Jongh. This woman founded and organized the (view spoiler)[Comet Escape Line, a route from Belgium through France to Spain helping hundreds of Allied airmen escape from Nazi-occupied Europe. (hide spoiler)] For more information see this link: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obitu...
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
Another very good book by David McCullough. I have yet to read a book by this author that doesn't make hisWhat You Get is Very Good, But I Wanted More
Another very good book by David McCullough. I have yet to read a book by this author that doesn't make history fascinating.
Aeronautics isn't a topic that draws me, but McCullough had me thinking about the miracle of flying. He had me observing birds with a different eye.
This is a relatively short book. That covered is that which a "normal reader" will want to know. There isn't a whole lot about the Wright Brothers' childhood, neither the patent lawsuits that arose after their accomplishment was a fact. The central focus is the years between 1899 and 1912, and how they came to be the first to ever fly. 1912 was the year of Wilbur’s death, and I am not going to tell you more about that. The book briefly skims major life events of all family members through to their respective deaths. Orville died in 1948. The wide scope of advancements in aeronautics is scarcely even mentioned. The focus is Orville and Wilbur's flying achievement. You get a detailed picture of their world - in Dayton, Ohio, in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina and in Paris and Les Mans and Pau, France. Wilbur spent almost an entire year in France. In 1903 the brothers had flown and by 1906 the sale of the airplane had begun. What the book well draws is the excitement and incredulity of man being able to fly, and it looks at how these two brothers did this. The two brothers are, in my view exceptional people, not really for what they achieved but for their steadfastness, their determination and hard work. Both had only a high school education and they financed their work on the sales from their bicycle company! They were not backed by big money! Others were, and they failed. For me the book imparted a clear picture of the personality of the two brothers, their father and their younger sister Katherine. She too was part of their team. I appreciated that McCullough took the time to elucidate her role.
I very much enjoyed the quotes from the brothers’ letters and speeches. I loved Wilbur’s heartfelt response to his reception in France. I loved the small details describing people; sometimes it is the unbuttoned button of a jacket or a shamrock in a buttonhole. McCullough’s works are not just well researched but that which is put there in the book is interesting. He doesn’t throw too much at you; he sifts through what is important, relevant and amusing, so you see the people and the times.
BUT…..I close the book with some questions. I want to know more about Wilbur's, Orville's and Katherine's childhood years, and more about their older siblings. I want to know more about the split between Orville and Katherine after her marriage in 1926 with Henry Joseph Haskell. I want to know how it came to be that the children were not religious; their father, Milton, was a Bishop of the Church of the United Brethren in Christ. What the book gave me was very good, but I would have been pleased with more, more biographical details. I wonder if some of the less complimentary personal characteristics are not here?!The emphasis is on their flying achievement. I do though have a mania for biographical details. You might be satisfied with a little bit less rather than more!
The author narrates his own book. I liked the narration, because it is very slow. That may not please others. Sometimes he mumbles a bit, but heck I understood. I could feel when he wanted to emphasize the importance of an event. You could almost hear the thought, "Hey, pay attention!" I felt he wanted to give me time to absorb all the details and the importance of what was being said. So, I personally liked the narration very much. ...more