I really, really enjoyed this. There is only one thing that prevents me from giving five stars - the language is ordinary. I still want to hW-O-W-!!!!
I really, really enjoyed this. There is only one thing that prevents me from giving five stars - the language is ordinary. I still want to highly recommend it, but I better explain for whom it is best suited. Even if I sat glued, it might not fit all.
This book is chock-full of history. Lots of interesting historical details that are presented in an easily understood manner and clearly explained. Battle scenes are short. This book does cover the two wars but it is not just about them. Many of the historical events have whole books written on that ONE event. Reading this book is like reading tons of other books all in one. You see the whole picture. I found not one error. I don't believe any reader will fail to learn something new. Do you know why we use the term plaster of paris? Do you know of the Faux Paris in WW1? You get a comprehensive summary and at the same time a wonderful story.
The history is not only about Paris, but about France too. The time period covered is from the Middle Ages, up to the student uprising in 1968. Not just politics, not just wars, but also cultural movements as well as authors and musicians and artists galore. Look at the title. Do you get the feel of Paris by reading this book? Yes, you do.
If I mention one topic covered, it feels so inadequate since I could name twenty, thirty others that are equally interesting. The building of the Eiffel Tower, World Exhibitions, the Lost Generation with Hemingway and Shakespeare & Company and Gertrude Stein, the growth of feminism, the Plague and the Spanish Flu. Oh, so inadequate! I feel like erasing these because the book is so comprehensive that to name but a few seems all wrong. So, I will move on to the fictional story. It is gripping, well woven into the historical events and believable. Primarily you follow four different families (one aristocrat, one bourgeois and two of the working class) through several generations. Halfway through I did stop and make some family charts so I could keep track of who was who. Characters are not cardboard figures. They mature; they change. They are composed of good and bad qualities. These characters are not introspectively analyzed; instead you watch what they do. The story is plot driven. I particularly grew to love two - first Eloise and then Tomas. One of them is a bit of a hero, but I loved it. Oh my gosh, the ending! I sat glued at the end.
I listened to the audiobook narrated by both Jane Wymark and Jonathan Keeble. Wymark did a fantastic job. Wonderful French and I laughed at the difference between her English and American accents. Both were great. It is just so funny to hear the stark difference between the two. She did men and women equally well. Her narration gets five stars. Jonathan Keeble's was just OK. When he tried to sound like a child or a woman I would laugh, until I got used to it. But good? No! Still, his narration doesn't wreck the story. I don't understand why they used two narrators. It is not that he took the male voices and she the female. It is not that he took the recent times and she the earlier. They alternated chapter by chapter. Maybe it was just too much to read for one person? This is a long whopper of a book.
The book flips around between different time periods, which usually just adds confusion, and it did make it harder to keep track of events and people, but I feel that by doing this it helped you to keep fresh in your mind how history impacts on current events. So, I didn't mind.
I really, really did like this book, but you better be interested in history if you choose to read the book. If history does interest you, then I recommend it. The history is presented in an interesting, comprehensive and easily understood manner. You will know Paris after reading this book. ...more
On completion: Who is this book for? I mention this problem below in a partial review. Maybe you want a book offering a little bit for everyone. I prefOn completion: Who is this book for? I mention this problem below in a partial review. Maybe you want a book offering a little bit for everyone. I prefer a book that has a central focus. A book for weekend tourists, a book for expats and that for a reader seeking information on the city’s history will be three very different books.
I don’t know what you may be seeking from this book. I wanted to know interesting details about the city’s past. Some, but not enough, of the chapters did offer insights that satisfied me. I wanted it to capture the feel of the place, and how its denizens behave. The only chapters that came close to doing this are the one on cafés and the one on the author’s night perambulations. You learn a bit about the booksellers along the Seine and the boat people and posh Parisian dog owners….but these are not your typical Parisians. I don’t think this book captures the French Parisian mentality.
This is a book of essays. Some essays are in fact very similar to other essays. Information is repeated. If you want a chapter on cemeteries have one and put all related information there. The book should have been better organized.
Then there is the tone. There is lots of whining. Rather than the author stating clearly that he dislikes a particular trend he insinuates it. The author is opinionated; you are getting his point of view. He is one for nostalgia; change is usually bad. While he does list the improvements of particular modernizations you hear from his choice of words what his general sentiment is toward the change, and it is most often negative. The gist is that things were definitely better before. He doesn’t offer constructive solutions!
The author has a separate essay on Parisian dogs. He is NOT a dog owner. Only occasionally does he and his wife dog sit. He writes about hair styling salons for dogs, clothing stores for dogs, dog cemeteries, dog taxi services. You hear his ridicule clearly. OK, jeweled collars and such are ridiculous, but he simply has no idea what it is like to be a dog owner. He has nothing good to say. This is just one example of what I mean by opinionated writing. You begin to wonder to what extent other topics are presented in a balanced fashion.
Some sentences were beyond my comprehension. What is the author trying to say? Maybe the problem lies with me, but I didn’t always understand what the author was trying to get across. I didn’t think his explanation for the term bobos was adequate. There I turned to Wiki for clarification.
I hope you understand now why I gave this book only two stars.
If you choose to read the book, don’t listen to the audiobook narrated by Max Winter! (See below.)
I have listened to half:
Wow, the book definitely does improve once it starts talking about the people of Paris. What people? The booksellers along the Seine, the boat people, Modigliani, Coco Chanel and the French symbolist painter Gustave Moreau. I didn't know at all about Moreau and there is a wonderful museum just devoted to his artwork!
If I complain, I must also point out when a book improves. It certainly has.
I have listened to about 1/3 to 1/2 so far:
I am having serious trouble with this book.
The author throws around names, politicians and authors, but often they are mentioned over and over again. Balzac, Victor Hugo and Emile Zola are his favorite authors. It is like, look what I have read, what I know, where I have been.
MUCH is derogatory. So much whining.
Who is this book for? A weekend tourist? An expat living in Paris? Someone wanting the background story of Paris and its history? Or is the focus Paris today and modern trends? What is offered is a mix. Parts are walks don a particular street and what the author saw at number 258 or 161 or 352. This means nothing if you don't have a photo or don't have the street in front of you. These sections are for the weekend tourist.... perhaps.
BUT, a recent chapter read was about Les Halles, the old food market replaced by Forum des Halles, a huge subterranean shopping mall. You don't go to Paris to shop there. Does a weekend tourist want to know about this ugly, cold, sterile shopping mall filled with vacancies? Maybe all you need to know is NOT to go there. Sure, you go there if you have to find something particular, and then you get out. Then pages are spent on the numerous failed attempts to make improvements. (A new center is planned.) And....we are told how to spell shampoo and how it is pronounced! I don't quite see why that was thrown in.
There are some bits of interesting history, for example, Roman history, the origin of the city's name and about the ancient Cimetière des Innocents replaced by the Père Lachaise Cimetièr. But actually what I most liked was looking at images on Wiki of what you can see there.... Does the book have adequate photos? There are fantastic tombs to be seen. Again the weekend tourist is told where they can see that or that person's tomb. Maybe that is important for you.
Why do we have to be told how many trees and bushes are in this park or that park?
You don't get the feel of Paris AT ALL! The next essay is about the people of Paris. Will it cover only those of fame? Will we meet the people you would bump shoulders with on a stroll in Paris or sitting next to you on a park bench?
Make up your mind, Downie, who is this book written for?
For a short trip to Paris I would recommend an "Eye Witness Travel Guide". Full of pictures, great maps and helpful museum, hotel, restaurants and transport information. I swear by them.
AND for God's sake if you have decided to offer a book on Paris in an audio version get a narrator that knows French! My audiobook is narrated by Max Winter. He cannot pronounce boules. He cannot even decide how he will pronounce Medici; he tries several pronunciations.
I don't understand why there are so very many positive reviews for this book. Could this guy have so many GR friends?
I will continue, but my temper is running short. The next essay/chapter better be good. ...more
Is it the plot? It is about a music-hall dancer, Rénée Néré. She is thirty-three, a Parisian of Montmartre, aWhy in the world did I like this so much?
Is it the plot? It is about a music-hall dancer, Rénée Néré. She is thirty-three, a Parisian of Montmartre, a recent divorcée. She is burnt by marriage. She is determined and hardened, but honestly she is really just hurt. Hard on the surface and determined to survive. Will she choose to manage on her own or will she marry into an easy life of comfort and wealth…but what must she sacrifice then? What does she really want? We watch her path toward self-discovery.
The book is partially autobiographical, but it was first published in 1910, while the author, Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, died much later in 1954, so it can only be about her younger years. She was born 1873. Any peek at Wiki will tell you that the author married three times and had both scandalous lesbian and heterosexual relationships. When you read the book you don't know how she will choose. You watch, and I found it totally convincing. I think this is what I found so wonderful with the book.
What was life like at the turn of the 20th Century for the music-hall dancers of Paris? This is why I chose the book, but it turned out to be much more of a look at one woman’s choices. I am convinced she made the right choice for her, and that means I got to know who she was, not just any music-hall dancer.
Then there is the writing. First I found the writing florid, filled with words and phrases such as "whence" and "thou" and "his prompt docility" or "in a moment of exquisite bliss". Antiquated? Dated? I started with dislike but grew to marvel at how expertly the author depicted situations and places and emotions. By the end I thought it read as poetry. Does this also reflect the author’s passage toward becoming a writer? I usually like simple writing, and that is not what is delivered, but I certainly liked this. Another surprise.
The narration of the audiobbok by Johanna Ward was f-a-n-t-a-s-t-i-c!!!! It could not have been better. Perfect French and the tone perfectly matched Rénée/Colette. The story is told in the first person narrative so we are listening to Rénée words and thoughts. She must have sounded exactly so! Maybe the audio version further enhances the believability of the story told.
I don’t like short novels, but I really liked this! Both its exquisite writing and how it was so thoroughly convincing! You must know that Colette also wrote Gigi which became both a film and a stage production. ...more
When I began the book I loved it, but then it becomes confusing because it goes in all different directions. What is the real purpose of the book? AreWhen I began the book I loved it, but then it becomes confusing because it goes in all different directions. What is the real purpose of the book? Are we being given a holocaust story or are we being given a philosophical message on how one should live life? Or is it about the difficult job interpreters’ shoulder? Who is the book really about? The author or her grandparents? When I finished the book I was left with too many questions and incongruities. Also, even the telling of the known facts, after the author's extensive research, is confusing. Although it is important to live your life forward rather than dwelling in the past, if you spend hours following a person's life in a book it isn't enough to be told the past doesn't matter anyway. Maybe not for the author or as a philosophical question, but for the reader it does matter. When I stop and think of what I am told more and more questions arise. Here is one huge problem: It does not make sense to me that (view spoiler)[her grandmother who was a doctor and a psychologist to-boot, didn't bother staying with her husband to help him after the ordeal of the Nuremburg Trials. Neither does it make sense that we are told how her grandmother talks and talks and yet cannot simply say why she left her husband until years and years after the fact. This is not how her grandmother is drawn in the book! (hide spoiler)] And I must add that even before I began the book I was quite sure where the problem lay between the grandparents. It is all kind of obvious.
But let me tell you what I loved in the beginning. I was thoroughly intrigued by the two grandparents, both of them. Both were very different from each other. I loved how the grandmother expressed herself. The author too. I felt immediately that the grandfather was hurt, and I wanted to know why. However, as the details of what happened are untangled the theme becomes more a mystery to be solved than the interesting people themselves. It became more what happened than who they were. Back to the positive. I loved the description of provincial life and places in France. I could see the village in my mind's eye. All of this was genuinely described. It shows that the author knew what she was describing. I love French provincial life. It makes me all mushy and sentimental. I want to hop in a car and go there.
The author is herself an interpreter. She knows French as well as English and it was a delight to hear her speak..... as the French really do speak. Lovely French. (Don't worry; the French is also translated.) Few authors can read their own books as well as they can write them, but this author did an excellent job narrating her own book. She used one intonation for her grandmother, another for her grandfather and of course she tells her own story too. I felt that her closeness to her grandparents could be heard through the narration. It was very well done. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Don’t repeat my mistake. I chose this book because I thought it would give me a better understanding of Paul Gauguin’s life and inner thoughts. This iDon’t repeat my mistake. I chose this book because I thought it would give me a better understanding of Paul Gauguin’s life and inner thoughts. This is instead a book of fiction. Maugham creates a new story from a few of the well known facts about Paul Gauguin. Gauguin was a stockbroker who left his wife and family to paint. Maugham creates the fictional character Charles Strickland. He too is a stockbroker who leaves his family. Both go to Tahiti. Neither receives recognition for their artistic talent until after death. The differences are however so numerous that you cannot look at Strickland’s life and draw any conclusions about Gauguin’s motivations or thoughts. Here follow just a few of the differences: (view spoiler)[ 1. Gauguin was French, Strickland English. 2. Gauguin had five children with a Danish wife. Strickland two with an English wife. 3. Gauguin died of syphilis, Strickland of leprosy. 4. Gauguin was part of the art community in France, Strickland was on his own. Not a word is referred to Gauguin’s time with Van Gogh in Arles. (hide spoiler)]
Because of these differences you cannot draw any parallels. You cannot get inside the head of Gauguin through the character of Strickland. For this reason, the book cannot be classified as a book of historical fiction whose purpose is to teach you more about the artist Gauguin.
OK, what does the book offer? It looks at the motivation of an artist, any artist. What drives them? What motivates them? What pleasures and what sacrifices result from this creative urge? Except…. can you generalize to this extent? Isn’t it better to look at one specific person? The only person we have to follow is Strickland.
Strickland’s story/biography, which constitutes the story of this book, is told by an unnamed author who knew Strickland, his wife and his acquaintances. His story is told in episodic form employing a first-person narrative. However, the narrator himself points out that information is lacking and that some of his sources are unreliable. The unreliable evidence is not weeded out; all is related. By collecting information from different sources the retelling becomes both choppy and disconnected. Few of the characters in the side-stories are well developed. Dirk Stroeve and his wife were the exception. Only this diversional side-story drew me in. I adored Dirk, but then Strickland’s story goes on and that is the last we hear of Dirk. What are we given? A choppy, disconnected and incomplete story about a man who is in some ways similar to Gauguin. You cannot draw any conclusions from such a story.
Still, Maugham has a way with words. How he describes people, the dialogs, the humorous lines and his ability to capture how people behave, talk and interact - all of this is marvelous. It was the details of the story that I liked not how the story is constructed and laid out.
Steven Crossley narrates the audiobook. It is easy to follow. Fine in all respects.
And then there is the title: The Moon and Sixpence. It is fun to think about. What is Maugham saying? Wiki says: “According to some sources, the title, the meaning of which is not explicitly revealed in the book, was taken from a review of Of Human Bondage in which the novel's protagonist Philip Carey, is described as ‘so busy yearning for the moon that he never saw the sixpence at his feet.’ According to a 1956 letter from Maugham, ‘If you look on the ground in search of a sixpence, you don't look up, and so miss the moon.’ One can reason either way. They are not the same. But I would add the question: Do we choose, or is it our personality that decides? Could Gauguin be anything except who he was? I am back to Gauguin again because it is him that I am interested in, not Strickland! ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
This was good. It is for those readers/listeners who want a summary of the most important events in a musician’s life. This author has written books oThis was good. It is for those readers/listeners who want a summary of the most important events in a musician’s life. This author has written books on many musicians - Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn and Tchaikovsky to name but a few. Look at them all: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show.... What is delightful about these audiobooks is that you hear the music along with the events of the musicians’ lives.
OK, I chose Chopin (1810-1849) because I love his music, he was born outside Warsaw, spent much of his life in France, and of course his relationship with George Sand is intriguing. Chopin's entire life is covered. Not much is said about his youth, other than that he composed his first piece at the early age of seven! The music is played as it fits into the text. You get sonatas and mazurkas and polonaises. There are lots of quotes; in this way you get others' views on the musician. Chopin was not glorified; you get both the good and the bad. The author narrates the text but several other narrators speak the quotes. They are all talented. You should hear George Sand speak. You follow their ten year involvement, from the intense love relationship at the beginning, through the motherly stage (where Sand took to calling him “my son”) to the bitter end when they separate. The months in Majorca at Valdemosa, life at Nohant (outside Paris), life in Paris and London and Scotland - it is all here! The quotes are marvelous, and you hear through the narrator's voice and words how the relationship sours. Then follows his death from consumption, but even those years when he was sick Chopin continued to compose, give concerts and teach. You get history too. Historical events are not explained, but you see how these events affected Chopin’s life and those around him.
The audiobook is well produced, a good blend of fact and music and quotes. I learned what I need to know and got Chopin's music imprinted along with his life-story.
The story is short and concise, so perhaps these are not for those well-informed about classical music. For that you need a long book. ...more
Too complicated. Too unclear. It is pretty meaningless to say that life is totally subjective.
I like Boyd's language.... even in this book. I like howToo complicated. Too unclear. It is pretty meaningless to say that life is totally subjective.
I like Boyd's language.... even in this book. I like how he creates people that draw your interest and how he throws in history and details about literature and music and tons of other topics too. These details are fascinating. But a book is also the story that is being told and the message that is being conveyed. Both completely failed me in this book. You get a very complicated spy story that is impossible to solve; and maybe the point is you are not even supposed to try. The ending is totally dissatisfying. This has nothing to do with needing a tight ending.
Narration by Roger May is fine. In fact the conversations between French, German and English speaking people are quite amusing, wonderfully delivered....more
I really liked this book, so four stars it is. I wanted to read it because I have always agreed with Chanel's basic philosophy about clothes. When youI really liked this book, so four stars it is. I wanted to read it because I have always agreed with Chanel's basic philosophy about clothes. When you look at a person you should not see the clothes but rather the person. Clothes should not restrict you; they should be comfortable and let you live your life to the utmost. To achieve all this you need simplicity in design and materials that allows movement. My wardrobe consists of comfortable black stretchy shirts and pants, black shoes and the “little black dress”. That is all you need. You don't have to spend hours matching or planning or changing purses. With little effort and time you can get dressed, and still look neat. Traveling is easy, with just a few things to pack! So you see I wanted to know more about this woman. Also, she was French, and I personally love France. Finally, who doesn’t love Chanel No. 5?!
She was born in 1883 in Samur, France, and died in 1971 at the ripe old age of 87 years. She had a terrible childhood, please see below. What she makes of herself is .......admirable, but at what cost? She has a fascinating life, and she knew such fascinating people - artists, authors and politicians. Who should I name? Churchill and Dali and Colette and Picasso and so many others. All the fashion designers between the wars and after the Second World War. These designers were hard for me to keep track of; this is new territory for me. More importantly you learn how she shaped the modern woman, and you come to understand how her ideas were a result of the times she lived through. History and people they shape each other. History, both WW1 and WW2 are essential elements of this book. If historical events bore you, then do not read this book. It is detailed, both concerning history and fashion.
Chanel didn't write - neither diaries nor letters. However, the author has used previous biographies and letters written by others about Chanel, i.e. those who knew her. Chanel contradicted herself; she could say one thing one day and the opposite the next. So which is the truth? You can only see by studying all that is available. Chaney's research is thorough. She both questions what seems false and presents contradictory views. She counters one person's statement against others. I feel now, at the conclusion of this book, I DO understand who she was. I understand her fears, where they came from and how she combated those fears. She feared abandonment and loneliness. She sought to escape through work. Work brought her independence. As I read the book I occasionally questioned some of the author's views, but by the end when I saw all parts of her life and all the choices she made, and where she ends up, I agreed with the conclusions drawn by the author. I wanted to read this book to understand the woman Chanel. This book answered that for me, AND what a very interesting ride it was following this amazing woman.
She was buried in Switzerland, NOT France! Why? Did you know that some saw her as a German collaborator in WW2? Did you know that she had a German lover and he was a spy? You need to know more to understand, to decide for yourself why she did what she did.
I absolutely detested the narration of the audiobook (by Carole Boyd)! As usual, my star rating is based on the content of the written book, not the narration. I am not lowering the stars for the narration. I detest the dramatics with which the lines are read. Boyd plays with accents. Her French is impeccable - I am talking about the pronunciation of French words and names and places - but the tone she uses is highbrow and downright snobbish. Stuffy! The only accent I enjoyed was that she used for the American characters. Others may like that she uses different tones for different nationalities, but since most is in this fake French tone, it drove me absolutely crazy. I like narrators to just slowly and clearly read the text. I don't want to hear the voice but rather the content of the author’s lines. That is me, maybe you are different.
After three chapters: Oh, this is one of those books I have to immediately tell others about, AS I read the book. I will say it right out - I love France, more specifically Brittany. I am always blabbing about The Discovery of France: A Historical Geography from the Revolution to the First World War because it gives such a nuanced view of the land. It isn't one land and one people but many. Did you know that French people don't first of all see themselves as French but French of a particular region. Each region is so different. Money(in the past), language, foods, customs - all vary. You must ask, "Which area exactly are you speaking of?" Nothing is homogeneous about this country! Anyhow, my point is that this book about Chanel has all the ingredients of the named book and how it relates to the Chanel family, her paternal ancestors coming from Cévennes. The description of this area, the nature and the landscape is just so very beautiful. Then we told of the change from agrarian to urban life and industrialization. All is told as the background to the choices and decisions made by Gabrielle Chanel's paternal ancestors. You SEE how history shapes individual lives. This is exactly how I want history to be told, through its people. So...this is even better than Robb's book!
After the moving historical introduction the book moves on to her great grandfather, Joseph, and proceeds down to Gabrielle's own parents, Albert Chanel and Eugénie Jeanne Devolle, and herself and her four surviving siblings. Gabrielle was illegitimate; only later was her father coerced into marriage. Her mother dies when she is eleven. Her paternal aunts want nothing to do with her or her siblings, so the girls are pushed off into the cloister Aubazine. Her two brothers were sent to work as tenant farmers for their keep. Her father, well he never showed any interest and just disappeared, but no he probably didn't flee to America. Separated from her brothers, abandoned by her father, life in the cloister was stifling - a shock to a child who had always been on the move. Her father's occupation was an itinerant market trader. This is all very important if one is to understand why Chanel became who she was. Imagination and fantasy allowed her to escape reality. Stubbornness and protest were survival tools. This is all in only the first three chapters. I had to tell someone. I am loving this so MUCH! I hope I am not jinxing the book. Will it now go downhill?
No, I don't like the narration of the audiobook by Carole Boyd, She reads it too emotionally, but I knew I would have to ignore her reading style and focus on the author's words. Why can't narrators just read the lines in the book and and skip all the dramatics?! ...more
Three stars because I liked this book. It takes a while to get into. The beginning is a rapid summary of Charley's respectable, well-off, bourgeois EnThree stars because I liked this book. It takes a while to get into. The beginning is a rapid summary of Charley's respectable, well-off, bourgeois English family. Not snobbish, but proud of what they have attained. Intellectual and well-versed in the arts. His parents had raised Charley and his sister insuring that they had read what should be read, had viewed those paintings one should see and gone to concerts so they were well acquainted with the famous classical composers. All was in order. Charley would be working in the family real estate business. Art was to be enjoyed but not a source of income. The picture drawn is SO bourgeois. Life is comfortable, planned, happy. With all this settled Charley at 23 is off to a good start. The parents' reward is a one week trip to Paris over Christmas. Yes, probably a little fling with the girls, because isn't that perfectly normal?! It is part of being a man.
I will say this, without giving too much of a spoiler, Charley's world opens up on this trip to Paris. He learns of a whole new world. He meets Russian "Princess Olga", aka Lydia. He meets up with his old friend Simon, also 23. Socialist? Communist? Well, certainly not satisfied with the world as it is, and not Charley's staid world. Between the wars, when this book is set, there were many Russian immigrants. Second to Charley, this book is about Lydia and these Russian immigrants living in Paris. Lydia is fascinating. She has so much to teach Charley about art, music, love and life. The author is wonderfully knowledgeable in all these fields and so the book is quite a treasure trove of literary, musical and the visual arts. But what is also emphasized is the emotional response you have towards the arts.
The book has a clear message, a bit too blatantly proclaimed. Some sections could be shortened, for example when Simon is expounding his political views.
My audiobook was narrated by Ben Elliot. The Russian accent is not exaggerated. The French is well pronounced. Good speed. Easy to follow. Yep, a very good narration. ...more
2 stars MY REVIEW HAS BEEN REVISED AFTER COMPLETING THE BOOK
Reynolds' biography of Hemingway is more an analysis of what Hemingway has written than an2 stars MY REVIEW HAS BEEN REVISED AFTER COMPLETING THE BOOK
Reynolds' biography of Hemingway is more an analysis of what Hemingway has written than an examination of his inner soul. This book, the second in Reynold's series on Hemingway, covers only four years 1922-1926, predominantly set in Paris but also Spain, Italy,Turkey and Austria. In 1924 Hemingway began to receive acclaim. It covers his marriage to Hadley and his growing infatuation with Pauline, who will be his next wife. It covers the birth of his son. It covers his years as a reporter; he wrote both for The Toronto Star and for Hearst. He was in Turkey when the fire and catastrophe in Smyrna took place. As usual, he missed the real action but heard what others related. He observed and he listened. He was, as always, an observant listener. I found this coverage of historical event s more interesting than any other part of the book. Hemingway wanted to be a fiction writer, so that must be the main focus. The book covers primarily his friendship with those of the Lost Generation, those living in Paris in the 20s.
The main focus is what Hemingway wrote during this period. You have to be well aware of what he has written. A chapter can begin relating what one of his fictional characters is thinking or doing. This can be confusing; the reader must immediately recognize Hemingway’s fictional characters. This is further confused because the fictional characters are drawn from real ones. Just as Hemingway so often takes real events and fictionalizes them, so does this biography blend the two.
Being a literary analysis of his writing and his steps toward recognition, the book details the ins and outs of his writing and publishing contracts. Perhaps the book is best for those readers who are themselves budding authors, who are looking for guidelines on writing techniques. It shows what Hemingway learned from others.
The book is more a presentation of what Hemingway does than what he thinks. The reader observes his actions and the choices he makes. I still like Hemingway's writing but I do not admire him as a person. And none of this has to do with his despicable love of bullfighting. At least in the first book (The Young Hemingway) you are given an idea of why he was drawn to this barbaric practice. In the first book there is more discussion of what factors shaped Hemingway into the man he was. This second book focuses on how he became a writer. I like how Hemingway writes, but dissecting every paragraph, every line, every word in his books makes the Hemingway magic disappear.
I found neither Hemingway’s conversion to the Catholic faith or his changed feeling for Hadley well presented. I don’t understand how he was thinking, so neither can I empathize with him.
There is an awful lot of repetition within this second book AND from the previous book. The repetition is excessive. It quite simply drove me nuts.
You do learn a bit about Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas and Ezra Pound and F. Scott Fitzgerald and Sylvia Beach, known for her Paris bookstore/library Shakespeare and Company.
I will not be continuing this series. I do not like Reynold's focus or how he presents the facts. I get the impression he is trying to write with a style similar to Hemingway, only it fails. And the exceedingly rapid narration of the audiobook by Allen O'Reilly makes the reading experience even more unpleasant.
I have learned about Hemingway......I like him less. This is who he was. These are the things he did. These are the things he said. You can like an author's work but not the author himself! I am glad I know him better. With my increased awareness and dislike I remind myself that this book only covers four years of his entire life, but for now I have had enough of Hemingway!
There are numerous book descriptions here at GR. This says what you need to know:
"A sensational bestseller when it appeared in 1986, The Garden of EdThere are numerous book descriptions here at GR. This says what you need to know:
"A sensational bestseller when it appeared in 1986, The Garden of Eden is the last uncompleted novel of Ernest Hemingway, which he worked on intermittently from 1946 until his death in 1961. Set on the Côte d'Azur in the 1920s, it is the story of a young American writer, David Bourne, his glamorous wife, Catherine, and the dangerous, erotic game they play when they fall in love with the same woman...."
The book was uncompleted and was published posthumously. This is important to note. It does not read as a finished novel, even if it does contain some great lines. It is repetitive. The different threads are not drawn up properly. At the end, the message delivered is confused. It needs to be tightened up. Hemingway usually delivers a strong clear novel without numerous sidetracks, but not here.
There is subdued eroticism which is tantalizing in sections, but then this gets sidetracked into the power struggle in a couple's relationship, and on a higher level between men and women in general.
The narration by Patrick Wilson is perfectly acceptable....more
WOW, this is MUCH better than I thought in the beginning. There is romance from the beginning. How this was presented put me off; I didn't believe it.WOW, this is MUCH better than I thought in the beginning. There is romance from the beginning. How this was presented put me off; I didn't believe it. However, it was I who didn't understand properly, not in the beginning, but I do now. I didn't believe or understand the strength of the attraction between them. I know now who these people were - the hopes, aspirations, superstitions and fears of Pablo and Eva, his first "wife". On top of all this, the events themselves are gripping. Real life is more interesting, incredible and fantastic than any fiction an author can possibly dream up. The book is full of details about other famed artists, poets, dancers and the numerous expatriates gathered in Paris prior to and during WW1. This is the first book I have read mentioning Gertrude Stein and Alice Toklas that makes me feel I need to know more about the two. Why? Because it is the first book that makes me feel I know them on a personal level. They were close friends to Eva and Pablo.
Leslie Caroll is the narrator of the audiobook I listened to. I did not like the tone she used for Picasso and other Spanish expatriates in Paris. Otherwise I have no complaints.
Also, there are many lines worthy of quoting.
Excellent historical fiction because it sheds light on the characters' personalities. I believe the author's views of the protagonists. There is an author's note at the end that states the author's sources, goals and ambitions.
Right now I am loving this book. It is over. I am sad. Honestly, my eyes are all watered up. Is it worth five stars? ...more
For me this book was merely OK. That is not to say it doesn't have exceptional writing. You must like the style of writing to like the book. For me itFor me this book was merely OK. That is not to say it doesn't have exceptional writing. You must like the style of writing to like the book. For me it was too wordy. The language employed is descriptive. It is like looking through a magnifying glass where all the descriptive words make the enlargement. People, clothes, hairstyles, facial expressions, rooms, objects, relationships, behavior - all are described with meticulous exactitude. I admire the author's ability to do this, but it is hard to read. The writing is not lyrical. It is not poetic. Instead is delivered an exact, minutely correct image. Not just of things but of relationships too. Sometimes this mirror image is expressed humorously. Sometimes philosophically and sometimes it just drones on f-o-r-e-v-e-r. It then becomes tedious.
The story starts with an older man's meticulous analysis of his childhood world and emotions. You do not see the world through the child's eye but through the head of his older self. Then it shifts to Swann, a family friend and neighbor, an elderly man much older than the boy. Finally it switches back to the boy's life in Paris. I didn't feel the boy's thoughts corresponded to the thoughts of a child. Although the village Combray (see below) was perceptively described, Paris never came alive. It is the people not the place that is the focus. And here is the real problem, for me at least. I never came close to any of the characters. I observed them. There was always a distance between me and the characters. I was delivered a meticulously correct analytical review rather than a moving, emotional story. It is true, light through leaves or a river's edge or other descriptions of the landscapes became beautiful, magnificent images!
But the humor really saved this book for me. The dialogs will crack you up. Class is all important, but at the same time comments about class and social status are ironically scathing. I believe Proust meant for me to laugh. If you listen carefully you understand that. The words of Mme Verdurin and her soirée guests....well, you don't want to be classified as a bore.
What are the themes of the book? Memory and loss and relationships and betrayal. Remembrance - what is that? Regret for a particular moment that has passed. To feel that regret you have to be emotionally involved, and I never felt that emotional pull.
There is no history. Places are fictional. Art, music and literature are discussed, but not in a way that moved me. Here again, too much was fictional. I was not drawn in by any of the themes. Rather than pushing me to think I was told what the narrator thought through words, words and more words. Words heaped upon words. True - sometimes the images drawn WERE very beautiful.
I do believe that this book is easier to listen to than read. The never-ending sentences have to be impossible to follow. Good slow narration by Neville Jason.
After about 1/6 of the audiobook:
The whole feeling of the book changes and this comparison is no longer relevant. Maybe this is crazy but the aunts in this book remind me of Tant(Auntie) Grön(green), Tant Brun(bown) and Tant Gredelin(purple) in Elsa Beskow picture book stories. Look at the picture: https://www.google.se/search?q=elsa+b... See: Tant Grön, Tant Brun och Tant Gredelin. Then I checked to compare the birth and death of the two authors. Yep, both are describing village life at the same time period (the beginning of the 1900s), but in two different countries, France and Sweden.
It takes a while to get close to the family in Proust's fictional Combray. The book is based on his childhood experiences in Illiers, France, renamed Illiers-Combray in honor of the author. The time setting is the early 1900s.
There is humor; what the characters say has me smiling. I wasn't expecting humor! The antics of the aunts and uncles are amusing. The difference between what people say and what they really mean....well, this too makes me smile.
The writing employs stream of consciousness. But what is that? How one writer uses this technique is nothing like another's! This is not like Virginia Woolf! You follow one thought and get sidetracked and sidetracked time and time again. When the thoughts are those I can relate to, then I am not bored. Other times I am. Yes, the language is wordy, and yes, it almost feels cluttered at times, but the thoughts and ideas and perspectives are intriguing.
Boy can the author talk....for a good five minutes on the flowers of a Hawthorn bush!
I don't quite know how I will react as the book continues, but the further I get into the story the more interested I become.
The audiobook narration by Neville Jason is good, primarily because it is slow. You have to listen to every word. The French is perfect, and women sound like women and men like men.
I still do not understand why the book is called Swann's Way. Swann is just an acquaintance of the family. I have to find out. ...more