This is fiction, you guys! It is written in "the guise of tape-recorded recollections of a woman born as a slave in the 1850s." This line is taken dirThis is fiction, you guys! It is written in "the guise of tape-recorded recollections of a woman born as a slave in the 1850s." This line is taken directly from the book.
The book description here at GR goes on to say:
"In this woman Ernest Gaines has created a legendary figure, a woman equipped to stand beside William Faulkner's Dilsey in The Sound And The Fury."
There is one huge difference. Faulkner's writing skills are so very much better than Gaines'. The two are incomparable. Even if Faulkner purposefully confuses the reader, which annoyed me to no end, one cannot help but marvel at his creative ability and beautifully descriptive lines. Gaines writing is simplistic. There is no lyricism here.
The story told is that of one the black woman in America. It does not in detail cover the history of all Blacks in America. Such cannot be found in a fictional book of this length. It covers a very small portion of the Cvil War, the Restoration and the Civil Rights Movement. It takes a turn at the end toward religious proselyting. This did not work for me at all.
The audiobook narration by Lynne Thigpenn was fine. Good speed and clear dialogs. The Southern dialect was not hard to follow.
I wanted more historical content, better writing and more in-depth character analysis. Large swaths of time are covered summarily; other sections dragged out tediously. ...more
This book is based on the author's paternal grandfather. The following is to be found on the author's web site:
The Book of Harlan was inspired by theThis book is based on the author's paternal grandfather. The following is to be found on the author's web site:
The Book of Harlan was inspired by the life of my paternal grandfather; Harold Isaac McFadden (pictured on the cover).
I never personally knew the man and neither did my father. All I had to recreate his life were a birth certificate, census schedules, a few newspaper articles and my imagination.
In many ways, this book is the culmination of twenty years of family history research.
From this information I cannot determine which of the events in the story are fictional and which are factual. There is no author's note at the end of the audiobook offering further clarification.
The end of the book takes an unexpected turn, which of course can be captivating in a book of fiction. Yet this book is supposed to be based on the author’s grandfather, making it important to differentiate fact from fiction. For me too many events were improbable, too coincidental! In the book Harlan is sent to Buchenwald and there he comes in contact with Ilse Koch, the wife of Karl-Otto Koch, the first commandant of Buchenwald. Both husband and wife were convicted Nazi war criminals and their fate is to be found in history books. In this book the author fabricates history when Ilse is said (view spoiler)[to be living in New York, disguised as a man and killed by Harlan (hide spoiler)]! Playing with historical events in this manner is unacceptable to me.
Even before the dramatic ending, I struggled. I wasn’t convinced the story could be true. My only explanation was then that fact can be more surprising than fiction, but now having completed the book and having seen how the author altered historical events I believe nothing! I am only left with questions.
The audiobook narration by Robin Miles was very good. Her narrations are always exemplary. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Rating this is simple. I know I really liked it, so four stars! Figuring out why I liked it so much is the hard part.….but not really. It is because tRating this is simple. I know I really liked it, so four stars! Figuring out why I liked it so much is the hard part.….but not really. It is because the book displays in-depth character analysis. This appeals to me. There is a lot to think about in terms of how people (lovers and spouses and friends and siblings) relate to each other.
The central theme of this book is the relationship between painter Vanessa Bell and her sister, the famed author Virginia Woolf, two central figures of the Bloomsbury Group. In 1905, when the book begins, Vanessa and her brother Thoby began the "Thursday Evenings" followed by the "Friday Club" meetings. These became the basis for the Bloomsbury Group. I must repeat, the book focuses on personal relationships. Primarily that between the sisters, but also with their brothers, Adrian and Thoby Stephen, and other members of the group - Lytton Stachey, E. M. Forster, Clive Bell, Roger Fry, Desmond MacCarthy, Duncan Grant and Leonard Woolf. There is a bit about young John Maynard Keynes too, another important member. The book is less about the achievements of the Bloomsbury Group than about the relationships that existed between its members. This is important to understand when choosing to read the book or not. The book concludes in 1912 with Virginia's marriage to Leonard Woolf. Only a short period, eight years, is covered.
This book is historical fiction. There are zillions of non-fiction books detailing the specific achievements of the group's members. What this book does is draw the internal landscapes of the characters. Their emotions and thoughts. The author thoroughly convinced me that she understood these individuals and portrayed their internal thoughts and emotions genuinely.
There is an afterword that briefly explains what happened to the characters after 1912. It also states that the author has followed the historical template. That which is fictional is clearly specified. The book is told through Vanessa's diary entries, and other assorted letters, postcards and telegrams. Vanessa never kept a diary, and thus the lines are fictional. The essential is that these lines while being fictional are based on solid research. I am thoroughly convinced that the author has captured the internal landscape accurately. The lines feel true and they offer food for thought to an inquisitive reader. I like this book because of the fictional lines. I like the book because at the same time the author has not distorted the facts. She made one minor change and that is clearly specified.
The audiobook narration is very good too. There are four different narrators. It is the author of the letter, diary entry, postcard or telegram that determines who narrates that part of the audibook. Emilia Fox is the main narrator; she reads Vanessa's entries. She does a superb job. Clare Corbett reads Virginia's entries; her narration is fine but nothing special. Julian Rhind-Tutt reads Lytton Strachey's entries. Daniel Pirrie reads Leonard Woolf's, Saxon Sydney-Turner's and Clive Bell's entries. Anthony Calf reads Roger Fry's, Thoby Stephen's and Desmond MacCarthy's entries. All of the male roles were very well read. You easily understand who is speaking; you hear the voice and are given pertinent details that clarify the origin of the correspondence.
I learned a lot about both Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf. Both are fascinating individuals and artists. I prefer this book over The Hours. I feel you get a deeper understanding of Virginia, of her quirkiness, of her talents, her intelligence and her illness and finally of her ever so important relationship with Vanessa. ...more
After 62% / 85% 100%: I am too stubborn to quit, but I am not enjoying this. Not because it is dark, but because it offers only snapshots, brief glimpsAfter 62% / 85% 100%: I am too stubborn to quit, but I am not enjoying this. Not because it is dark, but because it offers only snapshots, brief glimpses of events and people.
This book is not for a reader who wants focus upon character portrayal. You start with two stepsisters. It is not about them, but about their many, many descendants. You get short glimpses, a patchwork of many, not an in-depth understanding of any. Confusing if you try to keep track in your head of the familial relationship of the long string of characters, generation after generation and on different continents. The story doesn't flow clearly from one descendant to the next; it jumps in time and place, from the African Gold Coast (present day Ghana) to the US. A chapter in Africa followed by a chapter in the US, and so on. I found the African names difficult to distinguish, particularly in the beginning. The story starts in the middle 1700s and progresses forward in time by means of jerks and backtracks. You leave a character. When you next meet the character again it can be decades later. Then you backtrack to fill in what has occurred in the interim. Sometimes they even go by a different name. I find this disjointed. With other characters having been followed in-between, it is easy to become confused. It is true; the end ties up neatly.
I have lost count of the number of characters. This is a relatively short book. With so many characters you can easily calculate you are not going to get much about any one.
The language is simple, matter of fact, basic. No nuance. No beauty of expression. Little description, rarely an adjective. Flat. The story is told rather than shown. Occasionally I have hit upon a line that I do appreciate: "No one will forget they have been captive even if they are now free."
Well I finished it. The ending? Symbolism galore and too (view spoiler)[cute (hide spoiler)] for me! The story ends at the turn of the 21st century.
The narration by Dominic Hoffman is very well done. The steady clear intonation fits well the lines and the language of the book.
This is less a story about a family than about the travails of black people over the centuries and on different lands. It is the history of a people abused for centuries.
I discovered after finishing that the audiobook is accompanied by a PDF file with the family tree. I wish I had discovered this at the start! ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
-stunning writing that stretches how you see the world around you. It gets you thinkWow, how to best describe his book?!
This book is special. It has:
-stunning writing that stretches how you see the world around you. It gets you thinking in new ways, comparing Eastern versus Western modes of reasoning.
-exciting events. I thought the book was going to end and then realized there were three hours left. There was much more to what had happened than I had realized! I came to understand I needed to know much more.
-the feel, it captures the atmosphere, of Istanbul in the 1500s. A world that I don't know but which felt real, intriguing and filled with magic. Magical in other words.
You end up with a delightful mix of fact and fiction. There is an author’s note at the end that specifies how and why the author has changed some of the historical facts. You are delivered an engaging story that captivates, intrigues and informs.
The audiobook read by Grant Cartwright is very good. Easy to follow and not over-dramatized. The performance is low-key, which I found perfect since the events in this way speak for themselves.
First of all let me state, I preferred Main Street. This was a disappointment even if it started out good.
I do like the clever lines filled with sardFirst of all let me state, I preferred Main Street. This was a disappointment even if it started out good.
I do like the clever lines filled with sardonic humor, but they wore thin after a while. You must listen carefully or you may not catch the implied criticism.
The book is too long, and it is repetitive. A message is delivered, but that message is said over and over again. The central focus is upon those in the medical profession. The author is stating that many are (view spoiler)[more interested in fame and fortune (hide spoiler)] than in either caring for their patient or, if they have chosen to do research, their quest for new knowledge. It is a question of where their heart lies. That is it; that is the message which is drilled in over and over again. One cutting remark is amusing, a few makes the author’s point clear, but over and over again it just becomes boring.
Martin Arowsmith wavers; he doesn't know where his real interest lies. Practitioner or research scientist? That is what he must decide. And the end? Well, I am certainly not going to tell you what he decides, but it takes him forever to figure out where his true interest lies.
I am one who wants realism. Most people do make compromises. We have ideals but rarely do we follow them absolutely through to the end. I felt the book portrayed characters as caricatures, too much as black versus white, good versus bad. I felt the book pushed the central question to an extreme.
The narration by John McDonough was superb. Perfect speed. You hear the humor. A total pleasure to listen to; it is not his fault I didn't appreciate the book's content.
It is interesting to note that Sinclair Lewis' parents and grandparents werephysicians.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
What makes this novel is the writing. The lines. What one character says to the other. The description of places. All this creates an atmosphere of aWhat makes this novel is the writing. The lines. What one character says to the other. The description of places. All this creates an atmosphere of a frightening time and place.
I dare you to read this novel and not empathize with the characters. You feel you are in an insane asylum in the early 1900s on the English Yorkshire moors. Frightening. Creepy. The building is astonishingly beautiful, but what happens there is horrific. Who really are the crazy ones? The inmates? The guards? The doctor? The superintendent? You must judge. There is another frightening element; in 1911 when the book takes place, eugenics was widely accepted. It was supported by the likes of British Home Secretary Winston Churchill, by George Bernard Shaw, by Josiah Wedgewood, by Major Leonard Darwin. That's right, the son of the English naturalist Charles Darwin! Churchill was in support of a bill to protect future generations through forced sterilization of the "feeble-minded". The Mental Deficiency Act was passed in 1913, but after alteration. Forced sterilizations were not allowed yet registration and segregation of the mentally defective were.
The asylum did exist, but the name is changed in the novel. The Menston Asylum opened in 1888 as the West Riding Pauper Lunatic Asylum. The author dedicated the book to her great-great-great grandfather, an inmate there. Later it became known as the High Royds Hospital. Take a peek: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_Ro...
This is a gripping read, a frightening read because you come to understand how those who supported eugenics thought. It is frightening because you realize how ambiguous the definition of the insane is.
There are events in the novel that I wondered at. How could this have been allowed? Pure stupidity to allow a tug-of- war between attendants and patients. Isn't that going to lead to trouble? Isn't it insane to completely separate the women and the men and then one day a week allowing them to dance? Again you question, who really are the insane?!
The audiobook narration by Daniel Weyman was superb. Without a doubt five stars for the narration. You easily distinguish between the women and men. The Irish dialect is perfect You perceive when sanity becomes insanity. Perfect speed. ...more
This is a book about a fictional character who lived in Brittany, France, at the time of the French Revolution. It is a plot oriented tale. The centraThis is a book about a fictional character who lived in Brittany, France, at the time of the French Revolution. It is a plot oriented tale. The central character, André-Louis Moreau, is educated as a lawyer. He is of the aristocracy. A close friend is killed and Moreau wants retribution. He has a gift for words, which gets him into trouble and then he must hide. We watch his path as buffoon in a troupe of traveling actors to becoming a fencing-master, a politician and a revolutionary. We watch his path from cynicism to idealism.
What is delivered is an adventure story with a dash of love thrown in. There is a mystery to be solved - who are his parents? I guessed this right from the start.
You shouldn't expect to learn about the French Revolution from this book even if Danton, Robespierre and Mirabeau do figure in the story. You learn perhaps a bit of the conflict between the aristocracy and the bourgeoisie in Brittany at the end of the 1700s.
You watch. The characters are as if in a play. The story is told. A little humor is thrown in. I have to acknowledge that even if I didn't give a hoot what happened to Moreau he is articulate. The writing is wordy.
The audiobook is narrated by Robert Whitfield / Simon Vance. He is easy to follow and the speed is fine, but I don't like the shrill intonations used for women.