When I sit in front of the screen and don't know what to write, that is usually a three star book.
Look, I am glad I read it. I certainly did learn abWhen I sit in front of the screen and don't know what to write, that is usually a three star book.
Look, I am glad I read it. I certainly did learn about Winston Churchill. Not only him but also everyone in his family, that is to say grandparents, parents, kids, nieces and nephews, grandchildren and the spouses of all these. You have to also add on the grandparents and parents and kids of the spouses. We are talking a lot of people. Also friends, enemies, work associates. Well-known authors, journalists, presidents.... LOTS of people. It is kind of hard to keep track of everybody. We are talking about upper-class, high echelon figures, royalty and aristocrats. Maybe a few of all those named could have been pared down?
The book not only looks at these people’s personalities, their respective weaknesses and strengths, but also delivers a condensed history of all that Churchill did in his lifetime. He was of course prime minister during WW2, but also again in 1951. His aim was to make a mark on history, and he certainly did! There is a lot of history in the book, and this isn't really indicated in the title. But tell me, how do you write about Churchill and not talk history? It was kind of dry sometimes and a bit long-winded. I thought the language used could have been less convoluted, quite simply more clearly stated. In books like this I prefer clarity over elegance.
I think I understand who Churchill was on completing this book, not just what he did. It was fascinating to see the twisted relationships that developed within the family. Three of his four surviving children had difficult, troubled, unsuccessful lives. Alcohol, gambling, suicide, depression, illegitimate love affairs abound. His youngest daughter, the happy successful one, Mary Soames, I read about here: A Daughter's Tale: The Memoir of Winston and Clementine Churchill's Youngest Child, but it is written by her so Pearson's book offers another point of view. It is not possible to know for sure the cause of the problems that arose, but you do get a pretty good idea.
The narration by John Lee, was clear, but too fast. Churchill was an aristocrat through and through, and Lee makes him sound even more uppity. I guess it fits the text, but I did not like it. There is a peculiar lilt to how he reads the lines; this got on my nerves. ...more
First off, let me state that this is an audiobook where I feel the narration is the icing on the cake. It is extremely good. The intonations, the happFirst off, let me state that this is an audiobook where I feel the narration is the icing on the cake. It is extremely good. The intonations, the happiness and the sadness expressed match the words to a tee. French pronunciation is perfect, as well as English and American dialects. I really, really enjoyed the narration. Superb! A delight to listen to. Mary’s memoir is chatty, confidential, so it is not hard to follow in this format.
This is a book about Mary Soames, the youngest child of Winston Churchill. Winston and Clementine had four other children. One died soon after birth. The other three were not nearly as successful or happy. It is rather intriguing to think about this. I can come up with several reasons, but they remain conjectures. Alcoholism can be inherited and Winston certainly was a big drinker! Mary was also the last child, the baby of the family; she scarcely grew up with her siblings or her parents! The book shows this in spades. And then of course all children are different, even brothers and sisters! The book depicts in great detail Mary's childhood. This part of the book is delightful. Pets and trips and sports, wonderful teachers, a devoted nanny and one-to-one relationships with adults. Yes, she was cosseted! She was certainly privileged, but she never becomes haughty or takes others for granted. Meeting her, knowing her through this book, was a pleasure.
Mary is optimistic and cheerful. She has empathy and humor. The humor rolls of the lines. So of course it is a delight to read what she writes. Oh, all these verbs should maybe be in the past tense; she died in 2014. Her personality is reflected in the feeling of the book.
In her teens Mary began to become interested in politics. French and English literature drew her, and you learn of what she read and what was read to her as a child. At an older age she kept detailed diaries. The book follows the diary entries closely. Letters have also been included. What you follow in this book are what she saw and observed and thought of the world she grew up in, of the build up to the war and finally the war years. You see the numerous dignitaries through her eyes, meticulously and amusing recorded in her diary entries. Her diary was originally for her eyes alone, so what she writes is frank. You can’t help but laugh. Because she was sweet, this is a joy to read. She does state when others are grumpy or sour or behave badly, but never in a harsh accusing manner. It is said and you go on. I don't believe she is hiding or holding back unpleasant information. She WAS a happy, optimistic person, at least most of the time. She shows respect and empathy for others in times of difficulty, so her happiness doesn't seem frivolous or exaggerated.
The book covers her years during the war first with the WVS (Women's Volunteer Service) and then the ATS (Auxiliary Territorial Service) where she rose to the rank of captain in an anti-aircraft battery unit. There is a lot of flirting and partying too, but what you see is the life of women volunteers in the war, even if it is clear she was on occasion given special treatment due to the position of her father. The book ends after Winston Churchill lost the election in 1945 at the conclusion of the war. Soon thereafter she meets and marries her husband. The central focus remains her youth and the war years.
Mary was very close to her father. Through this close relationship you learn about her father too, but mostly you learn about Mary. You don't read this book to learn history. The history is there but only to the extent that she was involved, the people she met, her battery job and the support she gave her father.
This book explores Japan’s involvement in World War II. It focuses upon the Pacific theater and upon battles, the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki anThis book explores Japan’s involvement in World War II. It focuses upon the Pacific theater and upon battles, the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and finally it explains in detail why it took so long for the Japanese to surrender. All related to the Japanese involvement is covered in detail. It is not hard to follow because it written in a narrative voice projecting the views thoughts and words of those who fought, both Americans and Japanese. What is difficult is the slaughter. Slaughter on both sides, mind you. I felt it was balanced, neither pro-Western nor pro-Eastern.
Keep in mind - that I should be able to read a book from start to finish that so closely follows battle after battle is pretty darn amazing. This is proof that it somehow was able to keep my attention. It was clear even to me, someone who shies away from books focused upon military battles and thus scarcely knows military terms. You follow - in detail - Pearl Harbor, the Bataan Death March, the fall of Singapore, Midway, Guadalcanal, Saipan, the Battles of Leyte Gulf, Okinawa, and Iwo Jima. Other battles too, but those named are covered in great detail. You learn the Pacific Islands.
If you listen to the audiobook you must dig up your own maps, but that is really no problem. It would have been nice if a word or two were added about the location of the particular islands. When it gets to the Battles of Leyte Gulf there are so many islands and so many fleets that I went to Wiki to get the movements on paper!
The reason why you can follow these battles is that the soldiers speak, and joke and talk to the reader. Some change their mind; you follow their thoughts. I did wonder sometimes how in the world the author got this information. This is supposedly non-fiction..... Letters? Survivors' stories afterwards? This is not explained in an afterword or introduction. Maybe the printed book has notes? Harakiri, now this is exemplified many, many times in the text. This is a concept difficult to understand for Westerners. You need umpteen examples of particular individuals and situations to begin to understand the shame coupled with defeat in Eastern mentality. I understand better, but not completely.
I am very glad I chose this book. Well worth the time and effort invested. I personally think it is a book better read on paper than listened to. There are so many names and details to absorb. Maybe you are fluent in Japanese names, but I am not. My audiobook was narrated by Tom Weiner. Even if he does a good job, I would have preferred a snail's pace.
What did I like best? Maybe learning why it took so long for Japan to surrender. What do I think on closing the book? There should be strong controls on the military. Mistakes were made on both sides. On every side and by all parts.
I learned a lot.
One more thing. The author’s wife is Japanese and the book received the Pulitzer Prize for general non-fiction in 1971. ...more
Having so loved the novel Whose Names Are Unknown I simply had to continue with the author's childhood autobiography. Her own experiences are the basiHaving so loved the novel Whose Names Are Unknown I simply had to continue with the author's childhood autobiography. Her own experiences are the basis for what she wrote in both the novel and this novelistic memoir. Reading both is not repetitive, except for one chapter. The time periods covered are different. Very different stories are told
I loved this one even more, simply because it does NOT follow the so often told tale of the dust-bowl era and migrant workers in California. Others have written of this, as she did in Whose Names Are Unknown. It is in theme similar to Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. What is here in this book feels one of a kind. Similar to and maybe even better than Willa Cather's My Antonia, another fantastic read. If you enjoyed that, you will certainly love this. This novelistic memoir covers her years from seven to twelve. It is written as a novel with dialog. Her sister, Dorothy, is called Marcy in the book. Here we get the author’s childhood years growing up on the Great Plains, on the prairie in Eastern Colorado and later in Kansas when her family moves eastward so that she and her sister could go to school. We are told this through her perspective. We see prairie life thorough a child’s eyes....and she loves the prairie. She feels at home with nature and animals. There is a bit of fantasy, she sees the ghost of a horse. I am left feeling that what she saw and experienced could have happened. Who am I to say her experience is false simply because I have never seen ghosts, let alone animal ghosts. It is all so perfectly told.
The writing - I love the writing. I like it as much as Cather's. I like it as much as Steinbeck's. Each writer is different and no two others can really be compared but there are similarities. Sanora Babb’s writing is gorgeous, lyrical, beautiful. Depictions of places and landscapes, relationships and emotions..... blue skies, the feel of air on your skin or the dark night sky of the prairie. You should read this book just to experience the writing.
I felt the relationships between the family members were expertly depicted, not described but instead seen by how they each behaved. The relationship between Sanora’s father and paternal grandfather was so honest, so pitch perfect with both conflict and love. It felt so real. Her mother and her sister were different in personality; each became for me a different identity.
Animals and nature are central to this book. Intuitively, even as a young child, the author felt at home there on the Great Plains. Horses and dogs and coyotes. Sanora's grandfather taught her so much. Not only about animals but also how to read - from his one book on Kit Carson and the newspapers plastered on the wall of their dug-out. Yes, that is where they lived, a groped out hole in the ground with the window at the level of the ground ….and the bugs. The rat. The scorpion. No well. A blizzard - five people living in a hole for days. No light. Let me just say this, the story is well told.
The book ends with an Afterword that quickly skims her years as a journalist, writer, teacher and working with the migrant workers in California in the 30s. It is amazing what she has done with her life, and it is amazing that it has taken so long for her writing to be acknowledged as it should have been years and years ago.
The audiobook narrator, Alyssa Bresnahan, is the same as in her other book. It is equally well read. Slowly and with feeling.
I cannot give this book anything but five stars. ...more
I have long wanted to read a book on Charlie Chaplin (1889-1977). I had discovered that there was a lot more to this man than I had previously known.I have long wanted to read a book on Charlie Chaplin (1889-1977). I had discovered that there was a lot more to this man than I had previously known. I knew only that he was a very funny English pantomime actor famed for his slapstick humor of the silent film era. He was the "Little Tramp", with his sparkling blue eyes, and little black hat perched upon his tousled mane of dark curly hair. But who was this man?
I did not know he directed, produced, edited, and even wrote the music for the films in which he starred! More than 80 films. He was a worldwide icon, and he consistently got his message across without words. When the silent film era concluded he went into sound films. One can say perhaps with less and less success. And what a love life! Mistresses and four wives. Wives very much younger than himself. Quite a scandal for those times. His last wife was 36 years his junior. You must have heard of Oona O’Neill, Eugene O’Neill’s daughter, earlier involved with the young and not yet acclaimed J.D. Salinger! With Oona, Charlie had eight more children beyond the two from an earlier marriage. Sex is not explicitly described in this book but some readers may be upset by Chaplin’s sexual appetite.
There is more, the poverty and hardships of his childhood including an alcoholic and absentee father, life in workhouses and orphanages, a mother committed to an insane asylum. His experiences as a street urchin, his move to the States and all his years in the film industry. The McCarthy Era and why he moved to Switzerland. The book follows through to his death in 1977.
In a biography I want the facts, the good and the bad, and this book delivers. Not just comedy, but also controversy and scandal surround Charlie Chaplin. On completion of the book you have a rounded, balanced idea of Charlie’s personality, the events of his life, the times he lived through and a detailed description of very many of his films. I am totally satisfied with this book.
The narration of the audiobook by Ralph Lister was easy to follow. I have no complaints whatsoever on this account. ...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
Wow, I really loved this book. All the way through, except for the very beginning, which now in retrospect I think was good, I was going to give the bWow, I really loved this book. All the way through, except for the very beginning, which now in retrospect I think was good, I was going to give the book four stars. By the end, I realized I had come to know Sophia so very well and I liked her so very much that I simply had to give the book five stars. I was happy that the author focused on Princess Sophia Alexandra Duleep Singh (1876 – 1948), even though any of the siblings could have been the focus of a book.
I will have to backtrack. I like Sophia as an ordinary person. She had humility and she never sold herself. She could have disappeared into history had the author not written this book. She may have been a princess, but that is not why I grew to like her so very much.
You pronounce Sophia, not in the ordinary fashion. Say "so" then "f" then "eye". The accent is on the last syllable.
The book starts with a brief history of the Punjab region (which comprises today vast areas of northern India and eastern Pakistan) and how Sikhism came to be. Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus lived together in peace. This introduction is brief, and it gives a good background to what follows. It needs to be included, even if it is dry and difficult to absorb.
Then the real story begins with Sophia's famed grandfather, who was King of the Punjab, proceeds to discuss her deposed father and mother and finally focuses on Sophia and her surviving five siblings who grew up at the estate Elveden in Suffolk. Here her father recreated a Moghul palace with gardens, leopards, monkeys and exotic birds! Queen Victoria was godmother to both Sophia and her oldest brother Victor. The fabled Koh-I-Noor diamond was in fact her family's. The first half of the book follows all of the siblings, not just Sophia, so the title is a bit deceptive. An important woman suffragette, a lover of dogs, a caring woman. Her oldest sister Bamba consistently bristled with antagonism. Catherine, the next oldest, settled herself with a female lover in Germany and never saw eye-to-eye over Sophia’s menagerie of dogs. Even if all three sisters and the brothers, Victor and Freddie and Eddie, were as different as siblings can be, they loved each other. You felt this. You see them spar against each other, grumble and joke. They are family, with all that implies. There are half-sisters too! You follow this entire family. At the same looking you watch India’s path toward independence seen from the Indian perspective. You see the role Indian soldiers played in the First World War. I have read many books on this war, but never from this angle. I have read about suffragettes, but never in such detail. You stop and wonder where you would stand. I wasn’t aware of the virulence involved - arson, the stoning of windows the refusal to pay taxes, and the ways in which the women supported each other. Hunger strikes and forced feedings. All of this is not only terribly interesting but also movingly told. History is told from the perspective of Sophia and her siblings. Each of the siblings reacted in their own way. Totally fascinating.
Sophia’s letters are gone, but the author has found people who lived with her during the Second World War, evacuees and children and the housemaid. What they have to say is revealing. The book covers the entire lives of all the family members.
The audiobook narration by Tania Rodrigues was superb. The accent was British, utterly delightful and easy to follow. I did have trouble with the Indian names, but this never became a problem. The written book and the narration both get five stars.
I want people to read this book. It is the kind of biography that I love because it gets you so close to the people/person described, particularly Sophia. It also teaches history through one person's life. That is how I want history to be taught. ...more