This is not merely a biography or description of a special time and place (the Cotswolds the years after the First World War), it is prose poetry. It This is not merely a biography or description of a special time and place (the Cotswolds the years after the First World War), it is prose poetry. It is the lyrical fashion in which it is written that is its outstanding element. The story unfolds not chronologically but rather by theme. There is a chapter on summer and winter. A chapter on festivals. A chapter on school. A chapter on sexual awakening. A chapter entitled "The Kitchen" which is the center of a home, and here we hear of his family, his mother and father and half-sisters, half-brothers and brothers. His father departed at the age of three. His mother waited for years and years and years for his father's return. She waited and waited, raising the kids from both his marriages, until his father's death made clear he was never to return. Laurie Lee's mother and his half-sisters shaped what was to be “his home". The essence of "home" is not just described but felt. His mother's essence is not just described but felt too. You leave the memoir knowing well not just Laurie Lee but his mother and his sisters too. You leave the memoir feeling the passage of the old Cotswolds into the new. Horses replaced by cars, songs and tales by candlelight in the evening to the wireless. Life in the village to life out there in the beyond. The girls married and gone. The absence of pigs. Laurie Lee draws contrasts vividly - then and now, summer and winter, quiet and bustle, presence and absence.
Laurie Lee narrates this, his own book. His voice quavers, but it is full of emotion. I went from disliking it in the beginning to thinking it was perfect by the book's end. In the middle I disassociated myself from what I was hearing by repeating the magnificent lines in my head. Then my need to do this suddenly stopped; I began to love the narration.
What makes this book special is the writing. Beautiful language that is both expressive and reflective.
The central theme is loss. How does one deal wiWhat makes this book special is the writing. Beautiful language that is both expressive and reflective.
The central theme is loss. How does one deal with that? Loss can be a result of death, but it need not be. It can simply be life moving on, circumstances changing, children growing up and the loosening of bonds.
Magic is woven into the telling, but with a beautiful touch. You see the magic as fits you; if you prefer to see life in realistic terms that is how you will see the story, but if you enjoy the magic of legends the story may be interpreted through that lens instead. That the author allows both interpretations in one telling adds a creative touch. Clearly, this is a talented author.
Island life and nature are beautifully and accurately described.
The book will bring tears to your eyes. It will move you. The writing is all about human relations and emotions, about what we say and cannot say, about what we feel deep inside.
Here follow a few lines to exemplify the writing:
About loss: "No one has lost precisely what you have lost. Not exactly. We are in it alone." and "You don't mend fully, but you mend enough, in time." and "Letting go is not a choice. It happens."
About love: "Nathan, who makes him (Tom) wear socks on splintery floors.
About nature: "It is a dandelion day."
About people: "It is how people walk when they have something to say."
The audiobook is narrated by Maggie Mash. She reads slowly, which is important, allowing the listener time to ponder the reflective lines. Her intonations fit well the different characters - masculine, feminine, elderly and young. There is a large portion of first person narrative spoken by the character Maggie. This too is well intoned. Very good narration in fact.
I gave the author's book Corrag five stars. In both it is the language that shines. This author draws a time and place beautifully. In Corrag the setting is centuries ago. In this book it is contemporary, but on an island. Susan Fletcher has a tremendous talent for capturing natural settings; I strongly recommend her to those of you who appreciate nature! ...more
This book does two things. It covers the biographies of eight generations of women in the author's family as well as offering a close study of the freThis book does two things. It covers the biographies of eight generations of women in the author's family as well as offering a close study of the frequently fraught mother- daughter relationship all women recognize. It starts with the mother of the author's great-great-grandmother, who was born in 1830. It concludes with the author's own granddaughter born in the second decade of the 21st Century. By studying these women what do we learn? Mistakes are repeated. To some extent the author is writing this book to help her understand her own behavior and to stop making the same mistakes! Secondly she is writing simply because her family has always written about themselves. Writing is a family trait. Many of Vita Sackville-West’s novels are in fact about herself and her family. Hopefully readers too will learn from what the author has learned.
Mistakes are often repeated from one generation to the next. I have noticed this, and haven’t you? The author is very honest; she recognized that she was repeating the very same mistakes made by previous women in her family. Every woman reading this account will recognize that we do tend to repeat the same errors. So how do we stop this? Through understanding and a conscious decision to shape our own lives as we want them to be. This is not a self-help book, but it does offer food for thought. What starts as an interesting study of particular women moves on to become a psychological study of relationships.
There is much about the Sackville-West family and Vita Sackville-West in particular. The author is an historian, but history is not the focus of the book. Historical events are thrown in as a backdrop, only mentioned to the extent with which they influence family life. Historical details are dispersed as interesting tidbits that help explain the era and why particular choices were made. Authors, literature and trends are detailed; these are important since they draw the atmosphere of the time and place. Clothes and food and particularly place play a prominent role in these women's lives. Much is said about the Sackville-West residencies. Places and life in France, in Spain and in NYC are well described.
I must point out the writing is good, both in its description of places and how people behave. In expression of thoughts too. Just two examples:
-Grief, such a small word, and yet an iceberg of a word....Grief is the price you pay for love.
-Within dying there is so much living.
The book gets better the further you go. Why? Because it gets more personal. The author speaks from her heart. She had a deep relationship with her grandmother, Vita Sackville-West; she had a difficult relationship with her mother, a close relationship with her father and when she herself has a granddaughter she has begun a path toward deeper self-understanding. With this understanding comes appreciation of the granddaughter held in her arms. I am left feeling a bit envious, a little bit jealous. Me? I don’t have all my answers. Family relationships are difficult, quite simply because they are so important. Nobody can teach you how to deal with vulnerability, and aren't most of us unsure, vulnerable and uncertain of ourselves? Also, there isn't one answer; you have to find it for yourself, but we can read to see how others reason.
It is not hard to keep track of who is who. Each person becomes a real identity. There aren't too many extraneous people to confuse the reader.
Alcoholism, feminism, lesbianism and aging are covered too. Some of the ideas drawn by the author stopped too short, or rather they didn’t cover ideas I have pondered. For example, I wanted more about how it feels when both your parents have passed away. Of course maybe the author’s thoughts were simply different from mine.
I enjoyed the audiobook narration by Julie Teal. For the most part, it’s easy to follow, but sometimes there is so much to consider. Then I did wish it had been a teeny bit slower. I had to have time to think. I was forced to rewind on several occasions.
So good writing, food for thought and interesting people, but it takes a while to be drawn in. I recommend it to those interested in the Sackville-West family and those interested in thinking about their own mother-daughter relationships. I made that plural on purpose! We all have a mother and many of us have a daughter too.
What do I do? I am worrying about my rating of A Death in the Family. I was uncomfortable with all the stuff about religion in the book. This and theWhat do I do? I am worrying about my rating of A Death in the Family. I was uncomfortable with all the stuff about religion in the book. This and the funeral at the end were difficult for me to bear. I am altering the rating to four. The rating reflects my personal preferences.
I have chosen to give this book five stars because it so very accurately portrays death in a Southern family. It has in-depth character portrayals and excellent writing. I didn't enjoy reading the book. I was glad when it was over, but the reality it depicts is so pitch-perfect that I was utterly amazed. It is for this reason the book is amazing. This is why I am giving it five stars.
The book is autobiographical. Rufus, a young boy that loses his father to death in a car accident, is one of the central protagonists of the novel. It is a rewriting of the author’s own experience. In fact the author’s middle name is Rufus! It is set in the South, Knoxville, Tennessee. Discrimination of the colored and the poor play in. The importance of religious faith too. The book is about a father's death and how this impacts on the lives of his children, his wife and every single member of the family. The children's relationships to each other and to their classmates are superbly depicted - through dialog and behavior. The widow is a devote Catholic. Her father is not. We watch a skeptic and a faithful interact. Others waiver in their religious beliefs. We observe how each behaves and what they say. There are kind figures and there are cruel figures. The brother of the man who dies is a drunk. We watch how he behaves too. His words are perfect even if they make you cringe. Every single one of this diverse group of individuals, young and old, those with and those without faith, those who are good-for-nothings and those who are moral and upright and strong are convincingly and accurately drawn. Tremendous lines. Humor and grief. Accurate, accurate, accurate - that is the defining adjective to describe the book. Even that the book drags a bit in the middle makes sense; we are viewing how the children perceive what is happening in the confusing world around them. To draw a star off for this is just wrong.
The audiobook narration was tremendous. Young and old, jokes and sobbing, women and men, Blacks and Whites, sober and tipsy - all are perfectly intoned. The speed is perfect.
I close this book with admiration for the accuracy with which the death in an ordinary Southern family is drawn. We watch through the eyes of the children as well as the adults. My discomfort while reading this book is appropriate. It is how I should feel. It is a direct result of its accuracy and its potency.
There are two versions of this book. I have read the McDowell version. The book was first published in 1957 after the author’s death. It is this version that won the Pulitzer in 1958. In this original version the editor David McDowell both rearranged and deleted sections of the original manuscript. The beginning of the novel, as it was first published by McDowell, was not originally part of the manuscript. It was another short piece of the author’s writing. You know you have the McDowell version if the story begins with the heading “Knoxville: Summer of 1915”. The McDowell edition has flashbacks. They do not exist in the version compiled from the original manuscript by Michael Lofaro in 2007. There are 20 chapters in the McDowell version and 44 short chapters in the Lofaro version. The flashbacks are in italics in the printed McDowell version. As an audiobook these sections are quickly perceived as flashbacks from their content. ...more
This book is special. The cover may give you the impression that this is fluff. It is not!
It is set in the Appalachians of Virginia. It covers the 19This book is special. The cover may give you the impression that this is fluff. It is not!
It is set in the Appalachians of Virginia. It covers the 1900s through to the 70s. Both wars and the Depression. Yet history is not the focus even if it of course plays a role in shaping events. The focus is a family, the family of Ivy Rowe. She has six siblings, aunts and uncles, grandparents, friends and her own five kids. They get married, and they have kids. Each one of these becomes a person you know. Not once was I confused about who was who! Ivy thought she would become a writer, but she never did. Yet she did, in her own way, because what we are reading are her letters to friends and those in her family. Her whole life is told through these letters. I never imagined that such a complete, heartrending and delightful story could possibly be told through only letters! She reveals her innermost thoughts in letters that are not sent, and thus in this way we get the truth. I would never have trusted only letters to friends and family, because don’t we hide stuff from each other?!
What is so special about this book is - the writing. Ivy expresses herself simply and honestly and beautifully. Great writing. Beautiful lines and lines to ponder. - the in-depth character portrayals. Each character becomes someone you know well. Each one is a mix of good and bad. Ivy tells all. She thinks, she simply cannot stop thinking. We watch her from early youth to old age. Through these letters we learn of her life and the life of those close to her. At the end when she is old, you don't want her to die. You cannot bear to lose her. Through her you think of your own life. - the accurate and detailed picture drawn of a "mountain girl's" life in the South. Gorgeous writing about rural places - mountains and creeks and hollers. You don’t know what a holler is? In the Appalachians this word is used for a valley region between two hills or mountains, often with a creek. Southern expressions and dialect create a feeling of place.
The audiobook narration by Kate Forbes was superb. This is one of those cases where listening to the book is better than just reading it. The dialect and sound you hear further enhance the atmosphere. You hear as Ivy ages, scarcely noting that her voice has changed! Never hard to follow and a great choice for those who have little experience with audiobooks.
When I close this book I am sad because it is over.
I bought this book because I was intrigued by its first line: "The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.” It certainly is an inI bought this book because I was intrigued by its first line: "The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.” It certainly is an intriguing line, but so much more could have been done with the message than is done here.
The story is told by a sixty-two year old man, Leo Colston. He writes of his experiences in the summer of 1900 when he was almost thirteen. That summer he was invited to stay with his upper-class friend Marcus Maudsley in their Norfolk estate, Brandham Hall, in England. The story revolves around what happened in those few weeks and how what happened changed Colston's life forever. The story does not feel told, but vividly experienced as the elderly man relives the events of that summer. You never forget that it is the elderly English man speaking. You hear this in his manner of speaking.
The themes are interesting: a child's incomprehension of adult behavior and ambiguous speech, love, death and deception. It is about the simultaneous process of losing the naivety of a child and the abrupt awakening to the deceptions of adulthood. It draws a rather negative view of British upper crust values and mode of life. I find the consequences of the events as they are drawn in the story to be exaggerated.
I felt nothing for any of the characters. The events left me totally unmoved. There is a coldness, a steeliness in the manner in which the story is related. This coldness reflects who Leo Colston came to be, but I find it questionable that such a man would have any interest in telling us his story!
The audiobook narration by Sean Barrett is easy to follow and properly displayed the cold manner of the central protagonist. ...more
I could list quite a few little details in this book of things that are missing or that don't add up, things that might annoy me....... but none of thI could list quite a few little details in this book of things that are missing or that don't add up, things that might annoy me....... but none of them do! "How does she earn her living? How does she have money for that?" fleeted through my head on several occasions! They are just not all that important! She did somehow, and I am satisfied with that. I really, really liked the book! It moved me. At the end I had tears in my eyes.
Why is this? It is because the words create a mood, a feel of a time and a place that is 100% real. Genuine. This is how life is. Full of stupid mistakes and regrets, lost loves, searching and questions. Lost opportunities as well as good choices and wonderful memories.
The setting: NYC and Amagansett, South Hampton on Long Island. It starts in 1958 and moves forward up to the millennium. I knew even before we were told that this had to be NYC and the country outside. I lived there then, both in the city and further out. What is described is pitch-perfect. I recognized my childhood. Physically, by the houses and the pets, by the atmosphere of the place, by the hopes and dreams of the two central characters, i.e. the parents Nedra and Viri. Their choices are not my choices but that did not prevent me from relating to them.
You read this book for the lines. You read it for the mood that is created. You read it to think about your own life now that your children are grown. I think it speaks more to an older person than one that is still busy in the bustle of life.
I chuckled. I smiled. At the end my eyes were teary. I would not make some of the choices these characters made, but that never prevented me from relating to the book. Beautiful lines. Thoughtful prose, prose that gets you thinking. It is about how parents relate to their children, both when they are young and when they are old. It is about how you relate to your spouse and your own aging parents. It is about satisfying your own individual needs and how you balance those with others' needs. It is about freedom and independence. It is about friendships. It is about relationships. What do you do for yourself and what do you do for others? How do you balance the two? What is important in life? These are the things I was thinking about.
Superb, five star audiobook narration by Mark Boyett. Each intonation matched the situation and the person speaking. This is one of those narrations where you never think about the fact that there is a person reading the lines. The lines are simply there in your head.
-Some reviewers label the characters as narcissists. Not me. I see them as good and as bad as anyone else.
-Maybe I should mention that travels are made to Europe (Britain and Italy), but they are not the prime setting. That is NY....more
There is a plethora of books written nowadays focused on women’s lives. Here is one about an Irish woman in her forties who loses her husband first afThere is a plethora of books written nowadays focused on women’s lives. Here is one about an Irish woman in her forties who loses her husband first after a difficult illness and then death. She has to alone raise and support four kids, two older girls and two younger pubescent boys. The story is set in a small Irish town in Wexford, Ireland, where the author himself was born in 1955. The book speaks of the Londonderry riots and that happened in 1969. The moon landing is mentioned too in the story. The older son, interested in photography, stammers since his father's illness and death. He simply has to follow every step of the moon landing. There is the setting. The essential is that the town is small, so everyone knows everything about everyone else, and the Catholic Church has a role to play in all community affairs.
Yet, the story centers on Nora. The book is all about Nora and how she must find a new place for herself. The focus is on her and only her. It annoyed me to no end that although her kids too were troubled by the death of their father, too little attention is paid to their problems. (view spoiler)[At the beginning of the book the son who stammers still stammers. A daughter and Nora's sister are the ones who three years later finally get rid of the deceased's clothes. (hide spoiler)] I know it is popular to write about strong women, but I cannot support just them at the expense of others. This is the author's story; I was annoyed at the focus he chose for this book. This is my biggest complaint with the book. All this attention to women’s issues drives me crazy. IF we are equal to men, and we of course are, then no added attention need be focused on us.
The story also deals with a family business, and certainly decisions can be totally skewed in such companies, but the behavior of particular employees and the story's resolution of company problems stretch one's imagination.
The book goes in so many directions - hobbies pursued, a house sold, vacations. Too much. More could have been done with each. Even with all this happening, the book moves slowly. I was bored.
The narration by Fiona Shaw was very "Irish". This certainly added to the atmosphere. I happen to like the Irish dialect. At points she reads too quickly, and there are so many family relatives to keep track of! I need a bit of time to recall each person, or maybe it is they didn’t become characters I knew well. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I have only heard praise for this book; I was expecting a lot. Tell me, who isn'tPlease read the book description given here: Tuesday Nights in 1980.
I have only heard praise for this book; I was expecting a lot. Tell me, who isn't going to be drawn to a book revolving around New York's SoHo art world of the 70s-80, synesthesia and an exiled painter running from his past and Argentina's Dirty War? If you go into a book with high expectations you are easily disappointed. I was disappointed. I'll explain why. Do remember that if I give a book two stars it is OK.
The author writes in a staccato fashion. Choppy. Often using short incomplete sentences. Exclamations, repetitions, bursts of thoughts. Bubbles. Sometimes this works, but not always. It works best in drawing James Bennett’s synesthesic visions. Vibrant colors work well, but also ideas and thoughts are thrown out at the reader. Very often I found myself opposing that stated. A painter says, “That is how you paint a face.” So I think, “Are you telling me there is only one right way to do it?” Grrr. And this leads to the second problem.
The first half of the novel is set to describe a couple of young people struggling to find their niche, their place in the art world of SoHo. They act self-assured, and of course that is because they are not. The tone is flippant, provocative, crass. Life is a joke, never to be taken seriously. Every other word is a swear word. They know everything. Drugs and sex and the search for money are the backbone of their everyday world. They say such things as, “the clouds look like tits.” I think, “Oh my, that is interesting.” I am being sarcastic of course! We are told “in the rich person’s blue room….” There just was not much for me to think about, not in terms of art or synesthesia.
Then comes an accident. Everything changes, but of course it has to. The changes that occur are predictable. You are rarely told outright but rather through small, implied hints. This I liked. You do have to pay attention to the hints and you are free to interpret the facts as you will……..but I found them rather obvious.
The ending? I say it is too (view spoiler)[cute, too predictable, too ordinary (hide spoiler)]. I say give me something to chew on, something imaginative, something that one wouldn’t immediately think of.
The bottom line is - this novel gave me very little. Little is done in describing Argentina’s Dirty War years. You only get a few impressions describing one person’s synesthesia. More could have been done with the burgeoning SoHo art world. I feel no attachment to any of the characters. First they were this way and then suddenly they grew up; how they moved from one stage to the other is not well shown. Too abrupt, not properly nuanced.
The audiobook narration by George Newbern captures well the author’s lines.
I read books for pleasure. I enjoy learning something new and thinking about human relationships. Real human relationships, not those of the fantasticI read books for pleasure. I enjoy learning something new and thinking about human relationships. Real human relationships, not those of the fantastical sort. I want to have something to ponder. In addition I want writing that describes places, people and situations well.
I learned nothing new from this book.
The human relationships as described herein are not true to life. Maybe members of the Bloomsbury Group, of which D. H. Lawrence was one, did in fact communicated with each other with extremely nasty remarks, but the manner in which the characters in this book respond to each other is beyond acceptable. The dialogs are unimaginable, totally bizarre. If members of the group did speak this negatively, well it just means the book is terribly dated. Page after page of mean criticisms is not something I can enjoy.
This book is extremely hard to read. There isn't a line of humor. Nothing at all to smile about. You move from dysfunctional family relationships to discordant couples to death and sorrow and indecision. You creep forward at the pace of a snail.
Watching the death of a loved one is movingly described. I have not told you who will die.
The descriptions of body, landscapes and some situations are well done. Emotions less so. Someone should count how many times the word hate is used in this book. Sure, a person's emotions can quickly flip between love and hate, but the excessive expression of extreme emotions is used so flippantly that the power of such emotions comes to mean nothing. They lose their value.
If you are wondering – there is no graphic sex in this book.
The central theme? Love relationships. Between couples and between parents and children. Is there a message? Yes, let your children go. Mothers, don't keep them too tightly tied to your apron strings. A secondary theme: the restraints of the Victorian age on women. These are the topics the book will leave you thinking about….if you can manage to keep reading. That was meant to be a joke.
OK, I used to love Simon Vance as an audiobook narrator. I thought he could do anything, but that’s wrong. He cannot. In a dialog he switches between a female and a male voice. There are different men and there are different women. The characters of one gender do not all have the same personality. That is unfortunately what this performance relays.
After about half:
This book is making me crabby. There is such tension between the characters! They are all so high-strung, mean, nasty. "Relax, be happy, have fun, enjoy life for a minute," I feel like lecturing. This is a book of warning showing how moms can baby their kids to death....
Yeah, I will continue but the book doesn't put me in a good mood.
Yes, D.H. Lawrence describes scenery, the jut of a chin or how a shoulder is held well, but I need more than that. I am trying to ask myself if this mining family is typical, if what is happening to them psychologically is due to their deplorable living conditions. I don't think so. When they get a better house and jobs for the sons, does anything improve? Scarcely! For me it seems the problem is a question of attitude. Grrr. It is just a book. Don't get so upset, Chrissie. ...more
This book is about sexual and physical abuse of a child. It is semi-autobiographical. In telling her story as fiction the author hImpressive writing.
This book is about sexual and physical abuse of a child. It is semi-autobiographical. In telling her story as fiction the author hopes to "tell a larger truth". I think she succeeds. The quote is is taken from the author's Afterword. In an autobiography readers can distance themselves. You can think, “That is their story, not mine!” There is no distance here; the reader is viscerally there, inside another's reality.
Why should you read this? I think it is important to understand others' experiences. I think it is important to feel compassion for others very different from yourself. By understanding others' experiences you find your own place in the world.
Another issue is brought visibly to the fore in this novel – the life of poor white Southerners. They are humans as much as any other. One should be able to feel compassion for all individuals. One should not feel a distance between them and one's self. I have read no other book that so well put me in their world. If properly done you neither deny faults nor fail to show humanity. A good book will help you understand why people behave as they do, even if what they do seems horrible. You leave the book understanding how it comes to be that poor white Southerners need to look down on someone, to have someone lower than themselves, Blacks.
A third theme is mother-daughter relationships.
A fourth theme is family.
I am not going to tell you about this mother-daughter relationship, nor about how in this family support was both given and not given. Both themes will engage the reader on a personal level.
The emotional response of the abused child is absolutely perfectly drawn.
I praise this book so strongly because I feel it captures through fiction true life. Writing fiction that captures life so honestly takes real talent. The dialogs are superb. How people behave is captured as if in a photo. Real life isn’t neat and pretty. We hurt each other; we attempt to destroy each other and then turn around and laugh together. How do you make sense of that? The end is not tied up in a neat bow. Life isn’t like that, and I don’t want that in a novel either. No concise, clear explanation of how to go forward is given. That is all too simple.
I VERY highly recommend listening to this on audio. The narrator Elizabeth Evans does a fantastic job. I think she helped me understand these people more than if I had just read the paper book. Listen to it; don’t read it.
I give this book five stars because through fiction it shows life more clearly than the bare facts of non-fiction. ...more
I am annoyed - a bad end to a bad book. I wrote a review and somehow lost it before saving it! Here follows a second try.
Wordy, confusing and boring.I am annoyed - a bad end to a bad book. I wrote a review and somehow lost it before saving it! Here follows a second try.
Wordy, confusing and boring. Those are the three adjectives I would use to describe this book. Simplistic too.
My biggest complaint is the wordiness. Was Faulkner taking part in a contest to see who could come up with the most synonyms for each word? Someone should count how many times "or" is found in this book. Faulkner begins with an oblique statement, and then it is repeated umpteen times with other words so that the meaning is hammered into the reader. This bored me and started putting me to sleep.
The plot is straightforward and simple. Faulkner uses none of his complicated literary techniques typical of his other novels. Nevertheless, I think he likes to confuse. Why does he never say something once, simply? There is a plot twist at the end that threw me.
So what is the theme of the book? It is a coming of age story, set in 1905 in Mississippi and Memphis, Tennessee. An adventure story spread over four days. Lucius Priest, a pampered white eleven-year-old, the story’s main character, learns the difference between the real world and the ideal world taught to him by his elders. What we are told and the way it really is. That is it in a nutshell. The four days start with the stealing of a car, followed by the crossing of a muddy creek, betting, horse races, a bordello and of course prostitutes. (Reivers means the stealers!). Yet the story is so innocent, the message so cute. Too cute. Honestly, I think the book is more appropriate for kids. It says nothing to an adult.
It draws for me a rather tame picture of the South in 1905.
The audiobook narration by John H. Mayer was easy to follow, yet I detested his intonation of Ned McCaslin's "hee-hee-hee". Ned is black. He plays a central role. The intonation made him sound stupid, and he wasn't stupid at all!
I wanted to like this more than I did. It is filled, filled, filled with accurate details of life in the Bronx during the 30s, ending in 1940 with theI wanted to like this more than I did. It is filled, filled, filled with accurate details of life in the Bronx during the 30s, ending in 1940 with the New York World's Fair. Everything is described, and all is well described - the news, the clothes, the food, new inventions, the street life, games, parks, Jewish traditions. This is a secular Jewish family. Seeing the Hindenburg airship was excitingly told to site just one fun episode. What you get is a million and one descriptions. The book ends with the burying of a time capsule, but actually that is the best way of describing the whole book! The book is a time capsule of a time and place.
I had one serious problem with the book. The central character is a young boy; he is still only nine when the book ends. He has an older brother; there is about six - seven years between the two. And his parents? Pretty typical, they have their shortcomings, but who doesn’t?! An ordinary family, not wealthy, struggling to get through the years of the Depression. The problem is that this kid, his name is Edgar, uses words way beyond his years, and it is predominantly him telling the whole story. Is the young boy telling the story or is it him when he is an older man? I could never decide. Look a nine year old, and certainly not this nine year old, would use such words as “articulate” or “insouciance”, to give but two examples! A paragraph later the words and thoughts were those of a child. Jarring!
The relationships were actually well depicted. You knew these family members well by the book's end. Edgar is treated as a kid - always. He is told nothing. His older brother is forced into being more adult than his years. HE analyzes the family relationships very well, but he is not the main character. Edgar cannot understand and so all he can do is to observe. Rather than getting under the skin of the characters, you observe from a distance, just as you observe the factual tidbits of the era. You do not feel empathy for any character. Character portrayal is not the point of the book. It is instead all the details that are the point - a flurry of many, many bits so information. Interesting per se, but you are not drawn in. The whole book ends up being kind of flat. A time capsule.
The narration by John Rubinstein wasn't great. I think he made Edgar sound young; it was so weird to hear this young, innocent and sometimes childishly excited voice use such complicated reasoning and adult words! The author's inability to define the age of the person telling the story became even more evident with the narrator's childish tone. He uses a Jewish Bronx accent, which is good. There are a few chapters told by the mother and one or two by the older brother. No change in tone is used. If a narrator dramatizes or personifies the narration then all characters must be done accurately. You cannot then use the same intonation for all characters.
I have read that the book most probably has autobiographical content. Note that the E in the author's name is Edgar. The author was born in the Bronx in 1931! ...more
How do you rate a book that both disappoints and at the very same time gives pleasure?
This book consists of one novella, having the same name as theHow do you rate a book that both disappoints and at the very same time gives pleasure?
This book consists of one novella, having the same name as the title of the book, and three short stories: 1. What Time Is It Now? Where Are You? 2. Sh'khol (A Hebrew word for 'loss of a child') 3. Treaty
I have read just about all of McCann's books. I love his lines. How he expresses himself. Pure poetry in my ears. He looks at people and things and events and captures their essence through just a few words. Compassion, guilt, fear and understanding in the turn of a phrase. He keeps you thinking. He keeps you glued to the pages. So what am I saying? I love his writing. However there is more to a novel, novella or short story than the phrasing, the strings of words. There is plot. There is character development. There is the message conveyed. There is the beginning and the end and do all the parts hold together properly? All of this has to be accomplished well. No easy task. For me, only the last story worked on all accounts.
Before I had read Treaty I was terribly upset. Why? Because if you think an author is fantastic, you expect them to deliver. I wanted more than just wonderful lines; I expected well-structured stories with intriguing messages. I do expect more from a good writer.
In the novella every chapter starts with a stanza from Wallace Stevens’ poem Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird. I found the tie to the poem and the message of the novella to be weak. It is a mini-mystery. A murder? Manslaughter? Who did it and why? The characterizations are only skin deep. The ending leaves you totally up in the air, as does Sh'khol.
Sk'khol grabbed me at first. I felt the anxiety, the guilt and the main character's utter misery. Her deaf, mentally disabled adopted child had gone missing. She blamed herself. I would have too. Have you never bought clothes for your children to grow into... to save just a few dollars? Only here it was a neoprene swimsuit that shields the body from cold. But the ending was a huge let down. Not enough information is imparted. The ending is ridiculously abrupt. Again I was disappointed.
What Time Is It Now is about how an author writes a story, or at least how this author goes about it. This is interesting but you get only the rudiments of the process, an outline of a story, no character depth at all.
Then came the last story. It was perfect. In all ways. Wording, beginning and end. What a message! The last story is about a nun that was raped 37 years earlier and then one day she sees the rapist on TV. What does she do? What happens shows you who she is now and who the perpetrator had become - both the interior and exterior. What they showed the world and what they hid. So I was ready to forgive McCann. He delivered again, at least with one story.
There is an author's note at the end that speaks of how McCann was assaulted in 2014. What an author writes is always affected by their own life experiences. He acknowledges this. The topics covered in this book reflect his own inner turmoil, where he grew up (Ireland) and where he lives (NYC). The topics covered in the book are dark. There isn't much humor, but the author's note helps you understand the whole tone of the book.
The author narrates his own book. Parts were too quickly narrated. Parts were perfect. He didn't exaggerate; he let the lines come to the fore, which is just what I like. I like his soft tone. Pronunciation of foreign words was well done.
So three stars. I am glad I read the book, for the last story Treaty, and as usual I always love how this author puts together his words. There are little, little things like character names - Eileen because 'I lean' on Eileen. Or that sweat, no, not on the waitress but on the glass that she brought. Little things like this make me smile, make me think about how life really is. ...more
In this book we follow a twelve year old boy, Doug, through his summer vacation. You follow not only his thoughts, deeds and contemplations, but alsoIn this book we follow a twelve year old boy, Doug, through his summer vacation. You follow not only his thoughts, deeds and contemplations, but also those of his younger brother, Tom, who is ten, and of his friends and other characters in the fictive Green Town. The book is semi-autobiographical, based on the author's own childhood summers in Waukegan, Illinois. I thought I would get summers and childhood reminiscences in a small Midwestern town. The year is 1928. Kick-the-can, new sneakers, warm summer nights on porches, lightning bugs and most importantly NO SCHOOL. I thought this would be fun. I got the games, the sneakers and the bugs, but……
Some classify this as science fiction. Others see it simply as containing a large portion of magical realism. Doug has a vivid imagination. Here is where the magical realism comes in, and with this I have no problem. On the other hand, the adults’ behavior is just too ridiculous for words. Their antics stretch the believable, and each event delivers a pithy moral. There is a "happiness machine" (view spoiler)[that burns up (hide spoiler)], and thereafter we are given a sentimental lesson about what is real happiness. Which of course I do agree with, but it is so simplistic, so obvious. The machine, that is the invention of one of the adult town denizens, not one of the kids!
I had a much easier time with Doug's grappling with typical coming of age issues - death, happiness, the value of learning. It was amusing to observe his interactions with his brother and what his brother says. The two are very different! Again, the town’s adults’ behavior gets in the way. Quarrels, gossip and yes even a silly murder is thrown in. That we are delivered different “events”, different things that happened that summer of 1928, makes the reading disjointed. By focusing on so many different characters you get little depth in any character portrayal.
All too often what is said and what happens are not believable. Continually, I would remark, "One wouldn't do that or say that!" An example is when Aunt Rose is (view spoiler)[sent packing. That would not happen. She would be told to get out of Grandma's kitchen, but not to leave. (hide spoiler)]
Occasionally the feel of summer is well described, but so much more could have been done to conjure the feel of summer. No marbles. No swimming.
So much more could have been done with Doug's grappling with the idea of his own death.. At his age kids do all of a sudden realize "they-will-die". It is quite a shock. I remember going through this myself, but as it is described here it is shallow. Again no depth.
The narration of the audiobook by Paul Michael Garcia is fine. I just wish he had paused a bit between the different chapters. This is necessary since each chapter is like a different story and they are not numbered. You need a pause, though it is only a minor problem.
I love the idea of dandelion wine being the repository of all that is summer, but this book, in my view, doesn't capture that. Good idea, poorly executed. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I like Edna O'Brien's writing, lyrical is the perfect word to describe it. Good dialogs. Her characters become distinct.
The plot left me cold. TotallI like Edna O'Brien's writing, lyrical is the perfect word to describe it. Good dialogs. Her characters become distinct.
The plot left me cold. Totally boring. Not only do you need good writing you need an interesting story for a novel to work. We follow two girls, Caithleen and Baba, 14 years of age when the book opens. Two country girls, as the title so aptly indicates. The setting is western Ireland, outside Limerick, the 1960s. This is a coming of age story, about friendship and blossoming interest in the opposite sex. The two girls leave home, go to a horrible convent, escape and move to Dublin. I just cannot make this sound more interesting than it was. Their friendship is conflicted; they both depend on each other and quarrel.
The only part of the plot I enjoyed was the beginning. There is the classic Irish problem of a father that drinks. I felt Caithleen's fear of her father. This was palpable and really well written. On the other hand I didn't understand her strong devotion toward her mother. I don’t even think the friendship between the girls was that well portrayed.
The author narrates her own book. I did feel the emotions she wanted to portray, but the whole feel is dreary, tragic and despondent. This doesn't fit the lines. The dialogs were a little bit better. No, the narration is not good.
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