I received this book through GR’s First Reads Program. Thank you!
I read this book from start to finish with a magnifying glass. I am telling you thisI received this book through GR’s First Reads Program. Thank you!
I read this book from start to finish with a magnifying glass. I am telling you this simply because even given the difficulty it posed for me to read the book, given my poor eyesight, I would not quit. It was that good!
You can read a book of fiction for the story that is told, for what happens, Let's call this plot. Or you can read fiction for how it is written, for the charm, beauty, wisdom and humor of the lines. It was the latter that I loved about this book. The language is simple. The dialogs too. There stand just a few words, but you understand immediately their meaning and significance. Everything in this book is said with utter simplicity. All the unnecessary is washed away. You laugh, you marvel, you ponder.
What this book offers is a peek into three lives. The three are Etta's, Otto's and Russell's. This is a book about friendship and love - different kinds of love. And then there is James, a coyote. Otto and Russell grew up together; Russell almost part of Otto’s family. . All three spent their entire lives together. Three's a crowd? No, not here. This story is the quiet telling of their lives together. From childhood to old age - through adolescence and separation and war.
I should not like this book. It jumps backwards and forwards in time. Like The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, which I detested, it follows an elderly person's pilgrimage. There are similarities between the two that I dislike, but Etta's pilgrimage doesn't have the religious message of Fry's. I usually don't read fantasy, and honestly there are elements that stretch believability. An eighty-two year-old woman plagued with dementia walking alone from Saskatchewan to the Atlantic 3232km away? Her husband, Otto, doesn't stop her? And Russell’s choices? Possibly conceivable, but not likely! Then there is the coyote, with whom Etta communicates. Remember? That is James! But hey, I can communicate with my dog, so why can't she communicate with James? Let's just say the book has magical realism. I like magical realism. Magical realism is just about different interpretations, not fantasy really. Regardless of why I shouldn't have liked this book I still did. Actually very, very much as I read it, but the ending – it just stopped. Did I want more of a message, a final punch?
If this book is available or becomes available in an audiobook format I would advise against it. You need to see the words' placement on the pages to comprehend the time switches. You need to see which portions of the text are letters between Etta and Otto. In the paper book these are in italics. Maybe most importantly, it is delightful to read the text slowly savoring each word, to suck on the lines. It is this that is the best part of the book, not what happens step by step. The value of the book is the passage through it. ...more
This is my first Banville. I would say everyone has to experience how this author writes. Very descriptive. Descriptions more of how people behave andThis is my first Banville. I would say everyone has to experience how this author writes. Very descriptive. Descriptions more of how people behave and relate rather than sceneries. There is very little about Ireland; this could happen anywhere. You want to understand the characters' personalities - primarily Max's. His wife is dying of cancer. How he relates to her is, at least partially, a product of earlier events in his life. The story evokes an elderly man remembering his pubescence.That is about all I can say. I don't want to explain too much because it is in fact how we come to understand that is so well done! The writing is special.
I like how when you reach the end you understand why and what and how things occurred, but they are not spelled out clearly. You are not told; you discover. You have to stop and think and put one and two together.
Occasionally I found the language on the wordy side, but then I slipped back into liking it. Experiencing the author's style of writing is a must.
This book feels like a glimpse into another person's life. I didn't always like Max's behavior. I didn't always agree with some of his thoughts. Nevertheless, he felt very real, just different from me on that and that point. How he felt in a hospital, was the very hardest for me to accept. I just have to put this down to different experiences. And his behavior was cruel and indifferent and so unattached sometimes. I couldn't help but think, "Are there people like this?" My head tells me there are, lots of them in fact. His cruelty, was it due to curiosity, as he claims?! His indifference, well you have to know what has happened in his life to understand that.
At the end, when you know all the facts, only then can you properly reconsider what you have been told. You are left with questions and they are fun to think through.
A central theme is death. Don't all of us think about that from time to time, particularly as we get older or someone near to us dies? The second central theme is memory.
The narration of the audiobook by Jim Norton was good. Good speed and clearly spoken.
If a book leaves me unmoved I don't even know what to say in a review. No, this wasn't terrible but it contains nothing exceptional. It is a long storIf a book leaves me unmoved I don't even know what to say in a review. No, this wasn't terrible but it contains nothing exceptional. It is a long story and only covers about twenty years of the main character's life. It is a coming-of-age story about an orphan with a clubfoot in Britain at the turn of the century. By the end he has figured out how he wants to live his life. Let me put it this way - appreciate the small ordinary things in life.
Philip, the main character, is terribly naive and he had no help from any parent so I ought to have felt more compassion for him - but I didn't. He makes such stupid choices. He seems totally blind in seeing the real character of people, and he cannot pick girls. The book goes on and on and on until he finally wakes up. The end I guessed half way through. It's cute. Don't get me wrong. I agree with what is being said but there is little to ponder and the message is so unremarkable.
Here are the topics covered: faith, art, bullying, boarding-schools, love, travel and choosing one's occupation. There is a lot about art, but it has the tone of art criticism. I personally don't want art dissected or analyzed to pieces. I want it to move me; if it does that I am satisfied. Only the discussion of the Spanish artist El Greco did I find a teeny bit interesting. Maybe you enjoy art criticism.... Numerous artists and authors are discussed. Why? Because Philip had a hard time choosing his occupation so he tries several – the clergy, accountant, artist, doctor. Guess where he ends up. (view spoiler)[His father had been a doctor. This I found a bit too simplistic. (hide spoiler)]
Steven Crossley narrated the audiobook. The women all sound the same. This can be excused by their all sharing a Kent dialect? The story's narrator and the men were fine, but extremely British. They are supposed to sound British so what can you expect?! No, I didn't love the narration, but it was OK, just as the book was OK.
Not bad, but in no way exceptional. Some interesting lines, but that is about it. How am I supposed to write a moving review if the book leaves me lukewarm?
All I know is that I couldn't put the book down. It's a good story, well written, exciting and suspenseful. Yeah the language is bad and there is lotsAll I know is that I couldn't put the book down. It's a good story, well written, exciting and suspenseful. Yeah the language is bad and there is lots of sex, but heck I really liked it A LOT.
Fay, poor Fay!
A word about Fay. I have been yelled at, in another review, for using the term "white trash". So tell me what other words can be used that so succinctly, so completely depict a group of people? OK, I will describe Fay as poor and uneducated, but that just brushes the surface of her ignorance. Her understanding of how the world works is at a completely other level than most people's. She doesn't know about tips or that liquor and cigarettes can only be bought if you are over 18. That is just two examples. I did wonder at times if such ignorance was possible. She went only through the fifth grade. This book shows you her world and it is worth reading just for that. To learn. To understand what such a life is like; not to accuse but to really understand. What are her alternatives? Does she even have any alternatives?
Eventually she learns about the real world. All I will say is that she survives. That is the only hint I will give about this story that concerns a police officer, 17 year-old Fay and a strip club bouncer in Mississippi in 1985. Love and survival are the themes.
Believe it or not, there is humor. Here is one example. She has learned one must tip. So she tips a taxi driver and he says, "You are a very kind lady, and a most scrumptious one!" I smiled.
There is so much beer consumed in this book it ought to be made into a movie to sell beer. That the characters didn't simply float away is amazing.
Beside the tension that builds, what hit me about the writing was the author's ability to describe body movements in such detail that you can read body language without seeing a picture. This is very effective. The emotions are there before your eyes through the body language described. It is like watching a movie rather than hearing a story.
The audiobook narration by Tom Stechschutte was perfect. No complaints. Each character, when they spoke, sounded just as they should sound.
My thoughts half-way through:
This is so sad. Do you hear me?
And life is so complicated. It is actually possible to "love" a person so terribly f*/ked up as Fay....even given what she does. My heart bleeds for Fay. ...more
This is the book to read if you want to feel how history affects people, ordinary people. You follow a Jewish Romanian immigrant family from 1916 to 1This is the book to read if you want to feel how history affects people, ordinary people. You follow a Jewish Romanian immigrant family from 1916 to 1945. They live in the South - Mobile, Alabama. You get Confederate Anniversary Celebrations, WW1, Ku Klux Klan, the Depression and WW2 and what it is like to be Black or Jewish in the South. The family has a store. The kids, three of them, grow up. They move; they leave the nest. This is a book about family. There is no way that a short book like this can cover historical events in detail, but it shows you how historical events changes ordinary people's lives.
What makes this book special is the jumble of different cultures and religions and races all found in the immigrant quarter of Mobile, Alabama. The mix of Yiddish and Irish and Cuban and Spanish and Romanian, Black and White, Jewish and Christian cultures all perfectly mirrored in the characters' dialogs. Songs and colloquial speech and fruits and scents and foods and sex (adolescent and adult) and brawls in a glorious jumbled mix. Life as it really is for an immigrant family in the South. Tears and happiness. Sorrow and joy. Read this book. You will be surprised at how good it is.
I did not understand all the terms. All the different languages! Past and present are jumbled too. But it is this very jumble that creates the special atmosphere of the book. I heartily recommend listening to the audiobook narrated by Toni Orans. She pulls it off - songs and dialects, kids and adults, ups and downs.....
The title is explained in the author’s note at the beginning of the book. It is a Romanian saying with a Southern twist. ...more
The beginning is funny, but maybe you need a twisted sense of humor like mine.
The language is vulgar. To state otherwise is a pure lie.
The book althThe beginning is funny, but maybe you need a twisted sense of humor like mine.
The language is vulgar. To state otherwise is a pure lie.
The book although fiction very closely follows the author's own youth.
The setting is Los Angeles. The time is 1920-1941, that is to say from Bukowski's own birth to Pearl Harbor. Bukowski's alter-ego is Henry Chinaski, the main character in the book. Wiki states that Bukowski's books are about "the ordinary lives of poor Americans, the act of writing, alcohol, relationships with women, and the drudgery of work." After completing the book I had to compare what happens in the book with Bukowski’s life. I chose to start with this book by Bukowski because it is about his youth. I wanted to understand the man's personality. I believe one's childhood has a strong, though not the sole, influence on who we become. So, did I get what I wanted? Do I feel I understand Bukowski? Yes. And that is quite an achievement since I am as far from the central protagonist and Bukowski as one can be.
I think I understand why Chinaski became so violent, abusive, turned to alcohol and used such filthy language. This is not just due to his violent father; there is more than one cause. I like that the causes are not simplified. You get a picture to think about. You get guidelines - the ending being very important in showing how he may change. That too is why I had to go to Wiki! I liked the ending. You understand but you are not blatantly told. (view spoiler)[It was so perfect how he played a boxing game with a kid, that he tells us he had to win....and yet who does win? He lets the boy win, and he walks away so that the boy believes he has truly won. (hide spoiler)]
I guess I better repeat. The language is filthy and the sexual terms are explicit - but keep in mind this was his world. In addition, if you relax and don't get up-tight you will realize it is very funny. When Henry is no longer a kid, after his senior year in high school, then I started having trouble with his behavior. I was disgusted that he NEVER grew up. You cannot excuse horrible behavior forever. Can you?! I had a very hard time with this. "How much more can I take?" is what went through my mind. Then came Pearl Harbor and the wonderful ending. The ending is not schmaltzy but you get a glimpse of hope and then you must compare the novel with the events of Bukowski's life.
A good novel, like this one, will give a few hints so you can place it in a historical time-period. Here you get the Depression and the US' entrance into the Second World War. Historical events change people's lives - always. To avoid the historical setting is a no-no in my book. But you don't need to be smothered in historical facts to show how people are affected.
The audiobook narration by Christian Baskous was wonderful. The kids, the meanies and the weaklings, are just perfect. I really enjoyed the narration.
So why do I like this book so much? Because it both let me understand a life very different from mine AND it made me laugh. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Yeah, I rally liked this book. Maybe it is even amazing.
I love it because it is set in France, both in Paris and villages along the coast, NYC, LondonYeah, I rally liked this book. Maybe it is even amazing.
I love it because it is set in France, both in Paris and villages along the coast, NYC, London, Spain, Nigeria, Reykjavik, the Bahamas and more.
I love it because it captures the WHOLE life of an ordinary man. It is about youth, the middle years and aging. Being a child and having children. It is about love, the physical attraction and the emotional one.
Logan, the central character, is, a man with strong sexual needs. Some may label him as immoral. Sure, if he were my husband I would be hurt and furious. But who am I to judge another human being? Who am I to say he was bad?
Any Human Heart captures the 20th Century. What we are reading is Logan's autobiography based on his private journals. He is who he is; at the same time he is aware of his own weaknesses. History is wonderfully woven in; Logan is NOT at the center of history’s outstanding events; that would be skewed. He is at the fringe. The book doesn’t teach the history of the 1900s but it shows how that century’s events intersected people’s lives and it gives tantalizing bits of less well known information, all historically accurate…as far as I can see. There are bits about the Duke and Duchess of Windsor (i.e. the abdicated King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson), Axel Wenner-Gren, the Baader-Meinhof gang, the authors and artists of the Lost Generation, the Spanish Civil War, the Biafran War.
I listened to the audiobook narrated by Simon Vance. Not only are his French, English and American accents impeccable, but he also captures voice changes as one ages. His intonation of the aged Logan is fantastic. Just fantastic. French lines are not translated.
But really what makes this book so special is HOW it is written. It is the lines. That is the ingredient that is so hard to define, but which makes or breaks a book. I gave a few quotes below, but to understand how perfect they are you have to read those lines in context. I loved the subtle humor. I was smiling at lines that could have disgusted me, but I they didn’t. That is because they are spoken by Logan, and he is not me. Having read this book I understand Logan and that is why I can smile. I have seen the world through another’s eyes. A wonderful experience.
I am nearing the end. Logan is 71. I am laughing and crying simultaneously. Ohhhhhh, the poor man. His diet! Do I dare tell you?
He was looking for tinned stew with vegetables.He spotted a tin with the words "plump chucklets of rabbit nestling in a rich dark gravy"..... but on the other side it was labeled Bowser! A tin of dog food on the wrong shelf! He thought, "If I bought six tins of Bowser, chopped up a carrot and onion and heated the whole thing in a saucepan.I might have a hearty rabbit stew that would last me a week..... And very tasty Bowser rabbit stew turned out to be, especially with a liberal addition of tomato ketchup and a good jolt of Worcester sauce. These last components, I would say, are essential for a all dog foods in my experience." Need I say he isn't doing so well financially? Just wait; you will also come to care for Logan.
Almost half left:
With this book I realize I don't have to love the central character or any other character to enjoy a book. I like this book because of the lines, the way the author has the characters speak or express their thoughts. Logan, the central character, feels utterly REAL to me. His actions feel so genuine even if I don't happen to like them. I like how history is told through one person's life. The book has a good tempo. It has humor. I like how Logan travels around Europe, zigzagging between England, France and Spain, and we the readers can follow along. Good stuff. Also, the book is so simple to follow - no time jumps, no mystery puzzles, just a plain good story. A real person's life, that is how it feels. ...more
So this was a Tolstoy...... Hmph, the story doesn't say much except to reiterate how difficult and painful death can be, both physically and emotionalSo this was a Tolstoy...... Hmph, the story doesn't say much except to reiterate how difficult and painful death can be, both physically and emotionally. The story is way too short to establish empathy for Ivan Ilyich! He was a judge. A game of bridge was his favorite amusement. All his life he conformed to proper decorum, becoming with age aloof and irascible. What was the point of life - both he and the readers may ask?! Talk about a depressing book!!!!
The narration by Walter Zimmerman was certainly not bad, but it didn't add anything....more
I definitely liked this book and it is definitely worth reading.
Its topic is the death of a loved one, seen particularly through the eyes of a young cI definitely liked this book and it is definitely worth reading.
Its topic is the death of a loved one, seen particularly through the eyes of a young child. Monica, the author, speaks of her father's death when she was nine years old in 1963, the same year Kennedy was assassinated. How did that death impact her own life, her siblings', her mother's and her uncle’s? You follow first the days, then the seven months and finally the two years without Dad – the "Dad-less days". This is touching, but never maudlin. The author also makes you laugh.
I liked very much following this good, religious family of Catholics. Few books talk about GOOD, upright families with high morals. Definitely refreshing. That is not to say they were faultless. Some of the adults certainly pulled whoppers, but these were good if ordinary people.
This book will also take you back to "Memory Lane" - the 1960s, the death of Kennedy and life in a small, American town, in this case Mexico. Yes, this IS a small town in Maine near the border to Canada. I didn't realize how many in the area spoke and breathed French. This is the town of Oxford Paper, that shiny, smooth, glossy paper we all recognize from National Geographics. Do you remember the song Big Girls Don't Cry, the TV show Mr. Ed, the Talking Horse, the school game Red Rover, pedal-pushers and tootsie rolls and....it will all come back when you read this book. To at least some of us.
The author narrates her own book. She does it well. She delightfully sings the lyrics of those songs, the oldies we remember so well.
This book is true to life and serious and fun too. Pick it up. Read it. ...more
Here is a book that flips between three different times 1988 (Tooly is nine), 1999-2000(Tooly is twenty and then twenty-one) and finally 2011. Here fiHere is a book that flips between three different times 1988 (Tooly is nine), 1999-2000(Tooly is twenty and then twenty-one) and finally 2011. Here finally is a book that profits from time-switches, a modern fad typical of so many contemporary books. This construction turns the story into a mystery. It couldn't and shouldn't be written any differently. This book is perfect for you, if you want to solve a puzzle. You will solve that puzzle along with Tooly, the main character. Tooly is in her thirties and she cannot piece together what has happened to her. Why has she moved so often and who really has had her interests at heart….if anybody?
I liked the book because it gives depth to its characters. By the book’s end you finally discover who they really are. Some disappoint and some you will love. My heart fell for Humphrey; I liked this book because Humphrey is in it. It is him I love, even with all his faults. Read the book to find out about him. You are early on told he is from Russia...... He is wise. For a while he raised Tooly. That is all I will say.
Here follow a few of his lines though:
"Half your life is decided by morons."
Give "me smashed-potato pizza......or sandwich."
And he so loves coffee with not one heaping spoonful, not two, but at least five heaping spoonfuls of sugar!!!!! I do love Humphrey.
Otherwise, what happens to Tooly is not acceptable. It is shocking. Talk about bad parenting.
Another bit I love is the importance of books and learning found in these pages.
Current events of these times are stated, so some day this will be considered a book of historical fiction.
I like the ending. It is both realistic and not without hope. This is also a book about growing up and our behavior at different stages in our life. The author’s ability to capture the behavior of each age is spot-on. That is another reason why I call it realistic.
What shall I say about the narration by Penelope Rawlins? She tries so hard. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. Given the time-switches, it helps to know from the voice who is speaking and what the date is, even though the text itself clarifies this. Each chapter begins with a date. Tooly grows from a nine-year-old to young woman in her thirties, and this should be reflected in her voice. It isn’t always so; sometimes she still sounds like a little kid when she is an adult. In addition, the men, ALL of them, sound like they are hoarse and have something in their throat. Seriously, ALL the men couldn’t have this strange sound! This is a very hard book to narrate, and I suppose she is trying her best.
I liked this book because of Humphrey. Read it to meet Humphrey…..or maybe you like solving puzzles!
Although I gave the author's The Hard Blue Sky five stars and her Pulitzer Prize winner The Keepers of the House four stars, this one disappointed me. My reaction is simply that the book was just OK, thus only two stars. Almost the whole first half is a review of numerous characters (several generations of families that really are not the main focus of the book) and historical events (Civil War, Reconstruction, WW1 and the Depression). Lead events are simply dropped, never to be mentioned again. It covers too much and thus lacks depth. We are told rather than shown. This portion has little dialog.
The latter half is about the daughter of one of the original "roadwalkers" introduced at the very beginning. As explained below, "roadwalkers" is the term used for the homeless wandering the South during the Great Depression. This portion about the daughter focuses upon being African American in the South, about being a teenager, about being "the girl who integrated" her school. There are some great lines in this section. It is a coming of age story AND focuses on one woman's path toward feeling comfortable with her black identity. BUT, it covers her entire life up to modern times....
This is not a long book. If you add two and two together it is obvious that you cannot in a short novel also achieve depth. A few sections zoom in on a short time period, and here the writing is at its best. I loved her time as a young adult. What sass! Some of her remarks about her parents are priceless. The dialogs are great too. BUT this section ends too, and falls back on breezing over many topics. It covers modern liberal views on drugs and sexuality. It covers modern views on black identity and equality of the sexes. Black identity is covered with deep perception...in parts.
The author, when she focuses on smaller events, really has a wonderful way with words! She describes clothes, gosh they are gorgeous. She conjures them in front of your eyes. She describes traditional Southern Christmas traditions, so you really wish you could be there too. The mother is a talented artist, and the author paints her creations with words. Beautiful! And dialogs are fantastic. Also, the coming of age section shows real insight and understanding of what kids go through.
I really enjoyed the narration by Karen Chilton. The smart aleck teenager and then the suave adult she later becomes are perfectly executed. The final section is told from the first person point of view; the words and the intonation are perfectly matched.
In one sentence, the book tries to cover too much and thus lacks depth, but it is good when it focuses and it does have some great lines.
After chapter two: YES, the tone does change - by the end of chapter two, but they are long chapters. So be patient! Now I am enjoying the book. By the end of chapter two the book begins to focus. From the Civil War and WW1 and all the details about family relations you finally get to the 1930s. Things start happening! Descriptions of places are always excellent, but I needed some dialog, some excitement, some action, and now all this is delivered. Race and the power of money are, as usual, central themes - and the "roadwalkers", that is the homeless wandering the South during the Depression. What happens in this chapter I did correctly guess, but I am not telling YOU!
After two and one half hours of listening (of a total 10 hours): What a shock. The tone of this book is so different from the last I read by the author: The Condor Passes! No one can accuse the author of repeating herself. This reads like Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House books! Large time periods are rapidly covered - from the Civil War and Reconstruction through to WW1 and then the Depression. All very cutely presented. No depth. I am not saying it is bad, just maybe not for me. This reads like a delightful child's book.
ETA: I figured it out. Even though I ought to love this book, I don't, and that is because there is little humor in it. I don't need laugh out loud huETA: I figured it out. Even though I ought to love this book, I don't, and that is because there is little humor in it. I don't need laugh out loud humor, but I want to smile at the way the author draws a situation or a person. No, there is very little humor in this book so reading it is kind of a chore. It ought to be good, but it isn't really. Don't tell me humor doesn't belong in a book about a war. There is always something to smile at when a book is about people!
This is a good book of historical fiction. It contains LOTS of interesting information on:
* the role of the Canadian Expeditionary Forces in WW1, culminating in the Battle of Vimy Ridge in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France April 9-12, 1917. * the explosion of the vessel Mont Blanc on April 9, 1918 in Halifax Bay and following tidal wave * the after-effects plaguing those who survived the war * German internment camps in Canada * banks fishing and community life in Halifax
All of the above is woven into a story about an extended family living in a village near Halifax. There is a coming of age story, a love story and a story about women who discover their own capabilities. The history is woven into family events so you never feel you are being lectured. It just sinks in. I didn't know that Canadian nurses in the war were referred to as "Bluebirds". I didn't know that some of the Canadian soldiers wore kilts. Sassoon's protests and the development of electro-therapy - it is all here.
The story covers a small time period, a little more than one year beginning in February 1917. Chapters alternate between Halifax and fighting on the front in France, but the time period is the same. It is simple to know where you are - the events and the people make this obvious, and you see what is happening in two places at a given moment in time. Both the war scenes and the life in Halifax drew me in. All of the characters are equally well drawn.
There are other themes too woven into the book - the value of art, traditional foods and flora and fauna and beeches. This author looks at nature; she is aware of nature.
I liked the reality of how the characters behave. I liked the ending. You aren't delivered a fairy tale, but that isn't to say the story is without hope. Pain and hardship and hope are well balanced.
How do I feel on completion? That was a good read. Maybe the reason I don't give it more than three stars is that I have read so many books now on the war so the content just does not surprise me anymore. This is a good strong three star book and I do recommend it.
One word about the audiobook narration by David Marantz. This I did not like, not at all. I had to tell myself to listen to the author's lines and not how they sounded. He made good prose sound corny. There are French characters and their French is just laughable. Let me put it this way, it sounds like I am reading the French, not a native French person. The narration is extremely unprofessional. When he sings you want to laugh. Read the book instead until it is available by another, better narrator. ...more
Yes, a gem! Why I found it amazing and thus worth five stars is explained below in the partial review.
I will only add here a bit about the book's settYes, a gem! Why I found it amazing and thus worth five stars is explained below in the partial review.
I will only add here a bit about the book's setting: Georgia, 1944-45. You see the world through the eyes of 12 year old Frankie, or F. Jasmine Addams. SHE, not I, will explain to you why she appropriated this name. Not only do you see the emotional turmoil of a preteen but you also get the racial tensions in the South and the tension created by the War. We know it is 1944 from the simple line that "Patton is driving the Germans out of France". One line and so much is said. No long discourses on history.
Do you remember when you were caught between being a child and an adult and belonging nowhere? Alone....and the world is a scary place.
The narration is fantastic; it is read slowly, with feeling, and it is easy to follow. Wonderful Southern dialect.
After part two of three OR after three fourths of a 6 hour audiobook:
Lend me your ear for a moment please. I consider myself pretty hard to please. For this reason I tend to prefer non-fiction because then I tell myself I will at least learn something if the writing disappoints, if the story fails. But the most stupendous books are those of fiction where the writers create a marvelous gem all from NOTHING. They create a tale from assorted words and how they string them together, their imagination and their ability to capture human emotions that we all share. So when I run into astoundingly beautiful writing, and by that I do not mean "pretty" but rather writing that speaks to us all, that has the ability to to pull us out of our own existence and allows us to share common experiences and emotions, now that is something else. THAT is what Carson McCullers does in this book. Fantastic writing.
Do you remember your preteens, when you didn't feel comfortable in your own skin, when the whole world changed over night and all was frightening? Physical changes and emotional changes that throw you off balance. Do you really remember that period in your life? Here it is again captured in writing.
Don't read this. Listen to it narrated by Susan Sarandon. Stunning performance.
There are books that start off slow, but it is worth your time to continue. This is one of them. I am even tempted to give this one five stars. The slThere are books that start off slow, but it is worth your time to continue. This is one of them. I am even tempted to give this one five stars. The slow start and a speech or two that were long-winded is why I drew off one star.
It is all in the writing. Carson McCullers was only twenty-three when she wrote this. I believe writing is a talent that you either have or do not have, although there are some techniques that can be learned. McCullers just did it perfectly from the start. I am impressed. She clearly has the ability to observe the world around her and recreate what she has seen and what her own experiences have taught her. She has looked at life in the South at the end of the thirties. This novel reflects that world, the poor white Southerners' and the black Southerners' and the war in Europe, the discrimination against Jews, how Marxism was growing and why Christian revival practices were popular. All of these issues are illustrated through the lives of a few townsfolk in a Southern mill town, the people of this book. These imaginary characters seem real and this is all achieved through the author's ability to describe small details that we the readers can relate to personally. McCullers writes of hot dusty roads, swimming in a creek, a thunder storm, an ant bite, the thick heat on a hot summer day and sex and parties and conflicting desires and life in general, things we all relate to. By starting on a familiar level we come to understand the bigger issues of that time and place - racial bigotry, injustice and the hopelessness these people felt. Life was hopeless and to feel so is appropriate.
I have been reading several books on the racial situation in the South during the first half of the 20th Century. THIS book has captured that time and place best.
A word about the other topics mentioned in the book's description: Mick's love of music and the prominent role of a deaf mute. They were for me not the central point of this book. Mick's love of music is tied to hope, to a person's need to see light in the future. John Singer, the deaf mute whom the central characters all turn to to talk and talk and talk. You will learn why that was possible, but the central question is why and how he was so important to the other characters. What does this say about our need to share our thoughts with others? What does this say about how and why each of us needs each other? We can even see this as a responsibility we each must shoulder. There is a great lesson to be found in this book. The lesson isn’t simplistic - it doesn't mean we are strong enough to always give what we should give. This is why I can accept what may be termed a depressing, hopeless, sad tale.
The narration by Cherry Jones was perfect, better than perfect. My friends know how I love Simon Vance / Richard Whitaker's narrations. Well this is just as good. Each character had his/her own intonation. The tone of the omniscient narrator was quiet and steadfast, unhurried, clear. How can I praise this so you will understand? If you enjoy audiobooks I recommend listening to this one rather than reading the paper version. The narration adds to the atmosphere and understanding of each character's personality.
I grew to care deeply for six people in this book: Mick Kelly, her younger brother Buber(George), the black house servant "Porsche", her father Dr. Copeland, her brother Willy and finally Jake Blount too. This book is not just about Mick or John Singer. Remember, he is the deaf mute the book description focuses on. You come to care for these people because who they are is so intimately drawn through McCullers' words and scenes. Through these characters the author has drawn a picture of the South with its horrible racial injustice so you will never forget it and so you will truly understand what real people of these times experienced.
This is not a light read. You will be torn, and you should be torn because in so doing you come to understand another person's life. ...more