Usually when I review a book I try to allot the stars not by the audiobook's narration but by the author's words and content. With this book I am awar...moreUsually when I review a book I try to allot the stars not by the audiobook's narration but by the author's words and content. With this book I am awarding four stars but it is partially due to Kate Winslet's fantastic narration. She is as you must know a famous actress. I strongly believe I would never have been able to imagine the words with the terror and emotion evoked through her reading. She does a fantastic job. In addition, I would have been furious if at every mention of Camille's name it had been improperly pronounced. All the French streets and terms are spot-on; this is an important part of drawing the downtrodden life in the poorer, less affluent areas of Paris where the story unfolds in the latter 1800s.
You are told in the book description that Laurent and Thérèse kill Camille, Thérèse's husband and cousin. It is what happens afterwards that constitutes the true story. This is a psychological drama, not a murder mystery. It is suspenseful, creepy and horrifying. Are you listening? It is horrifying!! At least when it is read by Kate Winslet. She notches up the suspense, the creepiness and the horror until you are sitting on the very edge of your seat. I haven't read a horror book in years; this has given me a good dose, enough to last for at least the next ten years.
In the book description we are also told that Zola "... dispassionately dissects the motivations of his characters - mere 'human beasts', who kill in order to satisfy their lust..." I disagree; there is nothing dispassionate about this book. It is all about emotions and passions, and please note the end of that sentence I quoted. It speaks of humans behaving as beasts, filled with lust. Now that gives the proper feeling of the book.
So read this book if you want a moving study of human emotions, of fear and guilt and what propels some of to behave feverishly and crazily. Being a horror story, I at the same time find it a bit exaggerated. Not everybody behaves like this, but you get so pulled into the tension that you feel the agony of their guilt. And what about punishment? That is another question delved into. What is the worst punishment - that we allot ourselves or that forced upon us by others? Violence and abuse, which is harsher, the physical or the psychological?
I have read this is also a study of people with different temperaments. This didn't work for me. Thérèse’s aunt, Camille’s mother, is drawn as a sweet loving mother, but I see her as calculating! Laurent's temperament is clear. He is, at first at least, careful and prudent. He is calculating and egotistical, avaricious, just plain wicked. Thérèse, she is drawn as a passionate figure, and yet at the same time devious and secretive. Putting together those two characteristics does not work for me. Usually emotional, passionate people simply cannot hide what they are thinking or feeling. Perhaps under the stress of her evil deed she searches everywhere for absolution and escape. You have to read the story to see where it ends.
I do recommend it, but listen to the audiobook version narrated by Kate Winslet. (less)
Again, here is a book that you must stick with; it improves. By the end I really liked it - a lot! Yup, this one is as good as the author's Ava's Man,...moreAgain, here is a book that you must stick with; it improves. By the end I really liked it - a lot! Yup, this one is as good as the author's Ava's Man, about his maternal grandfather and grandmother.
The book is set in Jacksonville, Alabama, in primarily the 1950s and 1960s. Don't make the hasty assumption that this book concerns racial questions. No, it is about poor whites. You know the term Hillbillies and what that brings to mind. The author is writing about his relationship with his father and his 10 year-old stepson. To know how he should be to be a father he first had to understand his relationship with his own father, and this was very troubled. This new son who came to his doorstep, along with the woman he wanted to marry, was as far from any boy he ever had known. How do you relate to what is completely foreign? If anything he was just that kind of boy that had been a childhood enemy. To become a father, a good father, he first had to understand himself, his own boyhood and his father. Did he succeed?
Think poor white trash. This is very bluntly put, but you will get my meaning. Think whiskey and fighting, rudimentary education and no jobs, in the South, out in the boondocks, a small cotton mill town. THAT employment was one of being torn to shreds in dangerous machines, the pay so small you can wonder if it is pay. So how do you survive? Religion? Booze? Women? And how difficult is it to change and leave and escape a bad family milieu. Can you change everything? Not everything. To be clear, this is not a book about how one can leave and escape. It is a book about understanding that life he came from, and we readers learn with him. Do we really know what such a life is really like? Here is a window to look into.
I was thinking this - what makes some people change, escape, while others remain? (I have read that alcohol ism is perhaps inherited; it comes with our genes.) You know whiskey was on the table like a salt shaker sits there on a table. But why is it that one person can break the bad cycle of generations of drinkers and fighters and womanizers, and another cannot? What makes one person succumb and another revolt and leave? We also see Rick's two other brothers and how they react, but primarily we see his father and it is shocking. He drank, he always drank and he was mean when he drank and at the end that is all he did. You cannot but ask yourself why; why is it like this and how can this change and well, there is a lot to think about?! Rick Bragg looks honestly at his life, at his father's and his mother's and their mothers and fathers. He does this with honesty, explaining how each thing happened as it did. This is not an easy read, but it is worth reading - to understand the nifty-gritty facts of another's life. For me it was a life I knew little of.
What made it very hard in the beginning was that I didn't know who was who. By the end I understood. Pronouns are used and you can't quite be sure who that person is. You hear: “the woman”, “the boy” and “he” and I”! Who, who is I? This drove me crazy. There are alternating chapters, first one about his father's life and then a chapter about time spent with his stepson. It wasn't the change in time perspective but the unclear use of pronouns that threw me. You also hear the views of others, who knew the relatives, and there are lots of relatives, and this was confusing at times. You hear about other people too, because no man is an island. Police Chief Ross, for example. To understand Rick's father you also have to understand Ross and others too, friends and foes. Who we become is just such a blend of those around us along with our own strengths and weaknesses!
Yes, this is a very good book. I admire the author for so honestly revealing who he is and why he is who he is. The author reads his own writing in the audiobook; it feels that he is speaking from the heart. The dialect is Southern and I had difficult at times deciphering the words, but it shouldn't be read any other way.
Think if for once I could write a short review! (less)
ETA: Are you are looking at the edition of this book with the following one line book description?
"A very good look at the Banana Business in the int...moreETA: Are you are looking at the edition of this book with the following one line book description?
"A very good look at the Banana Business in the international market from Central America to New Orleans."
This is incorrect. Check out the other editions' book descriptions. They are more accurate. The family's business begins with bootlegging and bordellos. Never does it touch upon the Banana Business.
So now it’s done and I don't have much to add except that I was so glued to listening that I never even once checked out how much was left. And then it ended! How often do you read a book where you never, not once, look to see what remains?
The title - is based on a legend of a condor that carries gold in its feathers. This book is about a wealthy family. How was that wealth achieved and how would it be split when its founder died? And the ending - that will keep you thinking too; it refers back to the title!
This is an unconventional story, an unusual story that absorbs you right smack to the end.
OK, this is time for an exception. If there is another audiobook by this author that I can get my hands on I will purchase it NOW, immediately! And if possible I want the same narrator - Brian Holsopple. Southerners, blacks, whites, women and men, he does them all wonderfully, so you easily distinguish between who is speaking. Just bough tRoadwalkers. :0) Exciting, I found a new author I love. (But please see below –the book might not fit all readers.)
I am not done yet, but here are my thoughts:
I REALLY am enjoying this. Given the subject matter and the horrible characters, I am kind of surprised at my reaction. Is it because the characters are completely true to themselves? A family where each one goes after what they themselves want. They live parallel lives, next to each other, but really each one is out on their own.
I wouldn't recommend this book for everyone......but it shouldn't fit me, and I think it is amazing. (This book is filled with immoral behavior.) I don't think these people are admirable, but they each are doing what that person would do. You understand each one's crazy focus. Each creates their own life according to their own way of being.
Rather than admiring the strength of each character, I think it is the ability of the author to create characters that seem so true to themselves that I like.
Maybe Thomas Hardy can write, but I didn't like this book. To say otherwise is just not true.
Just as the book description clarifies, through this boo...moreMaybe Thomas Hardy can write, but I didn't like this book. To say otherwise is just not true.
Just as the book description clarifies, through this book Hardy criticizes the three institutions - marriage, religion and education - during Victorian times. Although I agree with his criticism, he exaggerates; he finds example that go beyond a fair analysis. Some of the characters are good and some evil, as in all novels, but Hardy goes beyond this and throws in characters that are mentally instable. Their behavior cannot be seen as a just criticism of the inflexible morals, rules and beliefs. A better criticism would have been achieved through more stable characters.
I have nothing against depressing books, but this is excessively depressing and frustrating beyond words since the characters cannot make up their mind. Talk about vacillation! It was tiring to see how they make a decision and then changed their minds, not once, but over and over again. Yes, such rigid institutions can force people into craziness, but not to the extent portrayed here. These people would not even be happy in less restrictive times, and thus Hardy's message loses impact.
I listened to the audiobook narrated by Stephen Thorne. I was not pleased with the women's voices, and you could not tell who was speaking. The tone was disagreeable, but so were the characters.
I liked Jude, but felt such pity for him. It is hard to see a man so crushed by life, and his choice of women could not have been worse.
It is for those readers who appreciate good writing rather than for those who want an exciting plot. There is excite...moreI highly recommend this book. WOW!
It is for those readers who appreciate good writing rather than for those who want an exciting plot. There is excitement, but that is not why you pick this book. The ending is special; I loved it, but others may hate it. See the book like this - you pull back a curtain and glimpse another life, and then that curtain swings shut, and the book ends. Not everything is spelled out. And the future? Who knows for sure what the future will bring.
The focus is about bayou life on the islands at the mouth of the Mississippi, about fishermen communities to whom New Orleans is seen as the 'Big City'. This is a story about life on these islands - the weather, the storms, the swamp; it's scary even to them. The animals and insects (the creepy crawlies) and plants. The feel of the sticky air on your skin. The heaviness of the air before a storm, and the color of the sky. Feuds, women's roles and men's - who does what and who decides what? And if you don't agree, what happens then? Drinking and partying and sex too, but never offensively drawn. It is about the people there on these islands. What is their life like? It is not about high achievers. They swear; they talk their own dialect. Forget proper grammar.
But what really makes the book so special is how the author gets you inside the heads of such different characters - a teenager whose mother has recently died and whose father remarries. How does she feel about her father remarrying? And how do all teenagers act and behave and talk? My, what sass! One minute these kids want independence and freedom, and the next they want their parents' closeness and support. You will recognize teenage behavior! The widower marries a widow who has a young child. How does this child see his new life and existence, his new sister and a new father?! There is another outsider there on the island, on a boat going to New Orleans, but the sand bars are tricky and he is stuck there. You get inside all of these characters’ heads, and there are others too. Through their words, through dialogs you hear what they say and you understand their thoughts and confusion, hopes and wishes and struggles. There is also an old woman on the island; she is related to just about everyone. It is a small community where everyone knows everything about everyone. How does she see what is happening around her, and death sneaking in at the crevices of her house? Rivalry and dog fights and a small shop-owner. Through what they say to each other, what they do and the choices they make you understand them and their lives. You get a glimpse into another world, their world.
And here is a thought - who you are, doesn't that consist of how you react to what happens around you? Isn't that what determines who you are? Forget plans.
What makes this book special is how the reader gets into so many different characters; you see each of their lives and each one becomes special and unique.
Don't read this book. Listen to it, narrated by Luci Christian Bell. The narration is marvelous. Each character has their own intonation. The slang used and how it is pronounced is perfect. You will laugh. Wait till you hear the islanders' "NO?!" A question and an answer all in one!
I have finished the audiobook and I am so terribly impressed. This one gets five stars. I have to figure out how to write a review that does it justice.
After chapter 21: Oh my, I forgot to mention the flirting. It is delightful, both between the teenagers and the older couples too. This covers young adult relationships, love between a widower and widow and other attractions between women and men. I love it. There is so much in this book about how people interact and how that interaction is different at different ages.
I am absolutely loving this book. I have only listened to about one third, 20 chapters are completed, but I HAVE to express how I am reacting to this book.
The people - I love them. They are Southerners, people of the bayou, not people I know, not people I have been acquainted with, but now I feel I know them and I feel part of their community.
I absolutely LOVE the dialog.
I absolutely love these ordinary people. No, they are not high achievers. I couldn't care less, what they have accomplished with their lives.
I don't know where the plot is going, although I have a few guesses now. I am not reading the book for where it is going. I am reading it for being part of the island community.
A marriage has taken place. Two kids have become brother and sister. No, they were not asked or even informed. Their reactions are so absolutely pitch perfect. One is about three and the other seventeen.
Please listen to the audio version narrated by Luci Christian Bell. I don't believe any reader of the paper book could better imagine the Southern dialect, and no other narrator could better capture the emotions of the characters.
Grau, the author, won a Pulitzer for The Keepers of the House. That is what got me started with the author. FANTASTIC writing. I don't have a superlative that adequately describes how I appreciate the writing.
People, if you don't know of this author, please pay attention. Grau can write. (less)
The dialogs are negative, derogatory and filthy. Too many of the characters are pathetic loosers. Mind you, I am not one to say that people should be...moreThe dialogs are negative, derogatory and filthy. Too many of the characters are pathetic loosers. Mind you, I am not one to say that people should be focused on monetary success over kindness to fellow human beings. I find the book extremely depressing and totally boring.
There is some humor, but it is negative too.
I have listened to six hours of twenty-four and have decided to give up. I only do that if I really detest a book. I recommend this book to no one. (less)
I liked this book for many reasons. It has humor. It covers widely varied topics, all of which I found interesting. Sibling rivalry. Pa...more In conclusion:
I liked this book for many reasons. It has humor. It covers widely varied topics, all of which I found interesting. Sibling rivalry. Parents’ attachments to their children…. and let’s admit it, we do not respond identically to each child. How do we / should we choose what we want to do with our lives? I mean what job we ultimately choose. Do we choose, or is it fate that decides for us? Are we destined for a certain occupation, given our particular personality? And what is the value of a job? Must we all be academics? The book is set in Canada during WW2, this too was interesting!
The characters? Well there are several, but central to the story are two brothers and guess what - a girl they both like. One brother made me nervous just at the mention of his name. You have surely met such a person - handsome, charming ....but too good to be true. This is the one that made me so nervous! And I liked Pete, a Native American. There is Ian too, he works as a farm help. Each character ties the story together. One gripe I have with the book is that I do not understand why all the guys (at least three) are so captivated by Laura; I wish the author had drawn her better.
The plot is definitely filled with excitement.
Unfortunately this was another one of those books that do not run chronologically; it flips between different time periods. Each chapter begins with a date and newspaper headlines. The only thing achieved by this is an increase in suspense, or perhaps it is an attempt to turn the story into a mystery, into a puzzle to be solved? I personally could do without this.
The narration by Paul Hecht was well done. He used different intonations for different characters.
The book concludes with an author interview explaining how she went about writing the book and what she wanted to have said. Mary Lawson has plans for a third novel. The Other Side of the Bridge was her second following her first one Crow Lake.
Immediately I love the writing. Each line is loaded with subtle humor. The theme, and why you might be interested? Who doesn't connect with the competing emotions between one sibling and another and parents' preferences for one child over another?
I have just begun so let me see if this continues as well as it starts.
BTW, this is set in the fictional town of Struan, Ontario, near New Liskeard, Ontario. Others have said this is set in northern Canada, well look at a map! It isn't. I certainly wouldn't place Ontario in northern Canada. (less)