First of all, it IS engaging. I didn't want to stop listening. It is full of information. It keeps you thinking,Oh my, this book is hard to explain.
First of all, it IS engaging. I didn't want to stop listening. It is full of information. It keeps you thinking, and it doesn't necessarily provide answers. Definitely four stars.
It starts and ends with the line "The unexamined life is not worth living." I guess you would have to classify this as a cerebral novel, but also the parts set in Africa are dramatic; one thing happens after another - a civil war and infanticide and aggression and cannibalism and murder. Not one, but several. Murder of chimpanzees, but they are so similar to human beings that these too must be seen as murders. Chimpanzees and bonobos are the closest living relatives to human beings. Chimpanzees are more aggressive than bonobos.
There are three threads which flip back and forth. This is, until you get the knack of it, confusing. One thread is years ago when Hope is in England then married to John, a mathematician. Another thread is in the Republic of the Congo at a chimpanzee game reserve, a research center. Hope is both an ecologist and an ethologist. The African setting occurs later in time, after her marriage has dissolved. A third thread is when she later looks back on her experiences with her husband and then in Africa. She is trying to figure out what went wrong, and why and if she was guilty and what could have been changed. She is an ethologist! She wants to understand....just as her husband had been a mathematician and he too wanted to understand, to simplify life, to get it into a formula, something to put on a paper in black and white. Isn't life for observing and for trying to understand? Do we ever understand? Maybe that is the whole point of the book. Life is a wondrous puzzle that we must try to understand, even if we never will understand. I am not sure, but reading this will keep you thinking. That I guarantee.
I would have appreciated an author's note to place the years of the civil war of the Republic of the Congo / Congo Brazzaville. I call it the little Congo, the one on the ocean, not the big one that is called Democratic but isn't...... I needed to know. I NEVER found an answer and that too is so typical for this book! The book is published in 1990 and the only civil war I could find for this country was from 1997-1999. I sent a question to the author c/o the publisher. Will I get an answer? What is important is that the author has experienced civil wars in Africa, The Biafran War, so the war episodes feel pitch perfect. We know for sure is that the Biafran War is over and that ended in 1970.
The author superbly looks at our closest relative and makes us think about human behavior. There is abundant sex, and it is physical, but human sex IS physical, just as it is with chimps. I think the sex is well done. It might bother some. Not me. There is discord and aggression and manipulation. The parallels are intriguing. I told you it was cerebral. Continually you are comparing chimps and humans and mathematical axioms.
I really liked the narration by Harriet Walter. There is not much she can do to alert the reader to the changes of setting in both time and place. You just have to pay attention. The audio format is challenging but I enjoyed it tremendously. You get help with the setting changes from the point of view used. The African thread is told in first person and the English setting is in third person. There are also short quotes concerning mathematical theories. Sounds complicated? It is, but it is still very, very good. A puzzle to be solved, just like life.
ETA: This I forgot. Recognition, people want and need recognition, but to what degree?! I saw a difference here between John and Hope. John's need of recognition/acclaim was monumental. Hope's less so. I look at Hope and I admire her. She is the central character. She is s modern woman. She is strong and wise and loving and she doesn't expect as much as John. She doesn't demand as much recognition. Who is happier? ...more
I see no need in repeating what is stated in the book description.
On completing this book I knew immediately why I liked this book so much. Two reasoI see no need in repeating what is stated in the book description.
On completing this book I knew immediately why I liked this book so much. Two reasons, the first, the most important, being that the author captures how people think and talk and relate to each other. Time after time I felt that the relationship between the Lesters, Elise and Herbie, was so realistically drawn that the author must have understood them. They are people that really existed, as well as the first family followed in the book. Neither is fictional. Don't you ever look at a person and only because you know that person well can you understand why they act, say or do what they do? What that person does seems so foreign to your own way of thinking, but you do understand. It is in this manner you look at these characters. This is not the only relationship that is so perceptively portrayed; many relationships were pitch-perfect in their accuracy.
The second reason I liked the book is how the author never distorted the facts. Every single historical or geographical element and character that I checked was correct. I found myself both looking up the island San Miguel and the central characters. They are all true. The book centers around two different couples that lived on San Miguel, the first in the 1880s and the second during the 1930s. San Miguel is one of the Channel Islands off the coast of Santa Barbara, California. I like historical fiction that teaches me history AND has characters that live and breathe. This book has both. The island, its history and geography, its flora and fauna and weather is interesting. The people that lived there are equally interesting.
The language isn't lyrical, but it describes events in a manner that is exciting and gets you thinking.
What did I think about besides relationships? I thought about how different the island was perceived by the two different families that lived there. I think this leaves an important message. Our personal attitude shapes events, but also that no two people will ever see things similarly. None of us have the same health problems or past experiences, and we are all born different. You cannot help but compare the two families.
I bet socially oriented people will be more moved by the first family's experiences, while people like me who instinctively love the thought of living alone on an island will understand the second family more easily. In that these two families were real, many factors complicated their lives.
I liked that what happens to Edith Alice Scott Waters/Inez Dean, from the first story, is clarified in the second story. I like the connection between the two. There is more that I liked. I liked the compassion Herbie Lester felt for animals.
Barbara Caruso ‘s narration of the audiobook was wonderful. Zero complaints.
I really liked this book, so four stars it is. I wanted to read it because I have always agreed with Chanel's basic philosophy about clothes. When youI really liked this book, so four stars it is. I wanted to read it because I have always agreed with Chanel's basic philosophy about clothes. When you look at a person you should not see the clothes but rather the person. Clothes should not restrict you; they should be comfortable and let you live your life to the utmost. To achieve all this you need simplicity in design and materials that allows movement. My wardrobe consists of comfortable black stretchy shirts and pants, black shoes and the “little black dress”. That is all you need. You don't have to spend hours matching or planning or changing purses. With little effort and time you can get dressed, and still look neat. Traveling is easy, with just a few things to pack! So you see I wanted to know more about this woman. Also, she was French, and I personally love France. Finally, who doesn’t love Chanel No. 5?!
She was born in 1883 in Samur, France, and died in 1971 at the ripe old age of 87 years. She had a terrible childhood, please see below. What she makes of herself is .......admirable, but at what cost? She has a fascinating life, and she knew such fascinating people - artists, authors and politicians. Who should I name? Churchill and Dali and Colette and Picasso and so many others. All the fashion designers between the wars and after the Second World War. These designers were hard for me to keep track of; this is new territory for me. More importantly you learn how she shaped the modern woman, and you come to understand how her ideas were a result of the times she lived through. History and people they shape each other. History, both WW1 and WW2 are essential elements of this book. If historical events bore you, then do not read this book. It is detailed, both concerning history and fashion.
Chanel didn't write - neither diaries nor letters. However, the author has used previous biographies and letters written by others about Chanel, i.e. those who knew her. Chanel contradicted herself; she could say one thing one day and the opposite the next. So which is the truth? You can only see by studying all that is available. Chaney's research is thorough. She both questions what seems false and presents contradictory views. She counters one person's statement against others. I feel now, at the conclusion of this book, I DO understand who she was. I understand her fears, where they came from and how she combated those fears. She feared abandonment and loneliness. She sought to escape through work. Work brought her independence. As I read the book I occasionally questioned some of the author's views, but by the end when I saw all parts of her life and all the choices she made, and where she ends up, I agreed with the conclusions drawn by the author. I wanted to read this book to understand the woman Chanel. This book answered that for me, AND what a very interesting ride it was following this amazing woman.
She was buried in Switzerland, NOT France! Why? Did you know that some saw her as a German collaborator in WW2? Did you know that she had a German lover and he was a spy? You need to know more to understand, to decide for yourself why she did what she did.
I absolutely detested the narration of the audiobook (by Carole Boyd)! As usual, my star rating is based on the content of the written book, not the narration. I am not lowering the stars for the narration. I detest the dramatics with which the lines are read. Boyd plays with accents. Her French is impeccable - I am talking about the pronunciation of French words and names and places - but the tone she uses is highbrow and downright snobbish. Stuffy! The only accent I enjoyed was that she used for the American characters. Others may like that she uses different tones for different nationalities, but since most is in this fake French tone, it drove me absolutely crazy. I like narrators to just slowly and clearly read the text. I don't want to hear the voice but rather the content of the author’s lines. That is me, maybe you are different.
After three chapters: Oh, this is one of those books I have to immediately tell others about, AS I read the book. I will say it right out - I love France, more specifically Brittany. I am always blabbing about The Discovery of France: A Historical Geography from the Revolution to the First World War because it gives such a nuanced view of the land. It isn't one land and one people but many. Did you know that French people don't first of all see themselves as French but French of a particular region. Each region is so different. Money(in the past), language, foods, customs - all vary. You must ask, "Which area exactly are you speaking of?" Nothing is homogeneous about this country! Anyhow, my point is that this book about Chanel has all the ingredients of the named book and how it relates to the Chanel family, her paternal ancestors coming from Cévennes. The description of this area, the nature and the landscape is just so very beautiful. Then we told of the change from agrarian to urban life and industrialization. All is told as the background to the choices and decisions made by Gabrielle Chanel's paternal ancestors. You SEE how history shapes individual lives. This is exactly how I want history to be told, through its people. So...this is even better than Robb's book!
After the moving historical introduction the book moves on to her great grandfather, Joseph, and proceeds down to Gabrielle's own parents, Albert Chanel and Eugénie Jeanne Devolle, and herself and her four surviving siblings. Gabrielle was illegitimate; only later was her father coerced into marriage. Her mother dies when she is eleven. Her paternal aunts want nothing to do with her or her siblings, so the girls are pushed off into the cloister Aubazine. Her two brothers were sent to work as tenant farmers for their keep. Her father, well he never showed any interest and just disappeared, but no he probably didn't flee to America. Separated from her brothers, abandoned by her father, life in the cloister was stifling - a shock to a child who had always been on the move. Her father's occupation was an itinerant market trader. This is all very important if one is to understand why Chanel became who she was. Imagination and fantasy allowed her to escape reality. Stubbornness and protest were survival tools. This is all in only the first three chapters. I had to tell someone. I am loving this so MUCH! I hope I am not jinxing the book. Will it now go downhill?
No, I don't like the narration of the audiobook by Carole Boyd, She reads it too emotionally, but I knew I would have to ignore her reading style and focus on the author's words. Why can't narrators just read the lines in the book and and skip all the dramatics?! ...more
Three stars because I liked this book. It takes a while to get into. The beginning is a rapid summary of Charley's respectable, well-off, bourgeois EnThree stars because I liked this book. It takes a while to get into. The beginning is a rapid summary of Charley's respectable, well-off, bourgeois English family. Not snobbish, but proud of what they have attained. Intellectual and well-versed in the arts. His parents had raised Charley and his sister insuring that they had read what should be read, had viewed those paintings one should see and gone to concerts so they were well acquainted with the famous classical composers. All was in order. Charley would be working in the family real estate business. Art was to be enjoyed but not a source of income. The picture drawn is SO bourgeois. Life is comfortable, planned, happy. With all this settled Charley at 23 is off to a good start. The parents' reward is a one week trip to Paris over Christmas. Yes, probably a little fling with the girls, because isn't that perfectly normal?! It is part of being a man.
I will say this, without giving too much of a spoiler, Charley's world opens up on this trip to Paris. He learns of a whole new world. He meets Russian "Princess Olga", aka Lydia. He meets up with his old friend Simon, also 23. Socialist? Communist? Well, certainly not satisfied with the world as it is, and not Charley's staid world. Between the wars, when this book is set, there were many Russian immigrants. Second to Charley, this book is about Lydia and these Russian immigrants living in Paris. Lydia is fascinating. She has so much to teach Charley about art, music, love and life. The author is wonderfully knowledgeable in all these fields and so the book is quite a treasure trove of literary, musical and the visual arts. But what is also emphasized is the emotional response you have towards the arts.
The book has a clear message, a bit too blatantly proclaimed. Some sections could be shortened, for example when Simon is expounding his political views.
My audiobook was narrated by Ben Elliot. The Russian accent is not exaggerated. The French is well pronounced. Good speed. Easy to follow. Yep, a very good narration. ...more
There are numerous book descriptions here at GR. This says what you need to know:
"A sensational bestseller when it appeared in 1986, The Garden of EdThere are numerous book descriptions here at GR. This says what you need to know:
"A sensational bestseller when it appeared in 1986, The Garden of Eden is the last uncompleted novel of Ernest Hemingway, which he worked on intermittently from 1946 until his death in 1961. Set on the Côte d'Azur in the 1920s, it is the story of a young American writer, David Bourne, his glamorous wife, Catherine, and the dangerous, erotic game they play when they fall in love with the same woman...."
The book was uncompleted and was published posthumously. This is important to note. It does not read as a finished novel, even if it does contain some great lines. It is repetitive. The different threads are not drawn up properly. At the end, the message delivered is confused. It needs to be tightened up. Hemingway usually delivers a strong clear novel without numerous sidetracks, but not here.
There is subdued eroticism which is tantalizing in sections, but then this gets sidetracked into the power struggle in a couple's relationship, and on a higher level between men and women in general.
The narration by Patrick Wilson is perfectly acceptable....more
For me this book was merely OK. That is not to say it doesn't have exceptional writing. You must like the style of writing to like the book. For me itFor me this book was merely OK. That is not to say it doesn't have exceptional writing. You must like the style of writing to like the book. For me it was too wordy. The language employed is descriptive. It is like looking through a magnifying glass where all the descriptive words make the enlargement. People, clothes, hairstyles, facial expressions, rooms, objects, relationships, behavior - all are described with meticulous exactitude. I admire the author's ability to do this, but it is hard to read. The writing is not lyrical. It is not poetic. Instead is delivered an exact, minutely correct image. Not just of things but of relationships too. Sometimes this mirror image is expressed humorously. Sometimes philosophically and sometimes it just drones on f-o-r-e-v-e-r. It then becomes tedious.
The story starts with an older man's meticulous analysis of his childhood world and emotions. You do not see the world through the child's eye but through the head of his older self. Then it shifts to Swann, a family friend and neighbor, an elderly man much older than the boy. Finally it switches back to the boy's life in Paris. I didn't feel the boy's thoughts corresponded to the thoughts of a child. Although the village Combray (see below) was perceptively described, Paris never came alive. It is the people not the place that is the focus. And here is the real problem, for me at least. I never came close to any of the characters. I observed them. There was always a distance between me and the characters. I was delivered a meticulously correct analytical review rather than a moving, emotional story. It is true, light through leaves or a river's edge or other descriptions of the landscapes became beautiful, magnificent images!
But the humor really saved this book for me. The dialogs will crack you up. Class is all important, but at the same time comments about class and social status are ironically scathing. I believe Proust meant for me to laugh. If you listen carefully you understand that. The words of Mme Verdurin and her soirée guests....well, you don't want to be classified as a bore.
What are the themes of the book? Memory and loss and relationships and betrayal. Remembrance - what is that? Regret for a particular moment that has passed. To feel that regret you have to be emotionally involved, and I never felt that emotional pull.
There is no history. Places are fictional. Art, music and literature are discussed, but not in a way that moved me. Here again, too much was fictional. I was not drawn in by any of the themes. Rather than pushing me to think I was told what the narrator thought through words, words and more words. Words heaped upon words. True - sometimes the images drawn WERE very beautiful.
I do believe that this book is easier to listen to than read. The never-ending sentences have to be impossible to follow. Good slow narration by Neville Jason.
After about 1/6 of the audiobook:
The whole feeling of the book changes and this comparison is no longer relevant. Maybe this is crazy but the aunts in this book remind me of Tant(Auntie) Grön(green), Tant Brun(bown) and Tant Gredelin(purple) in Elsa Beskow picture book stories. Look at the picture: https://www.google.se/search?q=elsa+b... See: Tant Grön, Tant Brun och Tant Gredelin. Then I checked to compare the birth and death of the two authors. Yep, both are describing village life at the same time period (the beginning of the 1900s), but in two different countries, France and Sweden.
It takes a while to get close to the family in Proust's fictional Combray. The book is based on his childhood experiences in Illiers, France, renamed Illiers-Combray in honor of the author. The time setting is the early 1900s.
There is humor; what the characters say has me smiling. I wasn't expecting humor! The antics of the aunts and uncles are amusing. The difference between what people say and what they really mean....well, this too makes me smile.
The writing employs stream of consciousness. But what is that? How one writer uses this technique is nothing like another's! This is not like Virginia Woolf! You follow one thought and get sidetracked and sidetracked time and time again. When the thoughts are those I can relate to, then I am not bored. Other times I am. Yes, the language is wordy, and yes, it almost feels cluttered at times, but the thoughts and ideas and perspectives are intriguing.
Boy can the author talk....for a good five minutes on the flowers of a Hawthorn bush!
I don't quite know how I will react as the book continues, but the further I get into the story the more interested I become.
The audiobook narration by Neville Jason is good, primarily because it is slow. You have to listen to every word. The French is perfect, and women sound like women and men like men.
I still do not understand why the book is called Swann's Way. Swann is just an acquaintance of the family. I have to find out. ...more
I enjoyed every minute spent listening to this audiobook. I laughed and laughed and laughed. Pay attention - I have put it on my humorous shelf. The oI enjoyed every minute spent listening to this audiobook. I laughed and laughed and laughed. Pay attention - I have put it on my humorous shelf. The only reason it doesn't get five stars is that it was too short.......I like long books. I didn’t want it to end. I want more and more and more.
So who will love this book? People who love Holly will love this book. So who IS Holly? Now that is the central theme of the whole book so I can only tell you a bit. Holly is a free spirit. The Holly we know is the "Holly of NYC", during the war years, primarily 1943. I have lived in NYC, but later in the 50s and early 60s. Nevertheless the people in this tale are people that breathe of NYC. What they say and how they joke and what they do, well it all felt pitch-perfect. i felt right at home. Yes, my kind of humor and my kind of people. If felt like these are the people that were the "pre-Hippie people”, the people that later became the Hippies and that is to say my younger self. Anyhow, if you love NYC, and there is a special kind of person that is the New Yorker, then your chances of loving this book are exponentially higher.
One hint - pay attention to the beginning because the story starts at the end, after the main time period of the book. Remember the beginning. Who is Holly? What kind of person is she? I love Holly. What if I say she is a REAL phony, that is taken directly from the book! Now what can that mean? Well, read the book and find out.
OMG, what lines!!! Ttaste these, even if you probably cannot swallow them with so little background:
- "José was too prim to be my guy ideal." - Holly likes honesty, but not "law-type" honesty. - If you don't even like looking at the guy, you're gonna be "a cold plate of macaroni".
You see I simply cannot show you how funny this is.
Oh, and don't read this, listen to the audiobook narration by Michael C. Hall. Absolutely superb.
One more thing. I never saw the movie and I cannot possibly envision Holly as Audrey Hepburn. How did they pick her for Holly?! I guess it was good but very hard to imagine.
My explosion while reading the book: I cannot stop laughing.
And the audiobook narration by Michael C. Hall is fantastic. You have to hear Holly and Joe and the fake "Fred" and all the rest. The voices fit the lines and each character's personality. ...more
I did not like this at all. I decided to dump it after struggling through four of the nine hour audiobook narrated by Francis Jeater. The narration waI did not like this at all. I decided to dump it after struggling through four of the nine hour audiobook narrated by Francis Jeater. The narration was fine; it was the lines of the book that disappointed.
I have read other books by Virginia Woolf and enjoyed them.
In this book I felt nothing for any of the characters. As in the other novels the reader is in the heads of the various characters. Here there are numerous characters and it is extremely difficult to keep track of whose thoughts you are following. Stream of consciousness only works for me when I myself could possibly think as the character thinks, at least one of the characters. With this book I failed totally.
You follow several characters from their youth and as they each get older. The younger children did NOT think at all as a child might think. The language was way too sophisticated. As they grew up I was bored by their pompous drivel, particularly Bernhard's.
I could stand this no longer. My goodness, it IS wonderful that books purchased at Audible may be returned if you dislike them.
To summarize my reaction - these characters have nothing important to say, and I felt absolutely no empathy for any of them. Neither do I find many lines where Woolf succinctly or beautifully captures nature. If you think because of the title the setting is by the sea, well that is not the case! Don't be fooled as I was. ...more
When I express how I feel for Woolf's writing it is only in superlatives...... Yes, the writing is amazing. When I look at how I feel for the book asWhen I express how I feel for Woolf's writing it is only in superlatives...... Yes, the writing is amazing. When I look at how I feel for the book as a whole, I feel it deserves less stars. Why? Is it the British upper-crust characters she weaves her story around that is the stumbling block for me? I believe so.
Writing using her unique stream of consciousness narrative, the primary themes of this book are personal relationships, the aftermath of WW1 and British colonization of India, not the events per se but their effect on individuals. The year is 1923 and Mrs. Dalloway has planned a sumptuous party for the coming evening. She is fifty-two. What happens on this one day is the story, but every encounter is influenced by past events and personal relationships. The reader is told past events through the thoughts of all the different characters, and a little dialog. That dialog is pitch-perfect. “That is my Elizabeth” has a completely different significance than the words “That is Elizabeth.” Think in terms of your own daughter! Would your daughter react the same to the two different wordings? Elizabeth is Mrs. Dalloway’s teen-age daughter. Everyone Mrs. Dalloway meets that day and how she relates to each and every one of them is influenced by past events. There is a shell-shocked war veteran and a special boyfriend from the past that happens to drop by. The meshing of past events and history and relationships is flawless. . Although British upper- crust society of the inter-war years is superbly drawn, it is the relationships between the numerous characters that captivated me.
At that party in the evening of that summer day, you, the reader, feel the tingle of excitement. As the hours slip by the mood changes and you feel that too. The food has been served, the excitement and tensions subside, people start getting tipsy, and what is said then?
Juliet Stevenson's narration was very good, except that she should have been able to voice male thoughts a bit differently than women's. Men’s and women's thoughts sound identical, and this is confusing. She does capture the different classes of people. I do believe that it is much easier to follow stream of consciousness writing through listening rather than reading.
The book is cerebral. It presents characters’ thoughts. Honest thoughts because no one censors our thoughts! It looks at relationships. What would be going through your head if you one day ran into that boy you fell for thirty years ago? Virginia Woolf captures all of this accurately. Think carefully, and don't just think; let yourself feel how you would feel. This is what the book delivers. And yet I am giving this four stars, not five, because my emotional response to the book is that I like it very much. Perhaps it is because I am a stranger to that high-society circle of friends that the book focuses upon.
This is a psychological thriller. It was not for me. I was not ever scared. I thought it felt totally fake, with NOT a smidgen of reality.
Maybe I shoThis is a psychological thriller. It was not for me. I was not ever scared. I thought it felt totally fake, with NOT a smidgen of reality.
Maybe I should avoid psychological thrillers in the future, but heck I did enjoy Thérèse Raquin.
ETA: I also hated the complicated narrative voice which the book uses. Bess is writing a letter to her sister Tess, whom she believes has been murdered - relating how she figured out who her sister's murderer was. Suicide or death? That is one of the central questions. Bess constantly uses the pronoun you. This is, until you get the hang of it, very confusing. I was so confused in the beginning that all I was thinking about were who the pronouns used were reference to. I was also confused by the usage of italics in some paragraphs. I spent way too much time trying to figure out the author's methods rather than listening to the story....more
I quite simply could not relate to the main characters - i.e. Jean, Pierre and their mother. Everything they said and thought, well I thought differenI quite simply could not relate to the main characters - i.e. Jean, Pierre and their mother. Everything they said and thought, well I thought differently! We live in different eras, but I do believe it is not just a question of that. One doesn't have to do what is the norm. Then there is the father. He is drawn as a total idiot from start to finish. He understood nothing. There was no depth to his character.
Then there this question - who is a father? Is it he who raises a child or is it the biological father?
Neither does the book draw a detailed description of an era or a place (here Normandy latter half of the 1800s)......except perhaps in the beginning when there is a lovely fishing trip near Le Havre. Very little description is given of other coastal towns in Normandy.
John McDonough also narrated this audiobook as he did the other I listened to by Guy de Maupassant, namely Bel-Ami. Now that one I loved; that one I gave five stars. (My review : https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...) Don't judge Maupassant by Pierre and Jean. The narration is good on both, IF you can accept an elderly narrator.
Some may say that Pierre and Jean is a clever story, unfortunately I found it too short, with characters too ordinary and without humor. ...more
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 awarUsually 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. ...more
Now I have listened to 5 hours, and do not like this at all. I have decided to dump it. I find the book boring and the characters unintelligent, withNow I have listened to 5 hours, and do not like this at all. I have decided to dump it. I find the book boring and the characters unintelligent, with despicable behavior. I don't feel pity or empathy for any of them. Couldn't Zola have thrown in some humor? OK, Zola was a naturalist, but is it realistic to collect together such a bunch of loosers? Are people really this bad? And I am sick to death of the soirées, one after another filled with empty talk and drunkenness. Those at the soirées are falling asleep. How does Zola expect me to stay awake if none of them can?! Bismarck is discussed only fleetingly. It takes place before the war between France and the Prussians in 1870, when Alsace-Lorraine fell to the Prussians.
The narration by Walter Zimmerman is just terrible. He reads in a steady monotone.
I want to read this, so I am going to stick with it, at least for a while, but it takes all my attention to listen to the author's words rather than the narrator's voice. ...more
I will write reviews as I complete each story. Seven stories and seven different narrators: David Ledoux, Joe Barrett, Therese Plummer, Kevin Pariseau,I will write reviews as I complete each story. Seven stories and seven different narrators: David Ledoux, Joe Barrett, Therese Plummer, Kevin Pariseau, Suzanne Toren, Edoardo Ballerini, Barbara Rosenblat I have asked Audible to tell me which narrator narrated which story. Have yet to receive a reply. *************************************** STORY 1 The Ballad of the Sad Café : 3 stars What I liked was the feel of the town. It was an entity in itself. The townspeople are not individuals, but a group. Often people behave differently as part of a group than when each feels themselves on their own! The story and what happens in this small southern town is atmospherically told. It is the atmosphere drawn that I enjoyed most. There are three central characters: Miss Amelia (shop/café owner), Marvin Macy (Amelia’s hated and deposed earlier husband) and Lymon (Amelia’s cousin, a dwarf hunchback). Their behavior didn’t make sense to me, even when seen in the light of the novella’s central theme - the difference between being a lover versus the beloved. Group behavior felt spot-on, but not the individuals’ behavior. Maybe I analyze too much. The audiobook narration was slow and atmospheric, impossible to improve upon. I like slow. ***************************************
Story 2 Wunderkind: 5 stars Wow, I am not musical and still I understood the agony of the story’s fifteen-year-old who no longer could play the piano as she had before. Her heart and soul knew how the music was to be played……..but her fingers just no longer could. Heart-wrenching. Oh, I wanted the teacher to talk to her, to comfort her, to give her encouragement. This has to be quasi-autobiographical. The author had wanted to study at Juliard. Again, absolutely marvelous narration. This story is very short. :0( ****************************************
Story 3 The Jockey 1 star This was ridiculously short! How can I “judge” a situation or the people if I know scarcely a thing about them? None of the characters seemed at all pleasant or interesting. Narration OK. ****************************************
Story 4 Madame Zalenski and the King of Finland Narrator: Suzanne Toren 4 stars Not that I understood all of this, but it certainly made me laugh! After completion I thought and thought how to make sense of what I had been told. You CAN have a democracy in a land with a king. Still, Finland is a democracy but has no king! And dogs CAN walk backwards…..perhaps. Who is the crazy one?! I liked how this is written; it makes me curious and is amusing. Excellent narration. ****************************************
Story 5 The Sojourner 2 stars Somebody close dies and of course you stop and rethink your own life. Narration and story just OK. ***************************************
Story 6 A Domestic Dilema 3 stars A touching glimpse at the problems caused by alcohol in a young family. Could Carson McCullers have said more in a longer novel? She said a lot here with few words. Good narration. ***************************************
Story 7 A Tree, a Rock, a Cloud 3 stars Yeah, I liked this one too. The theme? The difficulties of loving a woman. A brief talk between a paperboy, the owner of an all-night streetcar café and an old faded redhead. Carson McCullers paints pictures with words. Then she leaves a thought to think upon. Start by loving something simpler. Good narration. ****************************************
Three stars for the whole book. Some stories are better than others. You get glimpses into the worlds of others, and you start thinking. Always good writing. I prefer long novels over short stories and novellas, even when the writing is as good as this. ...more