One star means, here at GR, that the reader did not like the book. No, I do not like this book. IF I cannot bear to listen to it to the very end how c...more One star means, here at GR, that the reader did not like the book. No, I do not like this book. IF I cannot bear to listen to it to the very end how can I even say it was OK? I have listened to seven of thirty-six hours of the unabridged audiobook version translated by Tobias Smollett and narrated by the talented Robert Whitfield/Simon Vance. I cannot continue. I have given this enough of my time. My good friends know that I often will struggle through a book that is displeasing me. Why? To give it a fair chance; some books do turn around. My patience is tested to the limit with this book. In addition, let it me noted that even a superb narrator cannot save a book if you don't like how it is written. Robert Whitfield does a fantastic job.
I found the book tedious, extremely wordy and repetitive. It is a composite of many stories relating the escapades of the knight errant, Don Quixote, and his faithful squire, Sancho Panza. Don Quixote is always, in every story depicted, the idealist, a worthy knight bent on fighting for good and honor, fighting for women and men who are unfairly treated. He is fighting against all injustice, in whatever form it may be. That is all fine and dandy; but he is delusional and sees injustice, inequity and dishonor where it does not exist. He is an honorable man fighting against problems that in fact do not exist. In contrast, Sancho Panza offers us the realist's interpretation of events. (That they see the world differently does make their friendship all the more wonderful!) Each story/episode introduces the reader to new characters, new events, but there is a huge similarity in what is to be drawn from the separate stories.
I do not enjoy short stories so I am not the ideal reader for this book! If you do enjoy short stories it may be enjoyable to listen to one, laugh at the humor depicted in the events and the naivety of Don Quixote and smile at the wonderful friendship one sees between the knight errant and his squire. Then put the book aside for a later time when you feel like listening to another story. However do keep in mind that the message imparted is to all extent and purposes the same in all the related stories.
The stories are cute, the lines are humorous and the book well depicts Spanish society and ways of thinking in the early 17th Century. It was published in two volumes, the first in 1605 and the second in 1615. To quote from Wiki: "Don Quixote is considered the most influential work of literature from the Spanish Golden Age and the entire Spanish literary canon. As a founding work of modern Western literature, and one of the earliest canonical novels, it regularly appears high on lists of the greatest works of fiction ever published."
But I personally have had enough. This is in fact the second time I have tried to read the book. My grandmother had a wonderful hardback with great illustrations. It attracted me, I tried to like it, but failed that time too. That was a good fifty years ago.
I am NOT judging the book. I am telling you merely how I personally react to this book. Yes, it can be seen as amazing, as a break-through piece of writing, but it is not with this criterion I rate books. (less)
On completion, all I will add to that written below is that I adored the ending. This IS my favorite book by Hemingway. Hemingway has illuminated frie...moreOn completion, all I will add to that written below is that I adored the ending. This IS my favorite book by Hemingway. Hemingway has illuminated friendship and love in a beautiful and also honest manner. Note, this is a love story, a wonderful love story that rings true. Nothing false here. If other authors could write love stories like this, romance would be my favorite genre.
Although fiction, the book is in fact written about real people and real events, and it has an autobiographical basis. Check out Wiki when you have completed the book; no peaking before! I found Jake very attractive. I will include just one quote from Wiki: "In the novel, Hemingway presents his notion that the "Lost Generation", considered to have been decadent, dissolute and irretrievably damaged by World War I, was resilient and strong." When you finish the book you have glimpsed French and Spanish life in the 20s. You feel you have yourself vacationed in both France and Spain. Need a vacation? Read this book. I absolutely loved it.
I am nearing the end, and I am absolutely loving this. Yes, even the bullfighting fiesta. It goes on for seven days - rockets and dancing and music and crowds. And yes of course drinking. To remove that would be absurd! Me,I am the one to faint in a crowd and have done so at a 4th of July parade, so this fiesta should not be my kind of thing, but here, in this book, you see why it is so loved by the Spanish people. You, the reader, are part of their festivities and understand and f-e-e-l their excitement. Back away two steps and your inhibitions rise up, but while reading Hemingway's lines you are there in the middle, and it is glorious and frightful all rolled together. Hemingway shows the horrors of it too, so the reader gets a rounded view. Not all Spaniards love bullfighting, even back then in the twenties.
And a word about how antisemitism is portrayed. Yes, one of the characters is a Jew, and yes he is disliked, but really it is not for his religious beliefs. It has nothing to do with that. This book is about friends and all the currents that lie underneath a friendship - jealously, competition, disgust, petty annoyances, sharing, camaraderie and caring. Be honest, friendship is NOT so simple. Much of the antisemitism is pure bluster.
William Hurt does a marvelous job with the narration, but it is not perfect. Tut, tut, tut, what do you mean, William? Shame on you! Not every line is perfect! (For clarity - I AM being sarcastic.) The French and American voices are perfect. I mean perfect! Dialogs between different friends succeed in that you know exactly who is speaking. Even if a female voice or the Scottish and German dialects could be improved, you still easily know who is who! And the pacing and strength of the lines describing scenery, the mountains, the fields, the color of the sky are wonderful too. Perfect narration? No. Very good? Yes! And this book is not easy to narrate.
I have just begun, but I am sucking up the atmosphere of Paris in the 20s. All are plastered - that is, some Americans and French and Italians and Greeks. I am listening to a narration by the w-o-n-d-e-r-f-u-l William Hurt. There is no way I could imagine the lines spoken with all these different accents as well as Hurt narrates them. Sooo perfect, particularly the French and American, the others accents give an amusing contrast! The mood of that time and place, Paris and expatriates and booze and bars, 1924, is delightfully portrayed. I don't mind the macho lines at all. They make me laugh and giggle. Sooooooo Hemingway!!!! Good stuff.
And I am not a boozer, but this I enjoy. You can live vicariously through books ...... without yourself having a hangover the next day!
Please let my enjoyment continue.
I know this book contains misogyny, homophobia, and some antisemitism too, but a good author can handle difficult themes well. Oh yeah, yucky bullfighting too. We will see how I feel at the end.
I think this will be my favorite book by Hemingway!(less)
Hemingway uses special "literary techniques" in "For whom the Bell Tolls" that rather than enhancing the reading experience detract from it. Please se...moreHemingway uses special "literary techniques" in "For whom the Bell Tolls" that rather than enhancing the reading experience detract from it. Please see the list below. The ending is totally soppy. You learn nothing about the Spanish Civil War, and a better explanation for why Robert Jordan decided to fight with the Republicans should have been given. The scenes depicting physical attraction were bland and insipid. Some dislike the macho behavior of Hemingway's characters, but this doesn't bother me. I see it as typical of the times, and Pilar is the best character of this novel. She is a strong, intelligent, no-nonsense woman! What remains undeniably true though is that Hemingway can draw a scene so you see, hear, smell and feel it in your pores. It is interesting to see what goes through a soldier's mind, but there is so much wrong with this book I cannot justify a better rating.
I listened to the audiobook. There is absolutely nothing wrong with Scott Campbell's narration, except that a few bomb blasts fell flat. Even a good narrator cannot save a bad book.
Through 1/2 of chapter 10: I very much enjoy the description of the landscapes and events. I like the strength and clarity of the prose. The dialogs have stopped bothering me. I am in chapter 10 and what happens is truly moving. You feel as the villagers' mood changes from controlled hostility to frenzied anger to drunken brutality. There is a massacre in the town.
Through Hemingway's usage of the words thee and thou, I understand now that he is simply giving the reader more information about the relationship between the individuals speaking. It doesn't disturb me in the slightest any more. In fact I like it! It serves a purpose. (Please note that by the end of the book I was totally fed up with this.)
I am in fact totally enjoying the book now. I have come to care for some of the characters, Pilar in particular. There is emotion in the book. There is the theme of what makes a person fight in a war. Motivation is not the same for all, and thus one person's behavior will be very different from another's.
Through chapter 7: This is what is bugging me: 1. The dialogs are NOT in the least believable. None of them. 2. Swear words are replaced with "unprintable word" or "obscenity". This is ridiculous and disrupts the prose! "F*/k you" will be written, "obscenity you", for example. Crazy! 3. In the 30s people did not speak with the terms "thy", "thee", "thou art". This is driving me nuts. WHY has Hemingway done this? (Answer: Kim explained this to me. It is to show the relationship between the people speaking. Please see comments 21-22 below!) 4. Robert Jordan is holier than "thou" (:0)), and it drives me crazy. SUCH a perfect soldier with SUCH motivation, and he is SO devoted to his job. 5. To top it all off the love between Maria and Robert Jordan jumps out of nowhere. The same day they meet they are in bed, no, actually a sleeping bag, and then she says in one of those above mentioned dialogs that she doesn't know how to kiss. Jeez! (OK, if one is a little patient an explanation is given.) 6. And what is this with calling Robert Jordan Robert Jordan?. Everyone else goes by one name, usually a nickname!
I will persevere. Why? Well because I DO enjoy Hemingway's depictions of places and events. They become moving and laden with feeling. You feel the immensity of those airplanes lined up in rows. You hear the gurgling stream. There is something that draws me to Hemingway's writing; it is just the dialogs that irritate me.
ETA: It bothers me that I don't explain more about the theme of the story, but I don't know how to explain without giving the whole thing away. In add...moreETA: It bothers me that I don't explain more about the theme of the story, but I don't know how to explain without giving the whole thing away. In addition I am pretty darn sure that others may not interpret this story as I do. What I think is so tragic and beautiful at the same time is that the father, the photographer, being who he is and (view spoiler)[loving his wife beyond all else, simply HAD to take the photos he took of his wife. Those photos destroyed his wife and his relationship with her. (hide spoiler)] If you read this, please tell me if you react as I do? I love both HOW McCann writes and WHAT he has to say.
With his shirt open to the third button, he turned around from the fireplace. His chest was a xylophone of bones sticking out against his skin. His face and arms still held some tan, but the veil of his throat was lost to whiteness and the remaining chest hairs curled, acolytes of gray. His neck was a sack of sag and his trousers were huge on him. Not to healthy for him to be out in the cold. Although it would be lovely if I could see him cast in the way he used to. Even when I detested him, there were times when I was astounded just to watch him cast, back when the river was alive. Those flicks of the wrist like so many fireflies on the bank. The hooks glinting on the lapel of his overcoat. The huge sadness of him disappearing as the rod ripped away. Him counting under his breath, “One, two , three, here we go.” Lassoing it to the wind. Brisk upward motion of the tip of the glass rod, sometimes drawing off the flies by false casting. Finally watching them curl out over the water, and plunk, reeling the surface into soft circles. Stomping his feet on the bank. Spitting out over the water. All sorts of hidden violence in the motion. He coughed again…..
These lines are found within the first ½ hour of my listening to the audiobook reading by Paul Nugent. My breath was taken away. I couldn’t help but compare these lines with Steinbeck’s in his book “Travels with Charley”, also depicting a fisherman standing in Wellingtons in a river cluttered with garbage. McCann’s reference to garbage is to be found in the words “back when the river was alive” and a gate that slowed the stream’s tempo and reeds that grew along the embankment. Nugent’s timing, intonation and inflections make the Irish brogue come alive. For me this is pure poetry. And this is just one snippet. You should read McCann’s lines depicting coyotes. Steinbeck describes them too, but not like this! I should not compare, but how can I not?!
Now I am going to keep my mouth shut and see if this caliber of writing can be sustained throughout the entire novel.
The answer is yes. Astonishingly beautiful writing from start to finish. I would recommend that you listen to this because the narration was wonderful too.
McCann never writes books about happy, simple situations, but he shows beauty and hope. This book ends with a huge salmon leaping high over the brook and the line: "Let this joy last itself into the night." The lines are exquisite. His message too, but this is no fairy tale. This book is about a son trying to understand his parents, their relationship and how he fits in. His mother is Mexican, father Irish and a photographer. He fought in the Spanish Civil War. The son travels to all these places and through his father’s photos and his own memories he seeks to understand the past. Sex is both cruel and glorious, that is my only hint. I understood why each, the mother, the father and the son, felt and behaved as they did. Love and sorrow. Good memories and regrets. When you look at your own parents and your relationship to them don't you too see love and sorrow all jumbled together? Readers’ circumstances will be different but we can all recognize the emotions.
This is my favorite book by Colum McCann! I only have one more book left to read by him: Fishing the Sloe-Black River. I will read this next. I have only one complaint: I want more, longer books and more of them. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
This is a book which can be read on different levels! At least for me. I can think about a paragraph and the import of those lines OR I can read it fo...moreThis is a book which can be read on different levels! At least for me. I can think about a paragraph and the import of those lines OR I can read it for the story from start to finish. Some lines are priceless. Some lines, I just think: What??!!!
I am nearing the end! What is going to happen? It ends perfectly.
This book is very philosophical! Definitely not for everyone, and it is kind of wordy, but boy is there a lot to think about.....
Some reviewers remark that it is poorly translated from the German, the author being Swiss, but I think the lines flow beautifully. There are lines in French which are not translated but the Portuguese is! I bet that those who know Portuguese will delight in those lines. Why? Well, because words have a poetry to them. That is one of the many themes of this book. You remove one word and all the others change their meaning. In this respect, the audiobook format is the one to choose.
Sean Barrett does a fine job of narrating the audiobook. An audiobook filled with foreign names, as this one is, is a bit daunting. Perhaps a paper book is easier to follow. In addition, when reading a paper book it is easier to stop and ponder the lines. I don't know how many times I had to stop and rewind, so I had time to think, to figure out what I thought about the philosophical message.
I would only recommend this book to a reader who enjoys philosophical meanderings.... about what we want to get from life, our true identities, loyalty and love and friendship. The themes are numerous. I am very, very glad I read this book, and yet I only gave it three stars! That is because not all the lines "worked" for me, but some of them were absolutely, stunningly perfect!
I better add, this is a work of fiction. The characters are completely fictional. Except of course the Portuguese dictator, Salazar.
I was so moved by the primary message of this book that it has already changed what I want to do in one particular situation, and I believe it will continue to influence my choices in the future. Quite a book!
If you live your entire life doing what is safe you do nothing at all.(less)
It is very important to know when you start this book that it is in fact based on the Chronica of King Pedro III. Although historical fiction, it clos...moreIt is very important to know when you start this book that it is in fact based on the Chronica of King Pedro III. Although historical fiction, it closely follows true events in Catalonia during the 1300s under King Pedro’s reign. There is tons of history incorporated into the novel. At the same time it has an engaging and fast moving plot. You will learn about Barcelona, the building of the cathedral Sant Maria de la Mar. You will be impressed by the cathedral’s history, its beauty and how it engaged the life of so many in Barcelona. It was built for and by the people of Barcelona. All its people. It was built at the site of an older church and underneath it is an ancient Roman cemetery. However the book and the plot covers many, many other actual events: wars, the bubonic plague, the Inquisition, guild practices, treatment of women and Jews, in fact all aspects of life in Barcelona during the 1300s. this book is a perfect example of how historical fiction can teach in a delightful, engrossing manner.
There is a author’s note, that clearly explains what is fiction and what is fact. The events that have been altered are pointed out. What is amazing is that what seems fiction is fact! I wish I had read it, in the middle of the novel rather than at the end.
So why only three stars? I know that for me to say I like the book feels more appropriate than to say I really liked it. This is because I never really attached my self to the characters. The book is more concerned with the unrolling of the plot than character analysis. Each character plays a significant role; there are none that could have been eliminated. Each character was rounded and well thought out, but maybe the fact that all was so well planned, that there were few bizarre elements, that it simply felt a bit boring. I do not mean the plot was boring;– that was rolling along at full speed continually. In fact it felt a bit cinematic.
So this book provides great history in an engaging story, but without much sparkle I am very glad I read it. I learned so very, very much. Did you know that the Inquisition began very early in Catalonia? Dis you know that people were trading and profiting from the buying and selling of different currencies in the 1300s? Did you know that when two serfs were married, the master had the right to sleep with the woman first, on the night of their marriage? You will not regret reading this book. (less)