I liked this a lot, thus I knew immediately it deserved four stars. It is historical fiction and it does what I think historical fiction should do. ItI liked this a lot, thus I knew immediately it deserved four stars. It is historical fiction and it does what I think historical fiction should do. It gets you into the head of the main character, which is here Leonardo da Vinci. In my view, if a reader is primarily looking for historical details and facts one might as well turn to non-fiction. What historical fiction can do and which is often not attainable when relying solely on historical data is to reveal the thoughts, feelings and emotions of a person. A talented author of historical fiction can do this by first carrying out a thorough study of the known facts. With then a deep understanding of the person, using empathy, creativity and imagination they can recreate thoughts and dreams and fictive dialog that feel utterly real. THIS is a true art. It is not merely a collection of facts, but provides a deeper understanding of what made that particular person tick. This is what Lucille Turner has done with Leonardo da Vinci.
In this book you understand the man; you don’t merely understand, you get into his head! If instead you are looking for emphasis on history and precise details describing the world of Leonardo da Vinci I wholeheartedly recommend The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone. I gave that four stars too. I am not implying that the historical details are incorrectly presented in Turner’s book; they are simply not the main focus. Two different approaches, two different levels of information are provided, two different emphases. If you haven’t read anything about da Vinci and the Italian city states of the Renaissance, start here with Turner. Then you will want more and can turn to Stone’s book.
I do have one complaint though. No I guess there are actually two, although neither destroys my enjoyment in reading the book. Gioconda, Lisa Gherardini (1479 – 1542) who today is thought to be the woman portrayed by Leonardo da Vinci (1452 – 1519) in his famed Mona Lisa, is not the central focus of the book; the title is misleading. Mona Lisa is called La Jaconda in France and La Gioconda in Italian. The painting was commissioned by Lisa’s husband, the Florentine silk merchant Francesco del Giocondo. In 1516 Leonardo came to work for the French King Francis I and it is in France that the painting is believed to have been completed. It was bought by Francis I after Leonardo’s death. After the French Revolution it came to be housed at the Louvre. The book ends with Leonardo’s departure from Italy with the painting not fully completed. Lisa’s presence scarcely figures in the novel. Secondly, I totally discount the idea that Leonardo met and was attracted to Lisa at a young age. Their friendship, drawn in the book (view spoiler)[as a growing attraction between two youngsters (hide spoiler)], is not credible. Look at the age difference.
The narration by Mark Meadows was also very good. Easy to follow, even if you have difficulty snapping up Italian names. It is so very nice when a narrator doesn’t get in the way of appreciating a good book.
It is an utter shame that no one is talking about this book! You get a feel for the Italian Renaissance, rub shoulders with Lorenzo de’ Medici, the Dominican friar Girolamo Savonarola and Niccolò Machiavelli and most importantly get a glimpse into the remarkable mind of the polymath Leonardo da Vinci. ...more
First just stop and consider the cover....which looks very simple. At the center are a kestrel and a heart. From them flow waves and reverberations baFirst just stop and consider the cover....which looks very simple. At the center are a kestrel and a heart. From them flow waves and reverberations back? I neither considered the cover nor its significance until after finishing the book. It is a perfect cover.
Exquisite writing is the feature that stands out most prominently.
Humor, deep sadness, grief and cause for anger are to be found within these pages. Also an awakening, understanding of what has not been understood before, both for the reader and the writer.
This is a very unusual memoir. It does not focus on a check list of information such as date of birth, schools or occupations. The author speaks of his world through the eyes of his younger self. It flips between periods in his childhood, his teens when he had a pet kestrel and his meeting with a psychologist when he is in his forties. Each chapter begins with a date. Knowing that he was born in 1961, makes understanding each section simple. The author has (view spoiler)[Asperger Syndrome, a kind of autism often making social relationships and communication difficult (hide spoiler)]. I was told this by a friend, but I appreciated discovering this on my own as I read, so I am putting it in a spoiler here. His intelligence and his ability to minutely observe and appreciate what he saw around him are magnified, not diminished. As one discovers more and more about the young boy one needs to reevaluate that which we are told. I loved the ending, how the author sees the world around him and relates to others.
The author is not only an author, naturalist and nature photographer, but also a television presenter. Narrating his own book was thus a given. He is a talented speaker and nobody but him could possibly have read the lines with such perfection. He is best known for the children's nature series The Real Wild Show (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Rea...) of the late 80s and has presented the BBC nature series Springwatch (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Springw...) from 2009. I recommend listening to the audiobook rather than reading the paper book. You get an added dimension. You hear through his intonations what the author saw through his eyes and felt in his heart. This is a great book for both children and adults.
I am giving this five stars, even though I did feel that at the two thirds point it dragged a bit. It has beautiful lines, draws the reader in, reveals so much about the author’s inner self (view spoiler)[ and those with Asperger Syndrome (hide spoiler)] and finally has fascinating information about many, many animals. From snakes and tadpoles and dinosaurs to otters and mice and tons about birds! I highly recommend this book. It is a work of art.
The book will make readers open their eyes to the beauty of nature. ...more
This book moved me, as most holocaust books do. Honestly, I think that is part of what attracts people to them. We tell ourselves we are leaning histoThis book moved me, as most holocaust books do. Honestly, I think that is part of what attracts people to them. We tell ourselves we are leaning history, and we are, but it is the emotional involvement that is the attraction.
This book is not just about Irena Sendler but also about the huge number of compatriots that worked alongside her. Although we do meet many individuals a number stand out, so one does not get lost. One feels connection to many. Both the author and Irena emphasize over and over that even if numerous are named they make up only a small fraction of the many who leant their hand in the saving of “Irena’s children” and in the Polish resistance movement. The number of people involved is of importance to Irena herself. Without the support of others none of what she achieved would have been possible. I will counter that without her the very same is true. Her insistence of the ordinariness of her actions becomes almost a bit puzzling to me, yet it shows her to be the humble being she was and this is appealing. Knowing the importance of what she achieved, saving the lives of around 2.500 children, she should be willing to acknowledge the status it should have. While we do not get into Irena's head, what she is recorded to have said, her actions and choices do speak volumes.
Another central point of this book is Irena's love for Adam. This love is mutual and it is strong and their recognition of their love for each other is in itself a disregard of the pain they cause to others; both are married to another. The love attraction is not minutely delved into, but again described through actions. Never is the book introspective. At the book's end we are told in a mere few sentences of Irena’s (view spoiler)[marriage to Adam, of her birth of three children with Adam and then of her remarriage to her first husband after Adam's death (hide spoiler)]. Explanations are not given. Neither is there an explanation of why her religious convictions strengthened at life's end. Let me repeat, the book is not an introspective analysis of Irena Sendler. It is a book about what she did and the choices she made. It is moving because any telling of the horrors of the Warsaw ghetto will be upsetting. The horrors are told both in numbers and in hard to stomach descriptions. Any person reading of the razing of both the Jewish ghetto in Warsaw and then all of Warsaw has to be upset. It must also be stated that the author tells the events in a tone that is engaging, eloquent and expertly drawn.
I do think the author should have mentioned with just a line or two why Russia, an Allied power in 1944, stood by and watched Germany obliterate Warsaw. The resistance in Poland was in the hands of the exile Polish government. This fact is mentioned, but not that this and the manifest age-old distrust between the Russian and Polish peoples explain why.
What stands out for me is that while some behave monstrously at the same time there are others that stand tall, are remarkable and enable one to have hope in humanity. There is in the middle of the book a “complete nobody”, a streetcar driver, who magnificently shows this. It is the “ordinary nobodies”, that stranger we have never met that save humanity, and I think it is exactly this that Irena was saying by her insistence in playing down her own importance and in emphasizing her own ordinariness.
The audiobook is exceptionally well narrated by Amanda Carlin. Clearly spoken, with subdued emotion that feels all the stronger for its lack of over-dramatization. The narration is superb.
There you have it, the good and the bad, what I liked about the book and what I think could have been delved into more thoroughly. I have a penchant for introspective books, but this book will surely pull you in.
Historical events occurring in Poland during the Second World War are mentioned. In this way the book overlaps with these non-fiction books, all of which are definitely worth reading:
This book has everything you want to know about the life of Grigori Rasputin (1869-1916). The author starts from his birth on 21 January, 1869, in PokThis book has everything you want to know about the life of Grigori Rasputin (1869-1916). The author starts from his birth on 21 January, 1869, in Pokrovskoe, Siberia. We now know how he died; at least most of the details are clear. So if his life and subsequent assassination interest you, I heartily recommend this book. The author presents in a clear and concise fashion information on conflicting views as well as the myths spun around this controversial man – a man of God, a mystic, a soothsayer, a charlatan, a lecherous sex fanatic, a drunk.
His influence over the last Russian Tsar and Tsarina, Nicholas II and Alexandra, is fully documented. The book follows the events of the First World War and Rasputin’s ever growing influence over the Tsar and Tsarina and the Russian government. Understanding the rapid succession of ministers under the inept Nicholas during the years 1915-1917 is not easy to follow. Political intrigues and corruption are the rule, not the exception. For a Westerner just the names themselves are difficult to keep straight.What is delivered is NOT easy reading, but in my view the presentation of the known and conflicting facts is relatively clear.
Do NOT listen to the audiobook narrated by Curtis Sisco. He reads too damn fast, even if his words are clear. You either have to lower the speed and listen to an unnatural drawl or you must frequently rewind. Taking notes while you listen is almost impossible, unless you should happen to be a proficient stenographer…which I am not! I scribbled as fast as I could the most essential points. Guessing at the spelling of Russian names is also a problem. My advice? Read the book, don’t listen. You will get much more out of it. ...more
I cannot give this book less than three stars because it contains lots of totally fascinating information about animals - the greater and lesser apes,I cannot give this book less than three stars because it contains lots of totally fascinating information about animals - the greater and lesser apes, whales, octopus, fish, birds and elephants for example. The author is a Dutch primatologist and ethologist. He is the Charles Howard Candler professor of Primate Behavior at the Emory University psychology department in Atlanta, Georgia, and director of the Living Links Center at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center. Primate social behavior is his central focus but this book goes beyond primates. The latest research about the abilities of animals and animal cognition is exciting. Our knowledge concerning the science of animal cognition, self-awareness, understanding, cooperation, inequity aversion, conformism and empathy has progressed far from the early days of behaviorism. The book starts with a review of the history of the science.
Nevertheless, I did have problems with this book. I found it poorly organized. I would have appreciated clearer chapter titles so you knew what the coming chapter would contain. The chapters had diffuse titles such as Cognitive Ripples, Know What You Know, Talk To Me. The same experiments are mentioned several times with additional information added the second time around. Neither was there organization in terms of the species covered; one gets a smattering of species in each chapter. Quite simply the book was put together in a messy fashion. The author has a central message, namely that experiments must be designed to fit the animals being tested and that we must stop overestimating human cognition and underestimating other species' cognition. These became the author's mantras. I don't disagree with what he is saying but the preachiness with which the messages were delivered became annoying. The book is said to be written for the layman. One minute he addresses his readers as if we were children. Soon after the lines read as academic bickering. The author comes across as “thinking he knows all” and negatively viewing others. The tone is negative, which gets tiring. The result? You have to wade through a lot to get to the fascinating ground information.
One more complaint – in comparison to the books listed below, the presentation of the experiments in de Waal’s book does not let readers get close to the animals. You do in the books listed below. Too often in de Waal’s book we are told what particular experiments prove, rather than letting readers judge for themselves.
So yes, I do have a bunch of complaints with the way the book is organized, its tone and manner of presenting the data. The information presented is nevertheless thorough and fascinating.
I spoke of the author’s negative tone. This is further enhanced by the audiook narration performed by Sean Runnette. The words are clear but the tone is one of sad despondency.
I wavered with this book, back and forth between three or four stars. Some sections grab you, pull you in and won’t let you go. Other sections are weaI wavered with this book, back and forth between three or four stars. Some sections grab you, pull you in and won’t let you go. Other sections are weaker – ordinary, cute or holier-than-thou. Unfortunately, the ending was for me too neat and too sweet, the result being I gave it three stars. I liked the book. I can recommend it to others. Many adore such endings.
The book covers many themes – the production and trade of cotton, the relationship between sisters of different color, Jews in the South, Jewish traditions, discrimination of Blacks, the bloody events of both the Civil War and the chaos afterwards when the Unionists won. What the book does best is make the reader feel emotional forces binding and tearing individuals, between father and daughter, daughter and mother, between sisters and between lovers. How did it feel to be black and discriminated against? Think again....how did it really feel? Can we understand this? Can we put ourselves in their shoes, but forget it, they often didn't even have shoes?! Each character is not good or bad, but both good and bad. This made them believable.
There are love scenes, some quite explicit and lengthy. Too lengthy?
I appreciated that the book concludes with an afterword documenting the history and the presence of Jews in the South during antebellum times. How many actually had slaves and how did this come to be given their own heritage of discrimination in Europe and slavery in Egypt?
Bahni Turpin narrates the audiobook. She dramatizes. In my view, when an author's words are themselves emotive further emphasis is really not needed! One easily hears who is speaking - infants, youngsters, Blacks, Whites, slaves and gentry. There are even shrill chirping birds……which I felt were too loud! ...more
The book is interesting and I enjoyed it. It is thoroughly documented and researched. By studying the people who resided in a house 15km west of BerliThe book is interesting and I enjoyed it. It is thoroughly documented and researched. By studying the people who resided in a house 15km west of Berlin one gets a quick summary of German 20th Century history. It was built in 1927 as a summer residence, located on the picturesque Groß Glienicker See. Perfect for weekends, a place to relax, and that is exactly how it was used in the beginning. Then came the Depression and Hitler, ever increasing persecution of Jews, inflation, the nearby Gatow Airfield and the war. After the war itself, the ruthless take-over by Russians, the division of Berlin and all of Germany, the denazification process, the Cold War, the establishment of West and East Germany, the erection and fall of the Berlin Wall, border dramas, Stasi surveillance and finally the reunification of the country. Every bit of this is depicted through the lives of those living in the house, children and parents, owners and caretakers and those who leased the buildings, even vagrants. The lake which began as a pristine bathing spot on which the house was built became separated from the houses by the Berlin Wall itself! It became unreachable, unusable, polluted and held detritus from the war. It has since been sanitized and is again considered one of cleanest and most delightful spots in Europe.
The book concludes on a positive note. We observe as descendants of the family who built the house, had leased the house or had simply occupied the house return to clean up the property with nearby villagers and neighbors. It is a feel good story of people working together to forgive and heal last century’s transgressions. Do I find the house worthy of restoration? Look and judge for yourself: https://www.google.se/search?q=Gro%C3... (See the larger picture on the left.) My view? Perhaps not for “the house” itself, but for the healing process embodied in its restoration.
I didn’t give it more stars because I never came close to any of those living in the house; their fears and sorrows and joys never became mine. Parts are long-winded, over-detailed.
The history covered is a quick review of what can be found in other books on German history. One of the residents was a Stasi informant. There is little depth here. It is revealed that he was a heavy drinker, but nothing is said of his work as a Stasi agent. People interviewed say only what they wish to reveal. One has to keep this in mind as one reads the entire book. For more information on the secret police in East Germany I would recommend: Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall (4stars).
I listened to the audiobook narrated by Mark Meadows. I have no complaints. It was fine. Easy to follow, good German pronunciation. ...more
Through reading this book one discovers much about Zora Neale Hurston's life and personality. She was a short story writer, novelist (author of TheirThrough reading this book one discovers much about Zora Neale Hurston's life and personality. She was a short story writer, novelist (author of Their Eyes Were Watching God), anthropologist and folklorist. She lived from 1891 to 1960.This book was published in 1942, 18 years before her death. A chronology listing the important events of her entire life is found at the book's end. She died in poverty and was buried in an unmarked grave. In 1973 author Alice Walker saw that a gravestone was installed with the words "A Genius of the South."
Zora was born in Notasulga, Alabama, but at the age of three her family moved to Eatonville, Florida, one of the first self-governing all-black municipalities in the United States. This is where she grew up, this is where she called home and this is the town she uses as a backdrop for many of her stories. From the start, as a young child she was brazen, sassy and curious. She had opinions and there was no stopping her.
The book covers her youth, her education and what she did with her life. That she became a folklorist shows. It is reflected in how she tells of her life; her experiences are related through stories. These stories have dialogs and songs. Has she recalled them word for word? Are they noted in diaries? There is no mention of such. I assume they are improvised. What is interesting to note is that the autobiography reads almost as a collection of stories. This isn’t surprising given that she was a folklorist and that she loved the songs of her people!
Chapters cover her personal beliefs - on religion, on the value of friends, on hoodoo, on dance, on books, on race pride, race consciousness and race prejudice and most importantly on individualism. One should never clump people into groups, not ever!
The book ends and then a long section is filled with what seems like add-ons. The chronology spoken of above, as well as appendixes, very lengthy acknowledgements and her involvement with a dance production. The appendixes summarize much of what was indicated earlier in the book, clarifying if you happened not to have understood. It is just that I had understood and they felt preachy, like a repetitive lecture.
What hits one immediately as you read the book is that the writing style is unusual. I found it unique in two ways. Nothing is said without a story. This became occasionally excessive. Secondly, metaphors and similes abound, but at times this felt simply wordy and repetitive. Other times what the author was saying was unclear due to the use of idioms and black nomenclature of which I am unfamiliar.
The audiobook is narrated by Bahni Turpin. She sings, she changes inflections for different characters, she recreates revivalist meetings…….. or shall we just say she dramatizes for all that she is worth. Many will like this. It is not badly performed. If what you are looking for is a performance, you will be happy. I prefer a simple reading of the text. ...more
The writing is uneven. Occasionally I would come across a pretty line, but for the most part I found the writing ordinary,Why didn't I like this book?
The writing is uneven. Occasionally I would come across a pretty line, but for the most part I found the writing ordinary, unclear, pretentious or overwrought. All too often fancy words are used when a simpler one would have sufficed. Some sentences sound terribly profound, but what really do they mean?
There are two sisters (Ruth and Lucille) who behave in diametrically opposed manners to the suicide of their mother, the death of their grandmother who came to care for them after the death of their mother and to the death of their grandfather whose life was taken when the train he was on crashed from a bridge. These girls come then to live first with two great aunts and finally their aunt, Sylvie. This aunt is viewed by society as "flakey", unreliable and clearly inappropriate as a mother. The great aunts were certainly equally incapable. This is all presented at the beginning of the book, with few lines and little explanation. Lucille wants (view spoiler)[a secure ordinary life. She comes to live with her home economics teacher. Ruth settles in with her aunt, Sylvie. The central theme is about their relationship and what is demanded of them by "good society". It is about what they do to survive. (hide spoiler)]The book looks at Ruth's and Sylvia's manner of living compared to the life chosen by Lucille and the life society claims is best.
What is the book trying to say? That loss and abandonment leads to transience? Perhaps, but Lucille didn't follow that route and Sylvie had been flakey and lived as a transient for years even before her sister, the girls’ mother, had killed herself. Maybe it is as simple as this that people are different and there is no one correct manner of living. This is a rather self-evident message! Lucille's life is shown as narrow and restricted by others and society's opinions of her. Sylvie has heart, compassion and shows understanding for others, although the life she and Ruth opt to take is uncertain, difficult and borders on the improper. Sylvie is shown as appreciating nature and pursuing flitting dreams, but at least molding her life to her own wishes, accepting the hardships that follow. The problem is that we do not see if Ruth has chosen this route by free will, she was too young to really decide when she follows Sylvie. Maybe she has simply been molded by her aunt. What the author is trying to say leaves me confused. Images are splattered before us and they don't hold together, pointing to a clear message.
Ruth is telling us this story from the vantage point of an adult. The words spoken are not those of a child. A further incongruity is that Ruth never wanted to talk and here she is telling us this story. There is no clue as to what has changed her into this talkative person!
There are references to religious stories which I didn't understand - Cain and Abel and Noah and more.
The audiobook is narrated by Becket Royce. The tempo is uneven; at times too fast. You can hear what is being said, so three stars for the narration.
I don’t think this book has anything remarkable to say, and if it does it went over my head. The writing didn’t impress me. ...more