This book did not fit ME! My rating is not a judgment of the book; it shows only how I personally reacted to the author’s lines. The majority of the bThis book did not fit ME! My rating is not a judgment of the book; it shows only how I personally reacted to the author’s lines. The majority of the book I did not like, thus I can only give it one star.
I did appreciate the author’s description of places - sites on the fringe of San Francisco and the dessert environs of Death Valley, California. The setting is predominantly Polk Street, San Francisco, at the turn of the 20th century.
Am I glad I read the book? Actually, I would say yes. Why? To have experienced those descriptive lines. To test another author of the naturalist school of writing. One clearly sees similarities with Theodore Dreiser, another author of this school.
Naturalism is a literary movement that emphasizes observation and the scientific method in the fictional portrayal of reality. Novelists writing in the naturalist mode include Émile Zola (its founder), ThomasHardy, Theodore Dreiser, Stephen Crane, and Frank Norris. (Source: Wiki)
So what gave me trouble? The dialogs. While they may accurately depict how people speak to each other, reading such can be extremely tedious and boring. Phrases are repeated over and over again, first as a question, then an answer followed by a person’s confirmation, another’s reconfirmation and then maybe the question gets posed all over again! On and on and on with the exact same words! A lengthy paragraph may be devoted to two people saying goodbye! This may be accurate, but it is pushed too far in the dialogs of this book. Not once and not by just one character, but by all of the characters over and over again. This drove me bonkers. Writing in this manner makes the characters sound stupid, but are all of them stupid?! That is what went through my head. Well, perhaps; the author is clearly critical of how people behave…. which leads to the next problem I had with the book.
The central theme of this novel is avarice, but don’t all of us see avarice with distaste? And don’t we all know this even before picking up the book? Norris’ message is loud and clear. Too loud and too pushed to the extreme. Money is hoarded. Money is gloated over, killed for and what people do to collect it, pile upon pile, is drawn to an extreme. The story loses touch with reality. What the author wants to say with the book becomes a rant, a lesson pounded into our heads. What unrolls is absurd. In reading the book we obligingly let ourselves be bashed over the head with the author’s message concerning the evils of greed. The climax at the end is metaphorically a clash of cymbals.*
The characters did NOT pull me in. They become too absurd to be taken seriously. There is a love affair that sours. The characters are merely the means by which the author delivers his message, his resounding warning against avarice and greed.
There is an anti-Semitic sentiment to be found in the author’s lines.
I downloaded this free of cost at at Librivox. It is accessible here: https://librivox.org/author/842?prima... It is fantastic that the site does exist! I recommend using the Librivox app. Without the app maneuvering within the audiobook becomes difficult.
This Librivox recording is read by Jeff Robinson. The speed varies. The reading is uneven. Parts are fantastic, other portions less so. The end was very well read, but I cannot disregard some of the earlier sections. I disliked the cinematically rendered intonations for the immigrants of Swiss / German origin that speak in this book. These immigrants do have a dialect and they do use incorrect words. I am fine with added dialect touches as long as I can decipher the author’s words. In parts I couldn’t. I will rate the narration with three stars and I will in the future choose other Librivox recordings performed by him. Overall he does a good job.
**************** *So you wonder why I call the ending a clash of cymbals? Here is why, but it is a BIG spoiler: (view spoiler)[ McTeague is out in the Death Valley dessert with the money he has stolen from his wife, after killing her. His arch enemy turns up!The mule is running off with the money on his back! So they must shoot him, but splinter also the water canteen. The mule is the only way the two can get out of the dessert and now they have no water! THEN McTeague fights with his enemy and shoots him, but before he dies the enemy puts handcuffs both on himself and McTeague. They will die together. (hide spoiler)]My God what an ending. See what I mean about a clash of cymbals?...more
In archeology a tell or tel is “an artificial mound formed from the accumulated remains of people living on the same site for hundreds or thousands ofIn archeology a tell or tel is “an artificial mound formed from the accumulated remains of people living on the same site for hundreds or thousands of years. A classic tell looks like a low, truncated cone with a flat top and slopping sides, and can be up to 300 meters high.” The mound rises as the mudbricks of buildings rapidly disintegrated. Many tells are to be found in the fertile areas of ancient Mesopotamia, the land between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, commonly labelled the cradle of civilization. (Source: Wiki)
It is just such tells that Agatha Christie and her second husband, British archeologist Max Mallowan, excavated. In the 1930s Mallowan led expeditions run jointly by the British Museum and the British School of Archeology. In this book Agatha Christie writes of when she followed along on excavations made at Chagar Bazar, Tell Brak and in the Balikh Valley, all in the northeastern tip of Syria, where the country borders Iraq and Turkey.
The book reveals the day-to-day life and the human side of such expeditions. She speaks of those at the digs - the workers, the officials, the cooks, the chauffeurs, a sheik, the postmaster at a nearby town and the animals and the bugs. Europeans and Asians alike. We hear of ailments, of brawls and of parties. Catastrophes and happy reunions. Of French bureaucracy. Of being stuck in a wadi, of a VERY “professional cat”, of the mongrel nicknamed Hey You. Oh and there is Mack, inarticulate and scrupulously neat and aloof, the architect, draughtsman and diarist Mac! In fact it was this Mac (Robin Macartney) that came to draw the covers of several of her crime novels! If you could get more than a oui or a non out of him then you could consider yourself lucky! There are many we come to know intimately; they come to feel as friends. We are delighted with both their foibles and strengths. Well, I was. We get the mud and the bugs and the flowers in spring, and we get to know particular people.
We don’t get detailed information about archeological methods and very little about the ancient history of the specific sites. The tone is light and frivolous and often very funny. What you get from this book is the whole experience of being part of such an expedition. Need such be considered inconsequential?
Christie liked the people of the area, and this shows. To be absolutely correct, I should say some of them! She is unpresumptuous. On seeing the multitude of flowers in spring she comments, “I am no botanist and frankly do not want to know the names!” But she loves them and she can describe them so we can appreciate what she saw and felt. The writing exudes her enthusiasm and appreciation of the land and the people. I am happy to have met her.
Christie observes and notes differences between cultures and the peoples she came in contact with. You see her appreciation of the flamboyant, strong and uninhibited Kurdish women. She compares how Europeans see death and how these people view death. Maybe they have a thing or two to teach us? So while the book is written with humor and in a light fashion, it also has weight. This was a delightful read and having read it I think I really do understand what it was like to follow along on an archeological expedition in the 1930s.
The audiobook is narrated by Judith Boyd. The narration is very good. I liked it because it reflects the author’s written words, the spirit of the book, and it was not hard to follow. I like the lightness of the tone. I wouldn’t want Christie’s lines to be read out liturgically, in a drone, or with solemnity. Maybe Boyd overdramatizes a bit too much, but I’m among the few who don’t appreciate dramatization.
Do you see the play on words in the title? Actually, tells do tell us how ancient people did live. Good title to a delightful, but not just frivolous book....more