What do I do? I am worrying about my rating of A Death in the Family. I was uncomfortable with all the stuff about religion in the book. This and theWhat do I do? I am worrying about my rating of A Death in the Family. I was uncomfortable with all the stuff about religion in the book. This and the funeral at the end were difficult for me to bear. I am altering the rating to four. The rating reflects my personal preferences.
I have chosen to give this book five stars because it so very accurately portrays death in a Southern family. It has in-depth character portrayals and excellent writing. I didn't enjoy reading the book. I was glad when it was over, but the reality it depicts is so pitch-perfect that I was utterly amazed. It is for this reason the book is amazing. This is why I am giving it five stars.
The book is autobiographical. Rufus, a young boy that loses his father to death in a car accident, is one of the central protagonists of the novel. It is a rewriting of the author’s own experience. In fact the author’s middle name is Rufus! It is set in the South, Knoxville, Tennessee. Discrimination of the colored and the poor play in. The importance of religious faith too. The book is about a father's death and how this impacts on the lives of his children, his wife and every single member of the family. The children's relationships to each other and to their classmates are superbly depicted - through dialog and behavior. The widow is a devote Catholic. Her father is not. We watch a skeptic and a faithful interact. Others waiver in their religious beliefs. We observe how each behaves and what they say. There are kind figures and there are cruel figures. The brother of the man who dies is a drunk. We watch how he behaves too. His words are perfect even if they make you cringe. Every single one of this diverse group of individuals, young and old, those with and those without faith, those who are good-for-nothings and those who are moral and upright and strong are convincingly and accurately drawn. Tremendous lines. Humor and grief. Accurate, accurate, accurate - that is the defining adjective to describe the book. Even that the book drags a bit in the middle makes sense; we are viewing how the children perceive what is happening in the confusing world around them. To draw a star off for this is just wrong.
The audiobook narration was tremendous. Young and old, jokes and sobbing, women and men, Blacks and Whites, sober and tipsy - all are perfectly intoned. The speed is perfect.
I close this book with admiration for the accuracy with which the death in an ordinary Southern family is drawn. We watch through the eyes of the children as well as the adults. My discomfort while reading this book is appropriate. It is how I should feel. It is a direct result of its accuracy and its potency.
There are two versions of this book. I have read the McDowell version. The book was first published in 1957 after the author’s death. It is this version that won the Pulitzer in 1958. In this original version the editor David McDowell both rearranged and deleted sections of the original manuscript. The beginning of the novel, as it was first published by McDowell, was not originally part of the manuscript. It was another short piece of the author’s writing. You know you have the McDowell version if the story begins with the heading “Knoxville: Summer of 1915”. The McDowell edition has flashbacks. They do not exist in the version compiled from the original manuscript by Michael Lofaro in 2007. There are 20 chapters in the McDowell version and 44 short chapters in the Lofaro version. The flashbacks are in italics in the printed McDowell version. As an audiobook these sections are quickly perceived as flashbacks from their content. ...more
Interesting and well written. Filled with pertinent information, yet a bit long-winded at times.
The book is not merely a biography covering the lifeInteresting and well written. Filled with pertinent information, yet a bit long-winded at times.
The book is not merely a biography covering the life of one man, Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859). It starts with a description of the world he was born into - Prussia, Pre-Romanticism and the eminent philosophers, poets and writers of the time, i.e. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Immanuel Kant and Friedrich von Schiller, to name but a few. Humboldt came to spend long hours with Goethe. These prominent thinkers influenced who he was to become. Their lives and the lives of others Humboldt associated with are discussed. Another two such men are Simón Bolívar and Thomas Jefferson. Humboldt’s theories, experiments, books, travels and companions are covered. The book does not conclude with his death. It continues, showing how he directly influenced others, in particular Charles Darwin, George Perkins Marsh, Ernst Haeckel and John Muir. It is through these men that ecology, conservation and preservation has become what it is today. Others are mentioned too. The book ends with the hope that we reclaim Humboldt as our hero or at least re-acknowledge the importance he has played in how we view nature. Humboldt's thoughts and writings lie at the beginning of a chain of men who have brought us to where we are today in the field of environmentalism.
How much do we learn about Humboldt’s personality? Well he never kept his mouth shut, and he was indefatigable. In a conversation you couldn't get a word in edgewise. Being with him must have been quite a strain. Whether he was homosexual or not is unclear. How he could have possibly had time for anything other than his artistic, philosophical and scientific pursuits is the prime question. He seems to have had neither the time nor the interest for a lover. He was a fervent abolitionist.
The audiobook narration is by David Drummond. I found it too fast, particularly in the beginning. There is just too much information to absorb. Later it gets easier. Some words are unclear. Narration does not influence my rating.
Rivers, minerals, lakes, parks and many, many places are named after this Prussian. I didn't even know who he was! It is stated that more places have been named after this man than anyone else. His views have shaped our very concept of how we see nature. He realized back in 1800 the interrelationship between all aspects of nature. He understood that nature is one unified whole, and that an interdisciplinary approach is essential to solving problems, one such being climate control. ...more
I definitely enjoyed this. It covers life in the White House under the administrations of FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson and finally the fiI definitely enjoyed this. It covers life in the White House under the administrations of FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson and finally the first six weeks of Nixon's first term. The author began as Assistant Usher in 1941 to the Chief Usher Howell Crim. In 1957 he became the Chief Usher and continued in this post until March 1969. A Chief Usher oversees the First Family's private as well as public life, ensuring that public and private events don't conflict. They are responsible for the management, maintenance and budget of the Executive Residence. Budgetary duties are extensive and intricate. (For example, costs for a State Dinner are not to be charged to the Executive Residence.) They supervise the White House staff. The post is not political; they must be able to provide exemplary, individualized service without personal preference. It is both a powerful and a delicate position that calls for the ability to communicate with politicians, officials, servants and First Families of widely divergent character. Diplomacy is essential to hold this job.
Much of what is presented here concerns what the author learned about the respective First Ladies. Funny incidents. Each of these women was very different and you get a feel for their personalities. Eleanor Roosevelt was a whirlwind. Bess Truman treated the staff with immense respect, even taking the time to introduce each to visitors. Mamie Eisenhower knew what she wanted. She was friendly, out-going and vivacious. But she insisted that no footprints should ever be visible on rugs and the staff was only to use service elevators, no matter how impractical that might be. There is a hysterical incident about once when she had a cold. In bed, in the dark, she thought she grabbed Vicks Vapor Rub but instead.....read the book. Very funny! Marital relationships are revealed. One bed was broken. The Roosevelts were distant, the Trumans loving and discrete, the Eisenhowers visibly affectionate. Oh, and the Johnsons, they were fanatical about turning off the lights. I haven't said a word about the Kennedys.
The book pulled me in. It is an excruciatingly difficult read.
The primary focus is the siege, not the man. This is not a biography of the composer ShThe book pulled me in. It is an excruciatingly difficult read.
The primary focus is the siege, not the man. This is not a biography of the composer Shostakovich. Both this book and Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad complement each other. The latter book has more about the composer, his personality, his family and his life up to and through the siege. Moynahan, historian and journalist, documents the battles and the military strategies with much more detail. (The paper book has maps; these are not provided in the audio format.) The book is an accumulation of a huge number of individual experiences of people who were there during the siege and who fought in the battles. It is filled with quotes taken from diaries and letters. We hear hungry, lice-ridden combatants from both sides. German soldiers of all ranks, Russians, not just soldiers but also the starving and dying within the city, musicians and artists, wives and children, widowers and widows and orphans and ........NKVD interrogators! The Russians were battled from without and from within, by Hitler and the Germans, by Stalin and his accomplices. A misspoken word meant immediate death or deportation to the Gulag.
Events are haunting. The writing is vivid. Reading large portions at a time is difficult. There are explicit references to cannibalism, a woman admits to eating her own newborn child. A starving orphan breaks his silence, at least for a while having been given his daily ration of half an egg. That there are so many quotes, from people who were there, makes what we are told heart wrenching.
Yet the quantity of quotes and details is daunting. Some editing wouldn’t have hurt. You switch between Germans and Russians, the starving and the soldiers as well as the NKVD agents. Who is speaking now?! You switch locations too - Leningrad, Moscow, Kuibyshev. It is in Kuibyshev that Shostakovich completed the symphony. You follow the process by which the Seventh Symphony came to be written and finally performed in Leningrad on August 9, 1942, the 335th day of the siege. In the audio format is easy to get confused.
The symphony may be marvelous, but it was also propaganda. Stalin’s propaganda.
I absolutely loved the narration by Jamie Parker. I loved how he read the quotes. I loved how he described what was happening. I think it is totally terrible that the audiobook has no accompanying PDF file with maps and dramatis personae. These are in the paper book! Furthermore, that a portion of the symphony itself is not played in the audiobook is downright unbelievable!