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
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.
Yeah, I rally liked this book. Maybe it is even amazing.
I love it because it is set in France, both in Paris and villages along the coast, NYC, LondonYeah, I rally liked this book. Maybe it is even amazing.
I love it because it is set in France, both in Paris and villages along the coast, NYC, London, Spain, Nigeria, Reykjavik, the Bahamas and more.
I love it because it captures the WHOLE life of an ordinary man. It is about youth, the middle years and aging. Being a child and having children. It is about love, the physical attraction and the emotional one.
Logan, the central character, is, a man with strong sexual needs. Some may label him as immoral. Sure, if he were my husband I would be hurt and furious. But who am I to judge another human being? Who am I to say he was bad?
Any Human Heart captures the 20th Century. What we are reading is Logan's autobiography based on his private journals. He is who he is; at the same time he is aware of his own weaknesses. History is wonderfully woven in; Logan is NOT at the center of history’s outstanding events; that would be skewed. He is at the fringe. The book doesn’t teach the history of the 1900s but it shows how that century’s events intersected people’s lives and it gives tantalizing bits of less well known information, all historically accurate…as far as I can see. There are bits about the Duke and Duchess of Windsor (i.e. the abdicated King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson), Axel Wenner-Gren, the Baader-Meinhof gang, the authors and artists of the Lost Generation, the Spanish Civil War, the Biafran War.
I listened to the audiobook narrated by Simon Vance. Not only are his French, English and American accents impeccable, but he also captures voice changes as one ages. His intonation of the aged Logan is fantastic. Just fantastic. French lines are not translated.
But really what makes this book so special is HOW it is written. It is the lines. That is the ingredient that is so hard to define, but which makes or breaks a book. I gave a few quotes below, but to understand how perfect they are you have to read those lines in context. I loved the subtle humor. I was smiling at lines that could have disgusted me, but I they didn’t. That is because they are spoken by Logan, and he is not me. Having read this book I understand Logan and that is why I can smile. I have seen the world through another’s eyes. A wonderful experience.
I am nearing the end. Logan is 71. I am laughing and crying simultaneously. Ohhhhhh, the poor man. His diet! Do I dare tell you?
He was looking for tinned stew with vegetables.He spotted a tin with the words "plump chucklets of rabbit nestling in a rich dark gravy"..... but on the other side it was labeled Bowser! A tin of dog food on the wrong shelf! He thought, "If I bought six tins of Bowser, chopped up a carrot and onion and heated the whole thing in a saucepan.I might have a hearty rabbit stew that would last me a week..... And very tasty Bowser rabbit stew turned out to be, especially with a liberal addition of tomato ketchup and a good jolt of Worcester sauce. These last components, I would say, are essential for a all dog foods in my experience." Need I say he isn't doing so well financially? Just wait; you will also come to care for Logan.
Almost half left:
With this book I realize I don't have to love the central character or any other character to enjoy a book. I like this book because of the lines, the way the author has the characters speak or express their thoughts. Logan, the central character, feels utterly REAL to me. His actions feel so genuine even if I don't happen to like them. I like how history is told through one person's life. The book has a good tempo. It has humor. I like how Logan travels around Europe, zigzagging between England, France and Spain, and we the readers can follow along. Good stuff. Also, the book is so simple to follow - no time jumps, no mystery puzzles, just a plain good story. A real person's life, that is how it feels. ...more
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
Although the author expresses herself well, the book needs editing. Too many events are thrown in in an unclear fashion. The author’s family is largeAlthough the author expresses herself well, the book needs editing. Too many events are thrown in in an unclear fashion. The author’s family is large and I could not keep everyone straight, other than the author’s mother’s seven half-siblings, at least when they were identified with their given name. A “mother” is spoken of and you wonder is that the author’s mother or her mother’s mother or…..which mother?! There are wives and cousins and friends and enemies galore. Few had the same opinion about a given event. The whole story becomes confusing, and it is unclear what information is reliable. Squabbles and drinking influence everyone’s story. And yet, in any family, don’t we all have different versions of the given events?
Life in South Africa is also thrown in, with some brief sections on Nelson Mandela and a few other political figures, but what is the purpose of this book? Is it to relate how historical events affect families? No, I don’t think so. Is it the author’s attempt to understand her mother and her own family? She says that is why she is writing it, but then why does she say she will return but doesn’t?
Or is this simply someone writing a memoir about their family? Ahhhh, this will make an exciting book! I’ve got a story to tell. Everyone nowadays wants to write their own memoir. The basic story here is about a dysfunctional family, about alcoholism and sexual child abuse, and yes, the events are shocking. My guess is that the author needed to work through her own loss of her mother after her death. That IS reasonable, and it IS great to hear of her mother’s strength of character, but I see this as a personal story, not one that I can empathize with. Maybe that is my fault rather than the author’s, but that is how I reacted! Maybe the author through writing the book reached closure, but do you write a book and publish it when you are doing this for yourself? I, the reader, am left confused and without closure. This book will perhaps be more appreciated by one who has dealt with child abuse and alcoholism in their own family…… for them, this may be a helpful book.
In the audiobook the author reads her own book, and she does this very well. She has a British accent, since her Mom had her after she had immigrated to England. England was her home if never really her mother’s. It is interesting: kids should realize their parents have had a whole life before they ever arrived on the scene and often we know very little about that previous life. Do we ask and do our parents tell us?
I did like this book, but it should have been better organized, made less confusing and cleaned up a bit, so for me it ended up just being OK. Often, but not always, I did like how she strung together her words. How an author writes is important to me. Some authors have such a talent and others just don’t. I do think I would try another book by this author. ...more
In conclusion, this is how books of historical fiction should be written. History is interwoven into the story and made fascinating. There is so veryIn conclusion, this is how books of historical fiction should be written. History is interwoven into the story and made fascinating. There is so very much history in this book, so if that makes you leery, choose another book. As stated below you follow a few families from 1895 through the First World War; the setting is primarily Victorian and Edwardian England and then the war years with excursions to Germany and Belgium and France. I adored the trip to Paris for the 1900 Exposition! Byatt, when she describes a place, a person, or an event you feel the ambiance of that event. You are there. You see the person. I will give only one example. At a wedding, the bride's visage "looked like the white wax of a candle, lit by a golden flame." Each character's behavior and appearance, the clothes they wear and the things they say feel genuine. You nod and think, yes, that is exactly what she would do, say, wear. I was enchanted by the clothes, the artistry, the sensuality expressed.
Rosalyn Landor's narration of the audiobook further enhanced these characters. This is the best narration I have ever listened to. She captures perfectly the different classes of the English. She speaks French and German equally well.
The book covers everything from literature, the classics and fairy tales, to Fabian socialism to the Arts and Craft Movement to puppetry to women's rights and of course politics. Sex too. All is covered with depth.....although sometimes there is simply too much to absorb! Some sections were too long and drawn out, and thus the book feels a little less than amazing. It is very, very good, even if you must hard-nose it through some chapters! Don't give up at the half-way point, when the story lags or when you get caught in a fairy tale. Let me repeat one more time, her characters, and there are many, breathe. This is important because you don't pick up this book to just learn; you pick it up for the story and to escape into the world Byatt has created for us.
I have listened to 3/4 of this immensely long book.......and guess what? I really like it again! Why? The characters are marvelously drawn. They are real people. How has the author managed to draw over twenty people with such precision? It is not that one is brave and only does brave things; that would make the character flat, two dimensional. Do you know any two people who are the same? Of course not! Each of these marvelous characters feels real, each in their own special way. Each fumbles in a way that they would fumble in the real world. That is the best way I have of explaining these people - the parents, the children, the friends, tutors, artists and acquaintances. Perhaps Rosalyn Landor's narration helps to individualize each character. In dialogs, the dreamy girl, the educated scholar, the creative authoress, the working class servant, each and every one of them, respond in a tone that fits who they are. The author and the narrator are working together to create a splendid performance. Think if I had given up on the book! What a shame that would have been.
I have listened to about half..... parts are very boring! Gaeta, who recommended the book to me, also described it as a "lumpy mattress". I agree. Parts are interesting, other parts are tedious and boring. When it is boring, as it is now, even Rosalyn Landor's excellent narration does not suffice.
If you read the book you will understand more thoroughly!
I realize now that it is not the Victorian style of writing, detailed and packed with information, that I object to; I like all the information packed into each sentence of this book! I have nothing against the writing style, if it is interesting as it IS in this book. My problem has been stuffy Victorian characters, ie those who care about saying the right words, wearing the right clothes and behaving and doing the "oh so proper" thing. It is these typical staid, proper Victorian people that irritate me, not the writing style! A.S. Byatt has so much to teach me!
The characters in this book are NOT staid or proper or stuffy in the least!!!! I love these people. I have only read three chapters though. This book is jam packed full of information about Fabian socialism, which I knew nothing about, and about pottery and the English Arts and Craft Movement at the end of the 1800s, about the history of Midsummer festivals and theater and politics and children's literature and artists and the conditions of the poor working classes. The book follows the Fabian socialist Wellwood family from 1895 through the years of the First World War. The mother, Olive Wellwood, is loosely based on the children's author Edith Nesbit. I am thoroughly enjoying this! Of course there are characters representing the staid Victorians too, Basil Wellwood is one; they add contrast! Tons of kids, each with different personalities.
The narration by Rosalyn Landor IS exceptional.
The book is long and I have just begun. :0)...more
Harper Collins lets us listen to this book, right now. Each chapter is read by a different narrator. I think, each week another chapter will be read,Harper Collins lets us listen to this book, right now. Each chapter is read by a different narrator. I think, each week another chapter will be read, so start now and don't miss any. The first chapter read by the author himself was 14 minutes long. It is cute, for kids actually!