It is not good when you start a book and don't believe in the feasibility of the characters' first actions. These actions didn't fit the characters' p...moreIt is not good when you start a book and don't believe in the feasibility of the characters' first actions. These actions didn't fit the characters' personalities. Once this feeling was lodged in my head I could never throw it off. The characters, their relationships and their actions were not credible.
This is a book of historical fiction that depicts the first years after WW2 in Germany. The setting is Hamburg and the year is 1946. What saved me from giving the book only one star is the accurate and interesting description of the situation in Germany at this time. It was split into four zones, controlled by the English, the Americans, the French and the Russians respectively. The political tensions between the nations are emerging.
The dramatic ending is cinematic in tone. It was NOT to my taste. Talk about unbelievable! Talk about cute! Talk about tying up all the strings into a neat little bow!
I don't mind sex in a book, but every darn relationship was propelled by sex. This too was not believable. Did the author do this to attract contemporary readers?
I liked the historical but not the fictional content of this book.
I highly recommend this book. What it does in an exemplary fashion is show the reader who George, Nicholas and Wilhelm were. You learn not only of the...moreI highly recommend this book. What it does in an exemplary fashion is show the reader who George, Nicholas and Wilhelm were. You learn not only of their actions, but also of there varying temperaments. This is a biography, not a dry history book. It is well researched, and will be fascinating to those of you who want to look at the personalities of these three cousins. At the same time you will come to understand why WW1 occurred; why in fact it was practically inevitable. Political disputes and family disputes are intertwined. I loved learning about Queen Victoria, the three cousins' grandmother. This book whets the readers' interest in numerous other historical figures too, such as Queen Victoria, Bismarck and Vicky, Wilhelm's mother. If you have not read about the Archduke Franz Ferdinand you will need to read other books that focus on him! (I liked The Assassination of the Archduke: Sarajevo 1914 and the Romance that Changed the World. You simply cannot find just one book about all of the people and events leading to WW1!)
The book is well researched. It is filled with many, many quotes that reveal the idiosyncrasies of each character. They are not cardboard figures. The beginning of the book starts with three chapters, each respectively about the childhood of the three cousins. As adults their interactions and others' roles are detailed. The political climate is carefully depicted. What was happening in not only the Balkans but also Africa, Japan and China. Of course, Great Britain under Queen Victoria and her offspring, Russia under Alexander II and III and Germany - all of this is covered. The historical facts are interwoven with family celebrations, marriages, birthdays, shared summers together and deaths. As in any family there are disputes and happy memories. Jealousies, competition and family quirks.This is a book about political and familial tensions. The book covers the time-period from the middle of the 1800s through the war and after the war until each of the cousins' deaths. What happened to Kaiser Wilhelm after the war? It is all here. Of course the Russian Revolution too, Nicholas' abdication and his family's death, Rasputin and Alexi's hemophilia.
I didn't love the book as much in the end as I did in the beginning. Why? I am not quite sure. Maybe it is because I listened to it rather than read it? Let me explain. The narrator, Rosalyn Landor, used one theatrical voice, a gruff "British" male voice, for all the different men. For me, I associated this voice with Wilhelm, but in fact she used exactly the same intonation for all of the quotes voiced by men. I became confused and unsure who was speaking. Is this George or Wilhelm or Nicholas, or in fact somebody else? WHO is talking now? I would have to rewind. (And why did I always assume that it was Wilhelm speaking; he is German!) Usually, I try and rate the written book, but here the narration caused me confusion and affected my appreciation of that written. For this reason it has influenced my rating. The confusion doesn't happen in the beginning of the book; the reader knows exactly who the author is speaking of. I wish Landor had just read the book without adding a theatrical presentation. If she wanted to dramatize the voices she should have used different intonations for the three cousins.
I have only read two chapters, but am impressed and totally captivated. The first was on Wilhelm's youth, the second on George's and now comes Nicholas'. You really feel like you get to know the families of these three cousins. I love learning about Queen Victoria, their grandmother. The author makes their lives interesting and fills the book with interesting facts. There is a lot to learn here. I am even tempted to start over again to hammer into my head more of the details. I do believe that one's personality is largely influenced by childhood experiences. How did these three leaders, (King, Czar and Kaiser) come to be shaped? This author presents the facts in such a manner that the reader wants to know more and more and more and is interested in what is presented; in other words the text is not dry even though it is chock-full with facts.
Why write a review if I am such an atypical reader?
I will keep this brief since I feel most readers will not react as I have, but isn’t it important t...moreWhy write a review if I am such an atypical reader?
I will keep this brief since I feel most readers will not react as I have, but isn’t it important that all views are voiced?
All readers must agree that the flipping back and forth between different time periods makes this book more confusing. I believe it must be said loudly and clearly that the current fascination with multiple threads and time shifts is only acceptable when they add something to the story, when employment of such improves the story. In this book they do not improve the story. Perhaps jumping from one scene to another can increase suspense, but must one also flip back and forth in time? In addition, more and more books are made for audios, and this is not helpful when you cannot flip back to see where you are. Finally, time switches unnecessarily lengthen the novel.
Secondly, be aware when you choose this book that the book is not only about WW2 but also a diamond that some of the characters, quite a few in fact, believe has magical powers. Those who possess the stone will not die, but people around that person will come to misfortune. This is all stated in one of the very first chapters; it is not a spoiler. This aspect of the book turns the story into a mystery novel. Where is the gem? Who has it? The result is that you have a heavy dose of fantasy woven into a book of historical fiction. I have trouble with both fantasy and mystery novels. Maybe you love them. (I would have preferred that the diamond was woven into the story as one of the objects stolen by the Nazis.)
Let's look at how the book portrays WW2. It is set primarily in Brittany, France, and Germany and a little bit in Russia and Vienna. Its primary focus is about what warfare does to people, not the leaders, but normal people. I liked that you saw into the heads and felt the emotions of both Germans and French. Some of the Germans are evil but you also come to understand how living in those times shaped you. To stand up against the Nazi regime was almost impossible. There are some who try. These events are gripping. You also get the feel of life in Brittany versus Paris. They are not the same. I enjoyed the feel of the air, the wind in my face and the salty tang on my lips in St. Malo. I do wonder to what extent my appreciation of Brittany as a place is more due to my own time there or the author's writing. Am I remembering my own experiences, or am I seeing it from the words of the author? I am unsure about this.
In any case, I was very disturbed by the blend of fantasy with gripping WW2 events.
The events of WW2 are those portrayed in every book. If you have read about WW2 in numerous other books of fiction or non-fiction you will not get much new. Rape by Russians felt like the author had to include this simply so it could be to be togged off his checklist. I do think the book moves the reader on an emotional level. You get terribly angry and shocked, and this is achieved through the author's writing, his excellent prose.
And this is what saves the book – its prose. The descriptions of things and places, the particular grip of a hand, movement of a body and what characters say. Very good writing. Beautiful writing. Sometimes you laugh, sometimes you feel that wind on your skin or the touch of a shell against your fingertips or smile at the oh so recognizable words of a child. Children often see far more than adults, but they also talk in a clear, simple manner. What they say is to the point - could that diamond be thrown away? Of course not. As remarked by one of the French children, "Who is going to chuck into the Seine a stone worth several Eiffel Towers?" Even if the gem has dangerous powers!
People love reading about kids and one of them here is blind. Who wouldn't be moved by such!
The narration by Zach Appelman didn't add much, but neither did it terribly detract from the story. I appreciated how he read some lines with a beat, a rhythm which matched the cadence of the author's words. Pauses were well placed. French pronunciation was lacking.
Oh my, once I got going I told you what I felt. I believe this book will be popular, and many will like it. (less)
Please note that this book has received awards for its excellence for young adults. I was hesitant at first because I was looking for an adult book co...morePlease note that this book has received awards for its excellence for young adults. I was hesitant at first because I was looking for an adult book covering the science and history on the making of the first nuclear bomb and about Robert Oppenheimer, the father of that first bomb. This book is not in any way childish. It gives a clear and concise history of all the events. I am completely satisfied with the book. It is an excellent place to start. Having read this you want more details, more in-depth information about the main characters. I prefer starting with a background of the entire event before plunging into a book focused on Oppenheimer himself. Now I want to know more about this man. He is fascinating; first he makes the bomb and he is at the same time one of first to be aware of its dangers! I have already begun American Prometheus by Kai Bird, a biography focused just on Oppenheimer.
I gave this book three stars because I like it. It reads like a good Wiki article. It has all the prominent facts. This happened and this happened and then this. One event after another. You get a picture of the path toward the making of the bomb, its actual construction and the political environment of those times – WW2, the race for the scientific knowledge and McCarthyism. It is amazing how differently the people spying for the Soviets were punished….and why each thought the Soviets should have this knowledge.
Having read this book, I now can easily go further. There is little character analysis in this book, and that is what I am looking for in my next book on this topic. You certainly cannot start your education in the tenth grade…..now I have prepared myself.
Concerning the audiobook narration by Roy Samuelson, it was excellent. He doesn’t overdramatize the lines or the events. They are exciting in themselves and do not need extra emphasis. Good speed and clear enunciation too. I can highly recommend this as an audiobook. (less)
If you could live your life over time and time again, would you/ could you ever get it right? That is the central question of this book. The next ques...moreIf you could live your life over time and time again, would you/ could you ever get it right? That is the central question of this book. The next question posed is if this ability to relive your life would be a gift or a curse. This is a book of fantasy and historical fiction. It poses philosophical questions concerning how life should be lived.
Atkinson's writing is clever, both the questions she poses and her ironic, satirical, sarcastic and often sardonic humor. Don't expect good-natured laughs based on happiness. It is solely because of the writing that I have chosen three rather than only two stars.
The book is confusing. Not only does the reader jump back and forth in time but also into different versions of the same story, the point being that there is not just one story. The stories overlap at points only to later go off in different directions. The reader must continually figure out if they have been dropped into a different version or a different time period of an earlier version. In addition, many characters are not introduced. When they are first mentioned you have not the slightest idea who they are.
By the end everything is interwoven. Picture a twine of yarn that is split at several points, each strand going off in different directions. The reader hops back and forth to different segments. Is there one "correct" ending? Is there one preferable ending? Is it possible to choose the final destination? Most importantly, what is the message of the book? Was the message worth the confusion? In my view, the answer is no.
I thought the author magnificently described life in London both during the Blitz and after the war. I enjoyed the segment set in Obersalzberg, at Hitler's residence Berghof, near Berchtesgaden, Bavaria, Germany, meeting up with Eva Braun. This IS a book of historical fiction. Events of both WW1 and WW2 are covered.
The audiobook narration by Fenella Woolgar was exemplary. Irish, British, American and French accents are all perfectly executed. I believe the audio version further enhances how people of different cultures "think".
You must keep a paper and pen nearby to jot down the date of the episode you are listening to. In addition, I recommend you read this book quickly; if you read a little each day you are sure to get lost! Good Luck!(less)
The book wasn’t amazing, but the man certainly was. Don’t get me wrong; I really liked the book, and it is one I would recommend to all those readers...moreThe book wasn’t amazing, but the man certainly was. Don’t get me wrong; I really liked the book, and it is one I would recommend to all those readers who want to meet an intelligent, wonderful, honest, humble person. I am not calling him great for what he did for science, but for the kind of person he was. He will appeal to those of you who like non-conformists, people with imagination and curiosity. He is one of those few adults who manage to keep alive a child’s delight in the world around them.
Now there is a lot of physics in this book, and there are sections that went over my head. This annoyed me. Although it is not a criticism of the author, but rather a criticism of myself, IF the author had managed to make clear for me more of the scientific theories, I would have to call the book amazing. General and special relativity, gravitation and quantum mechanics they do all belong in this book, they should not be removed. I understand more than when I began, but I have far to go. Einstein saw and figured out his answers to the questions he was trying to solve through “thought experiments“. He would imagine a physical happening in his head, be it an elevator in free-fall or a bug crawling around a branch, and he would ask himself what would happen and how does the bug see the world around him. These thought experiments are Einstein’s, not the author's, and they are the easiest way to understand the laws of physics which Einstein discovered.
Others criticize how Einstein treated his family. He was who he was, and I don’t see him as worse than anybody else. He did love his family. All people do not express love in the same way.
Is there humor in the book? Yes, mostly in some of the things Einstein said.
You get history too. McCarthyism and Stalinism and Nazism. What role did he play? What was his role exactly in the development of atomic weapons, and more importantly how did he see the world afterwards. He thought there should be a world organization that controlled all atomic weapons. Was he naïve? Could this have ever worked? All of this is discussed.
Religion is discussed too. According to Einstein, it is the absence of miracles that proves the existence of divine providence. It is the laws of nature that so magnificently explain the world around us and that inspire awe. His belief in science was very close to his religiosity. They are one and the same thing.
Einstein in a nutshell: creativity and imagination and curiosity require non-conformity which requires the nurturing of free minds which requires tolerance and finally humility. Einstein was a kind, unpretentious, humble man. I really, really liked this book. I wish I could speak with Einstein himself. Even though he was great he would have talked to me. He was never showy or saw himself as the extraordinary person that he was.
Another interesting question: was he in his soul German or Swiss or American? I mean, in spirit. Or was he a citizen of the world?
I listened to the audiobook narrated by Edward Herrmann. The narration was clear and at a perfect speed. The science sections were hard. For those of you who are reading this to better understand physics, maybe it is better to read the paper book, where it is easier to stop and THINK! Oh, I forgot to say this – when Einstein got the Nobel Prize, which by the way was not for relativity, he explained his scientific theories over and over. When asked if others understood, most admitted they didn’t. This made me feel a lot better when I found myself becoming confused. I read the book to meet the man, and I really enjoyed it. (less)