I listened to this. The narration by Wanda McCaddon was excellent. Listening to classics is often a pleasure since the stories told are most often pre...moreI listened to this. The narration by Wanda McCaddon was excellent. Listening to classics is often a pleasure since the stories told are most often presented chronologically; each character is introduced one by one and the story moves forward without confusion. And so was it with this one too.
This book was first published in 1847 by the eldest of the three Brontë sisters. This was a literary English family raised in a parsonage. Charlotte writes of her own time and circumstances. The language is florid. Don't expect anything else. Perhaps listening to it is easier than reading it? Even listening to it gave me trouble; every time the door was "unclosed" I jumped.
There are clearly Gothic tones to the novel - fires and storms and blood and horror and who is that creature up in the attic? Heavy symbolism. What does that dream mean? What does that sundering of the mighty horse-chestnut tree signify? Our curiosity is aroused. What will happen? But I was not scared..... I think I was supposed to be.
Others have found this book to be character driven. I instead saw it as plot driven. For me each character is a fixture. Each one has a specific personality and they contrast with each other, but there is little internal conflict within the person. There was more internal struggle within Rochester than in Jane, and that is why I liked him more and could empathize with him. I think people are constantly unsure of where they stand and what they should do; I prefer to see inner turmoil within each character, not between characters.
And God and religion is a given. There is no discussion of WHETHER God exists.
This is a book written to pull on your heartstrings. There are orphans and horrible boarding schools and poverty and total destitution, yes even for the good and worthy God-loving people. For me this felt like a fairy tale for adults. The events are unbelievably coincidental. I had to laugh. Was I supposed to be feeling pity? I couldn't, not for Jane. She is too strong a woman; she doesn't need my pity. Rochester is the one I came to feel for, but the events were just too coincidental, too melodramatic and too simplified. So I close the book and think, what was Chalotte Brontë saying? (view spoiler)[ For me it was: marry the one you love. (hide spoiler)] Huh, I knew that......
Again, don't trust MY review. Everybody but me loves it.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I really liked this, well sort of.... let me explain. My head told me it was good and I could not stop listening, but the narration by Frederick David...moreI really liked this, well sort of.... let me explain. My head told me it was good and I could not stop listening, but the narration by Frederick Davidson displeased me beyond measure. Haughty intonations from start to finish. Read the book. Don't listen to it, as I did. My rating is for the words of the author NOT my impression of it as an audiobook. Let me add that I went to YouTube to listen to the real voice of Winston Spencer Churchill and it was not this disagreeable. In addition the narrator made the mistake of not only using his horrible intonation for direct quotes but also the author's views of what Churchill thought on various subjects. This made it further unclear what exactly was a direct quote and what was the author's view. His women voices made me cringe too.
Still I will insist that I learned a lot. I wanted to know more, so I could not put it down. However this book is not directed toward those who don't have a rather good knowledge of the man and the history of his time before they even pick up the book. You may get lost otherwise. A basic knowledge is assumed.
This book is primarily a history book, rather than a biography. A mere one chapter almost at the end of the immense volume is devoted to his family life and wife and children. He loved his children and enjoyed playing with them. Animals too. He had a country house with some farm animals. He couldn't possibly slaughter or eat any of those animals. I wish the book made the man more intimate, though you do learn of his personality through what he did. It is stated that Victorians, and Churchill was a Victorian through and through, were interested in public events rather than private lives. This book has such a focus.
Churchill's political career up to 1932 is covered in detail. He changed parties twice! He was also an author, an avid statesman and never shied away from unpleasant views. I felt that the book magnificently discussed his role in the Gallipoli disaster of WW1. He often took more blame than was his fair share. I learned a lot about his early life in India and his role in resolving the Irish Free State controversy, and what a horrendous childhood! I believe that having had such a childhood made him determined to see that his own children fared better. I believe his difficult childhood made him into the very strong man that he was, regardless of his numerous mistakes! The similarity between Churchill and Teddy Roosevelt is striking.
This huge tome is only the first of a trilogy. After a breather I will return to the latter two. (less)
What can I say? I stuck it out to the end. 2/3 through it began to draw my attention. At that point I was moved by p-o-o-r Estrella and p-o-o-r Miss H...moreWhat can I say? I stuck it out to the end. 2/3 through it began to draw my attention. At that point I was moved by p-o-o-r Estrella and p-o-o-r Miss Havisham and even Pip, but then came the ending! Both the revised and Dickens' first ending were a total fizzle for me. Both endings were given in tis audiobook, and I liked neither.
I don't like Dickens' wordiness, his cynical humor or his dialogs. I never laughed. His style of writing has no charm for me. Too repetitive, most often boring and at times confusing, at least for me.
I am completely OK with other people liking Dickens, but now I am sure he is NOT for me. I prefer Dostoyevsky. He too wrote serials. He wrote at the same time period! His characters are complicated and much more intriguing. Dickens' are sad, sorrowful, pitiful creatures.
It is Dickens I have trouble with, not the narration by Simon Prebble.(less)
I listened to the audiobook version narrated by actor John Wood. This is the 1881 edition, not the later one from 1906, which is known as the "New Yor...moreI listened to the audiobook version narrated by actor John Wood. This is the 1881 edition, not the later one from 1906, which is known as the "New York Edition". Unfortunately, the later edition, which many claim has a better ending, was not available anywhere as an audiobook.
Review: I enjoyed this book because of the author’s writing style and his humor. The humor is often sarcastic, but not nasty. The humor is based on knowledge of different cultures, life styles and human behavior. It is this that made my reading of the book enjoyable. And I believe Henry James was laughing with me at the antics of Victorian mannerisms.
So what is the theme of the book? It is set in Europe, predominantly, Italy and England, during the 1870s. The author is comparing Americans and Europeans. Having spent the first 18 years of my life in the US and thereafter having moved to Europe, of course this is the theme that drew me to the book. Henry James has beautifully captured Victorian manners and how they differed, how Americans bent them. Americans are shown to be more independent, freer, less constricted by set norms....but also amusingly naive. The characters are all well-to-do, educated and aspiring. How to succeed, how to be happy, how to get what you are striving for - those are the questions posed. Each character has followed different paths, had different goals and widely varying scruples. For the main character, Isabelle, the prime question is marriage - to marry or not to marry, who to marry and how do you balance independence and against the constraints imposed in those times by propriety. This is a question that we still grapple with today. Every couple will find a different solution; some marriages succeed and other fail and even how you define failure and success is up for grabs.
The writing is elaborate, even wordy, but Henry James has a superb vocabulary. Over and over I was amazed at his ability to grab just the right word. Yeah, this really impressed me. It is for his writing ability and his humor that I will be reading more by the author.
What I didn't like: there isn't one single successful marriage in this book, and by the way Henry James never did marry. Also, the ending is extremely abrupt. I was so shocked by the conclusion that I figured I had missed something and so I listened to the last chapters again. No, I missed nothing. You, the reader, have to stop and figure out what you think will happen. Everyone can draw their own conclusion. I know what I think. For me this is clear, and I do not want things spelled out for me, but the ending is just too abrupt! Remember I read the author's original version, not the revised 1906 version.
I will tell you this. You will get a big surprise near the end, for which, when you think about it, you realize you have been given clues.
The audiobook narration by actor John Wood was good! It is so easy to listen to classics on audiobooks; they don't mix time-lines or jump around as so many contemporary novels do. You just get the story in a straightforward manner. Nice.
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.