A gem that glistens. Beautiful. A contemporary rewriting of an ancient Maori legend. Its messages speak of the strength of women, but even more import...moreA gem that glistens. Beautiful. A contemporary rewriting of an ancient Maori legend. Its messages speak of the strength of women, but even more importantly of the oneness of the past and present, the rational and the irrational, what we understand and don’t understand and of all life on earth. This is young adult literature for adults.
The audiobook narration by Kiwi Jay Laga’aia was well done. There is music throughout the recording, but it is the same snippet repeated over and over again. When will we get audiobooks with varied music and numerous songs? Anybody listening out there?
Too often people assume that when a war ends the trouble stops, the problems are over. That is far from true. It took over a century to begin to fix t...moreToo often people assume that when a war ends the trouble stops, the problems are over. That is far from true. It took over a century to begin to fix the Civil Rights problem that was supposedly resolved with the conclusion of the Civil War in 1865! This book is an excellent study on what life was like for the blacks in the years following the Civil War. This book is all about how the Dixie Southerners continued to view the colored. Views did not change overnight. It is also about how the blacks viewed themselves. What is freedom when you have no money and no employment and no place to live? What is freedom when you don’t know where your mother, father, wife and children are or even if they are still alive? What is freedom after rape and murder and repetitive beatings? How do you reach emotional stability after living through such horror? Can you forgive?
This book draws a picture that I believe to be accurate and realistic. It cannot be an easy read or a comforting read, but it ends with hope and a promise for the future. Parts were hard for me to read, and that is because the author made me care for the characters. Some were clever, others despicable, but all of them felt real. I appreciated that both sides, the slave owners and the slaves, were portrayed fairly. One was not all wrong and the other all right. Even the most despicable were occasionally, well, at least not all bad!
I also liked how the plot unrolled. The author created a fascinating story that you want to understand. You want to know what is going to happen and how the problems will be resolved. At the end you understand everything. There are no loose ends, and I very much like the ending, being both realistic and hopeful too.
At first I was uncomfortable with the narration by Sean Crisden, but by the end I loved it. What bothered me at first was when he spoke lines presented in the third person. He stops at the periods and commas, and I felt he was listening to himself with a tone of self-satisfaction. However as you listen further, and as you become aware of each character’s personality, there are more and more dialogs and these are just perfect. He captures the Southern dialect and the Yankee dialect, the whites and the blacks, women and men and children, all equally well.
I will close with a quote from the book:
“You gotta have hope. To hope is the whole point. Being scared all the time ain’t much different from bein dead.”
There are good lines to suck on! I liked this book very much, and I highly recommend the audio format.
In conclusion, this is how books of historical fiction should be written. History is interwoven into the story and made fascinating. There is so very...moreIn 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.
This is filled with ironic humor. Line after line after line. Or is my brain twisted?!
Isn't it kind of funny that the value of propaganda, which is wh...moreThis is filled with ironic humor. Line after line after line. Or is my brain twisted?!
Isn't it kind of funny that the value of propaganda, which is what this was when it was originally written in 1942, all depends on which side you stand? Propaganda is usually seen as "bad literature". Not here. This is the first time I have read propaganda that gets its message across through humor, and it is good!
On completion: I thoroughly enjoy the ironical humor delivered in this book. Steinbeck wrote it during WW2 as encouragement to the people of those countries which were occupied by the Germans, to encourage resistance! I believe Steinbeck has through humor achieved his purpose. I removed one star because the message delivered is a bit heavy handedly presented in the latter half. Heck, it was meant to be written as propaganda. It certainly achieved its purpose.(less)