I would recommend this book to those of you who -want to try Mario Puzo, but don't know which of his books to start with. -are interested in Italian immI would recommend this book to those of you who -want to try Mario Puzo, but don't know which of his books to start with. -are interested in Italian immigrant life during the Depression. -like books about complicated family relationships.
In the introduction to the book we are told that it is this book that the author himself thought was his best. It is about his mother. He wrote The Godfather later. That one he wrote to be “a bestseller”; he had to support his family.
The book follows one Italian immigrant family through the Depression up to the attack on Pearl Harbor. They live in Hell's Kitchen, Manhattan, home to the poor and working-class Italian and Irish American immigrants. The language is crude and life is tough; you are happy if you simply survive. The mother, the star role of the family does survive. Just surviving makes her worthy of the title "the fortunate pilgrim", the book's title. Happy? Not necessarily. She has two husbands and six children. There are three deaths. By the book's end you know the six children. I particularly liked how the personalities of the six children were so different. You follow them to adulthood. By the book's end I felt empathy for the mother too. She was such a strong, determined woman that it wasn't until the end that I felt she needed my sympathy. Then what happens hits home. I need to feel empathy for the characters in a story. Not in the middle, but only by the book's end, did I feel such empathy. The life of this family felt genuine through and through, and moments of sunlight are shown too.
You cannot read a book about Italians that skirts the issue of the Mafia. Why is it so hard not to fall into the trap of the Mafia? One of the sons succumbs. Why? How? You understand because you understand the life of the mother and her six kids and that help was not available from legal venues.
I enjoy immigrant stories where the characters feel they are making something of their lives by moving rather than bemoaning what they have lost.
A word of warning: the language is filthy...but genuine. Do you want it cleaned up for your ears? Then you better pick another book.
I really disliked the narration of the audiobook by John Kenneth. Over-dramatized. Too emotional. His Italian accent made it difficult for me to hear the name of the person speaking. ...more
Remember for me a three star book IS definitely worth reading.
I know Hemingway is not for everyone, but I like his writing style. I don't read his boRemember for me a three star book IS definitely worth reading.
I know Hemingway is not for everyone, but I like his writing style. I don't read his books for plot; I read them for the lines, for his ability to express complicated things simply and for his ability to capture the inherent differences between the sexes. Differences there are.
There are two principle characters in this novel - Colonel Richard Cantwell and his lover Renata. He is fifty-one. She is nineteen. He is masculine. He is brusque, downright rude, and could quite simply be viewed as a bastard. But is he? Well, I like him. You see Hemingway goes beneath the surface of what is immediately visible and gives you more. I like Renata too. She is the feminine... and smart and curious and willing to do what is not done.
What is good about this book is NOT the plot, because that is practically non-existent! It is a character study. It is an essay on death and how each of us deals with it. And the choices we make. It is also about the folly of war. It is about hunting and food and fishing and ....about the world around us if we just bother to look. Hemingway expresses so simply what is before our eyes and that which we often don't see. OK, the Colonel goes duck hunting, but there is much more to hunting than just killing birds. (Why must people hunt; why can't people instead shoot with their cameras?) Still, Hemingway opens our eyes to the beauty of the land and the birds and the air and that is enough for me.
And there is humor.
Either you like Hemingway or you don't. I certainly do NOT like all his books. A number I have in fact given ONE star, which means I found them totally terrible. I have tried to explain what I see in Hemingway's writing.
I listened to the audiobook narrated by Boyd Gaines. I got a kick out of how the word colonel sounds like "co-lo-nel" in Italian.
I don't think the magic of Venice comes through in this book. What comes through is the feel of a duck-blind and of infantry combat....of love and lost youth. You have to pay attention; there are many flashbacks. If you don't pay attention you will find yourself asking, "Which war is being referred to?! WW1 or WW2, the Spanish Civil War or....."
This was the last novel completed before Hemingway’s death. ...more
There are books that are worth sticking with even if one's first impression isn't that favorable. This book is very, very good and I didn't think thatThere are books that are worth sticking with even if one's first impression isn't that favorable. This book is very, very good and I didn't think that way when I had read only 1/3.
The woman and her life, what she did, are amazing. I admire this woman, and I am no feminist. She was America's first feminist. She lived from 1810-1840. Where do I start to clearly explain why I liked this book so much? First, start by reading the book description above. It is accurate. Everything mentioned is well described, and in such a way that you truly get to know who that woman was and what life was like back then. Everybody reads about the first presidents, well here is delivered American life through women's eyes. She is a very well educated woman. Her thoughts are intellectual, philosophical and critical, all at once. Although she was well educated she too was restricted simply due to her gender. This book looks at literary thought (Goethe, Shelley, Wordsworth, Hawthorne, Emerson, Thoreau and Greek myths too). How these writers thought and what they wrote is quoted and referred to in detail. Transcendentalism is a central them. Passion versus intellect is too. And history, the Siege of Rome in 1849 is excitingly depicted because Margaret was there then. She was both a governess and the New York Tribune's correspondent and pregnant all at the same time. Look at that year. 1849! What is also so very interesting is why she fell for an Italian who did not in any way fill all the requirements that she spoke of wanting in her "ideal man". And what would have happened if she had not died, but had lived to continue her work and raise her family back in New York. What would have happened then?
So, her life is fascinating. The history depicted is fascinating. The unanswered questions are extremely interesting to consider and discuss.
What bothered me to no end, mostly in the beginning, is how the author throws in quotes in practically every darn sentence. The language used isn't modern and at times it was troublesome to read and difficult to listen to. Think - lyrical, rhapsodic, too sentimental, exaggerated. Maybe it will appeal more to those who enjoy poetry, which I do not. But THEN, when Margaret is a foreign correspondent in Rome, her language becomes much clearer, because the lines are written for a different audience. It is clear; it is journalistic. Now all the quotes that the author throws in are darn interesting, and so well expressed! I listened to this book, and that did make it more difficult to exactly distinguish between those lines that were direct quotes and those that were the author's views, though only occasionally was this a problem. Although I wouldn't say the narrator is one of my favorites, she (Cynthia Barrett) did a pretty good job with a difficult manuscript.......given all those quotes.
Yes, I do highly recommend this book. Fascinating woman. The author makes her life and the events and the years she lived darn interesting. Go read the book description again. All is described in this book in an interesting manner.
ETA: I must be very clear so you understand exactly what bothered me in the beginning - the theoretical, lyrical and a bit sophomoric lines of this woman in her youth probably annoyed me. They hit you strongly because of all the quotes. I believe people who like poetic, lyrical lines may even like these early quotes.
2/3 of the way through: I am VERY glad I didn't give up on the book. It is exciting, it is interesting, and definitely worth reading. Now I cannot part from it.
I have listened to about 1/3 and here are my thoughts:
The woman and her life is very interesting, BUT so much is quoted the story feels like a conglomeration of facts rather than a thorough analysis of the person. I don't like how the book is written. I want the author to tell us how she interprets the facts, the lines drawn from letters and documents, the behavior, Margaret's choices. Sure, I like quotes because they show the source material, BUT this is excessive, disrupts the flow and the language used is hard to digest. And then I ask myself, cannot even quotes be misconstrued if you take them out of context......
The author doesn't even explain Transcendentalism. I went to Wiki for that.
I find the reading so frustrating, I have decided to read this AND another book at the same time, which is very unusual for me. I mean, she IS an interesting person so I don't want to quit the book, but I don't appreciate how it is written.
Typical that this won a prize (Pulitzer Biography 2014)....and I am not enthralled!
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 YorI 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.
She had always wanted words. She loved them, grew up on them. Words gave her clarity, brought reason, shape.The writing ….what can I say? I love it:
She had always wanted words. She loved them, grew up on them. Words gave her clarity, brought reason, shape. Whereas I thought words bent emotions like sticks in water. She returned to her husband. “From this point on,” she whispered, “we will either find or lose our souls. Seas move away. Why not lovers? “
When we parted for the last time, Maddox used the old farewell: “May God make safety your companion”. And then I strode away from him saying, “There is no God.”
Both excerpts are found in ”Part Nine: The Cave of Swimmers”.
With some friends, one can disagree about almost everything and still one remains friends. The writing keeps the reader wondering and thinking, and it flows beautifully. It creates an ambiance; it creates a sensual feeling. Rather than depicting sex crudely, the lines create an atmosphere of sensuality that is inviting. That is what I felt when I listened to “Part Eight: The Holy Forest”. I do not understand the meaning of every line, but my mind keeps churning and for me the sentences sing. Physical attraction cannot be pinpointed to words and thoughts, it just exists. You feel comfortable or enticed simply by the other’s presence. You feel the tension or the ease in the author’s lines.
I suppose I should have copied other sections…..There are so many that are lovely. Ondaatje draws scenes that you never want to forget. Chapter ten: They are celebrating Hana’s b-day. They are outside on a terrace of the wrecked Italian villa. It is night. The “English Patient”, the burned one is upstairs in his room. By the way he is not English…. Kip has made a dinner for them, a dinner that is for the others because he only eats “raw onions” and fresh vegetables and he will never drink the wine. He is a sapper, an explosive expert, the one who dismantles the unexploded mines of which there are many in Italy following the war. The date is 11945. He is also a Sikh. It is he that has collected snail shells and put oil in them for a flicker of light. Caravaggio, the maimed Italian thief/spy, a long-time friend from her childhood will give Hana a story. And Hana, she pulls off her sneakers and climbs barefoot onto the table and sings the Marseilles. These are the four main characters of the story. Are you curious about these individuals? How do they connect? What do they feel for each other? How have they changed each other? Do you enjoy beautiful, suggestive, delicious writing? Well then, read the book. Or listen to it, as I have done.
Christopher Cazenove is the narrator of the audiobook. You easily recognize the different characters’ voices. I particularly love the voice of the “English patient”. There are a few songs. I wish he had dared to sing them. I love it when narrators do that.
I removed one star because sometimes it is quite difficult to understand what is going on. You certainly have to pay very close attention. The jumps in time and character speaking can be confusing. ...more