I liked this a lot, thus I knew immediately it deserved four stars. It is historical fiction and it does what I think historical fiction should do. ItI liked this a lot, thus I knew immediately it deserved four stars. It is historical fiction and it does what I think historical fiction should do. It gets you into the head of the main character, which is here Leonardo da Vinci. In my view, if a reader is primarily looking for historical details and facts one might as well turn to non-fiction. What historical fiction can do and which is often not attainable when relying solely on historical data is to reveal the thoughts, feelings and emotions of a person. A talented author of historical fiction can do this by first carrying out a thorough study of the known facts. With then a deep understanding of the person, using empathy, creativity and imagination they can recreate thoughts and dreams and fictive dialog that feel utterly real. THIS is a true art. It is not merely a collection of facts, but provides a deeper understanding of what made that particular person tick. This is what Lucille Turner has done with Leonardo da Vinci.
In this book you understand the man; you don’t merely understand, you get into his head! If instead you are looking for emphasis on history and precise details describing the world of Leonardo da Vinci I wholeheartedly recommend The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone. I gave that four stars too. I am not implying that the historical details are incorrectly presented in Turner’s book; they are simply not the main focus. Two different approaches, two different levels of information are provided, two different emphases. If you haven’t read anything about da Vinci and the Italian city states of the Renaissance, start here with Turner. Then you will want more and can turn to Stone’s book.
I do have one complaint though. No I guess there are actually two, although neither destroys my enjoyment in reading the book. Gioconda, Lisa Gherardini (1479 – 1542) who today is thought to be the woman portrayed by Leonardo da Vinci (1452 – 1519) in his famed Mona Lisa, is not the central focus of the book; the title is misleading. Mona Lisa is called La Jaconda in France and La Gioconda in Italian. The painting was commissioned by Lisa’s husband, the Florentine silk merchant Francesco del Giocondo. In 1516 Leonardo came to work for the French King Francis I and it is in France that the painting is believed to have been completed. It was bought by Francis I after Leonardo’s death. After the French Revolution it came to be housed at the Louvre. The book ends with Leonardo’s departure from Italy with the painting not fully completed. Lisa’s presence scarcely figures in the novel. Secondly, I totally discount the idea that Leonardo met and was attracted to Lisa at a young age. Their friendship, drawn in the book (view spoiler)[as a growing attraction between two youngsters (hide spoiler)], is not credible. Look at the age difference.
The narration by Mark Meadows was also very good. Easy to follow, even if you have difficulty snapping up Italian names. It is so very nice when a narrator doesn’t get in the way of appreciating a good book.
It is an utter shame that no one is talking about this book! You get a feel for the Italian Renaissance, rub shoulders with Lorenzo de’ Medici, the Dominican friar Girolamo Savonarola and Niccolò Machiavelli and most importantly get a glimpse into the remarkable mind of the polymath Leonardo da Vinci. ...more
Beware - this book does not cover Marlene Dietrich's entire life. She was born in 1901 and died in 1992. The book starts with her school years. It abrBeware - this book does not cover Marlene Dietrich's entire life. She was born in 1901 and died in 1992. The book starts with her school years. It abruptly ends after the Second World War. It just stops! I was so surprised, I went back and checked if I had downloaded the whole book! Is there a follow up planned? I do think readers should be warned. You are left hanging without clear information, for example of her sister's fate. After the war Marlene searched for her sister. She was thought to be in Berlin. She wasn’t. She demanded help from Marlene. She and her husband had run the canteen and films at Bergen-Belsen. Collaborators or just one of the many "doing what they were told to do"?! So, too abrupt an ending and readers are not told the book only covers half of Marlene's life.
Her acting, her singing, the movies she made, her relationships with famed co-stars, directors and authors - it is all here. Her love life is covered in detail. There is a lot of sex and it is explicit. She grew up in Berlin of the 20s. The cabarets were home to her and to transvestites, lesbians and men homosexually inclined. Marlene's bisexual appetite is expounded. Marlene tells us her own story. How she felt about sex and how she used sex is a central theme. Because she had so many relationships with so many men and women, well each relationship kind of loses its force! Just another in the stack of the many. Yet we do come to understand Marlene, or at least how she probably viewed her own life. The acting profession is one of selling oneself. The reader has to be prepared for that. I felt the atmosphere of the cabaret life, of Berlin in the 20s, was well conveyed. I found the details of each of her productions a bit tedious, but understood they had to be there.
The chapters about Marlene's engagement in war efforts, her singing and entertaining of the Allied troops, were one of the best parts of the book. She made two extended tours for the United Service Organization, traveling to Algiers, Italy and Belgium. I was pulled in. She had found a cause to fight for, a cause more important than herself. She gave herself wholeheartedly, without reservation. Looking at how she behaved and how other Germans behaved and viewed themselves is interestingly explored.
There is no author's note, at least in the audio version. You are not told if the author has altered known facts. This is disappointing. I assume the author has stuck to the known facts and simply invented conversations.
The audiobook is narrated by Bernadette Dune. It is easy to follow and she uses different voices for characters of different nationalities. Her American accent is best. German is OK and French bad. "Mutti", sounded like Moody. I was totally stumped until I figured out Marlene was speaking of her mom! Heck, you do understand, so the narration is not bad. ...more
I personally am more attracted by the ancient Greek culture than the Roman. This influences my rating.
I whole-hardheartedly recommend choosing this bI personally am more attracted by the ancient Greek culture than the Roman. This influences my rating.
I whole-hardheartedly recommend choosing this book if you are curious about ancient Roman life. The book is not about the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 C.E. which destroyed the town. It is instead about life in the town before the event. It is about life in a "typical Roman town". It is based on an immense amount of archaeological research carried out over the last two centuries. The book distinguishes between what is conclusively known and what we can reasonably conjecture, supplying detailed supporting evidence. The minutia of details does not become overwhelming in that the chapters are clearly organized by topic. Topics are summarized and conclusions drawn. This is helpful particularly when there is no common consensus. You don't have to be an expert to read this; terms are simply defined.
It reads a bit like a mystery story. You are given the facts and then shown how those facts can be misconstrued. The point is to show what conclusions can be drawn. Presenting the facts in this way keeps you thinking; you analyze the known facts to see if you come close! It is like a puzzle to solve.
Every aspect of life in Pompeii is covered - food and housing and clothes and sex and religion and government and social structure and slaves and entertainment and bathing and gladiators and painting and sculpture and all the arts. You name it, it is here! Even toilet facilities! It is totally mind boggling to see how people were living two thousand years ago. The similarities between then and now astound.
The audiobook narration by Phyllida Nash was absolutely superb. Wow, she reads slowly and pauses at all the right points. I will in the future look out for any audiobook this woman narrates. ...more
Pretty huh? For this reason alone, I thought I would read the book. It is non-fiction.
Why in the world did I have trouble with this book? It is well researched. Both the good and bad qualities of the three prime characters – Effie Gray Ruskin (1828-1897), John Ruskin (1819-1900) and John Everett Millais (1829-1896) are depicted. No character is white-washed and none painted black. The book follows each of them to their death.
Quotes from letters abound. Here lies part of the problem. Too many quotes and too little analysis of how we should view the divergent statements. The author presents the facts and she is very careful to state what is probable but not actually known. What I miss is an in-depth discussion of the relationships. She has all the facts, she has done all the research, and yet I am left uncertain where the blame lies. Clearly it is not all on one side. During Victorian times it was Effie who took the brunt; she was the woman, she was of the “weaker sex”! Today we look with different eyes. Yet, I cannot but wonder if we don’t give the benefit of the doubt now to her. This bothers me. I see faults on both sides. I am left with the nagging worry that we are only able to judge what happened with our 21st Century eyes.
Another problem I have is that while Millais artwork is painstakingly noted, he did this on this date and that then, I do not have the faintest understanding of how this man came to paint “Ophelia”, shown up above. You look at the paining and you learn about the man, but I cannot for the life of me understand how this man painted that painting. I don’t understand the man. I wanted to know more about the Pre-Raphaelite movement.
Rosalyn Landor reads the audiobook. Her reading fits perfectly with the Victorian lines. It is interesting, both the quotes and the way the author expresses herself feel Victorian. Her language, her phrases and her ways of speech feel steeped in Victorian ideology. This too gave me trouble. Quotes are one thing but I felt the author could have expressed herself more clearly.
Every chapter begins with a quote from Middlemarch by George Eliot. The author states that this is the basis for that story.
By the end of the book my heart melted and I did feel empathy for Zelda. For Zelda, but not Scott. If the book is giving you trouble andOn Completion:
By the end of the book my heart melted and I did feel empathy for Zelda. For Zelda, but not Scott. If the book is giving you trouble and if what you are looking for is understanding of and empathy for the characters continue to the end.
Yet, I cannot give the book more than three stars. Why?
The first thing I did on completing the book was to search the web for more information about Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald (1900—1948) and F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940). There are two camps - those who say Scott suppressed Zelda's creative abilities and those who claim that Zelda's mental health, or more correctly her lack thereof, was detrimental to Scott's writing career. Which is it? He suppressed her or she suppressed him. It depends on whom you talk to. This novel is written from Zelda's point of view; she is telling us her life story.
I don't think we will ever know the whole truth. My view? In any relationship fault is usually found on both sides. Scott and Zelda fit each other. They lived dizzying lives. Both sought a life that would put them in the center of high society. Along with that followed infidelity, boozing and bitter recriminations. Their daughter, Scottie, wrote after their deaths:
I think (short of documentary evidence to the contrary) that if people are not crazy, they get themselves out of crazy situations, so I have never been able to buy the notion that it was my father's drinking which led her to the sanitarium. Nor do I think she led him to the drinking. Wiki refers to Dear Scott, Dearest Zelda: The Love Letters of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald as its source.
Into which camp you fall will probably be influenced by how you view Hemingway. He was Zelda's enemy from day one. She absolutely detested the complicated friendship that grew up between F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway. She accused Hemingway of being a fairy! Hemingway!
The book accurately details the known events of Scott's and Zelda's life together. It concludes with the death of Scott, but an afterword fills in with facts about the remaining eight years of Zelda's life, her death and information about their daughter.
There is little humor in the book. You need a bit of that now and then. I have read very funny things about Scott. True details that will make you smile. They are not here in this book.
I wasn't engaged until far into the book. The dialogs and the writing didn’t move me. So much more could have been done through descriptions of the places they lived.
Jenna Lamia narrates the audiobook. Her accentuated Southern drawl fits the young, spoiled Zelda superbly. However her intonations for Scott and Hemingway are just so-so. Zelda matures a bit at the end. I don’t think this is well reflected in the intonation.
Well, at least the book improves by the end. It finally pulled me in. It gives one view of the conflicted relationship between Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald.
After 24 chapters:
I am about half way now.
I didn't give up, and I am glad I didn't. It is improving. Quite simply b/c I am beginning to get into the head of Zelda. I don't have to like her, I just have to understand her and understand the relationship between her and Scott.
I want to be fair in my judgment; it is wrong to just criticize and not praise when a book does improve.
After chapter 13: This is excruciatingly hard to read. It is that bad! It is terrible. Not only are the people more than despicable, the writing is deplorably bad.
- Empty dialogs. The yapping (i.e. the conversations), which should show us each individual's soul, is empty - No depth to the character portrayals. - Events are insufficiently depicted.....a trip to Europe (London, Paris, Venice, Florence and Rome) is done in a few lines. The first child is born, but never do you feel with depth the mother's or the father's emotions.
The audiobook narration by Jenna Lamia is, I guess, appropriate It fits the empty dialog.
What a bad start to the year. A total waste of time. I don't know if I can bear to continue.
I am sorry, I never believed this would be so bad. I just cannot keep my mouth shut any more.
The audiobook narration is so distracting that the book's content becomes extremely difficult to absorb. I managed, but only barely, to continue to thThe audiobook narration is so distracting that the book's content becomes extremely difficult to absorb. I managed, but only barely, to continue to the end. I was drawn in by the topic - the relationships between Mary Shelley(1797-1851), the author of Frankenstein, the poet-philosopher Percy Bysshe Shelley(1792-1822), whom she eventually married, her stepsister Claire Clairmont(1798-1879), her half-sister Fanny Imlay(1794-1816), poet Lord Byron(1788-1824) and others of the family. Aaron Burr was a family friend and his remarks made me laugh. These characters’ relationships were certainly out of the ordinary! My rating does, in this rare instance, reflect the audiobook narration! I am not sure I can separate the two.
Percy Shelley’s and Lord Byron’s poetry are quoted. You learn how Frankenstein came to be and how it reflects the era. You learn, perhaps, what Mary was trying to express through the book, although this was rather fuzzy for me. I would have appreciated more about Mary’s mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, writer and advocate of women’s rights. The book ends soon after Byron’s death, 27 years before Mary’s death. .
Want my opinion? I find these characters so despicable that I wonder if it is even worth my effort to try and understand them. I know what happened in Mary’s life, but don’t know if I understand her. Byron and Shelley may have written great lines of poetry, but for me this does not outweigh their actions.
There is no author’s note. I assume what is fictional are the dialogs.
Please read below; I explain explicitly the faults of the audiobook narration.
2.5 hours left of a 12.5 hour audiobook:
This book about Mary and Percy Shelley plus Byron and Mary's stepsister, Claire, is difficult. Their horrid behavior is more than unbelievable. Adultery is not something that usually shocks me.
Do I like the book? NO! I don't think it is well written. I find it extremely difficult to not be influenced by the worst audiobook narration I have ever encountered. I can scarcely think about the words. Yes, it is well-researched, but not well written. The story, what they did and what happens is told point by point, but the dialogs and insight into the characters' internal thoughts are lacking. Ridiculous dialogs. The lines are antiquated. Maybe my judgment is too harsh b/c the lines do reflect that time period. For me they do not flow well.
I will finish this book to get the information but I am not enjoying myself in the least. This is pure torture.
Do NOT choose the audiobook narrated by Susan Duerden. Her narration is monotone. the women are shrill and squeaky or breathless. The melody makes the words almost impossible to follow. The tempo is usually OK, but in one section I thought she was racing to the end, only to discover hours remained.
I will be honest. I have a very hard time judging if the written words are acceptable and if it is only the narration that is destroying the book for me. I believe it is also poorly written, but am not quite sure.
Published in 1908, this is a classical romance novel with humorous satirical bite. Love stories such as this have been told a million times, but the mPublished in 1908, this is a classical romance novel with humorous satirical bite. Love stories such as this have been told a million times, but the mordant wit with which Edwardian society is drawn is what makes it special. You read it to laugh. You know how it will end right from the start, but who cares? It's fun. It has a sweet, schmaltzy end that will leave you smiling.
I really have nothing else to say......... Critique of Edwardian life told through humor.
I listened to the audiobook narrated by Steven Crossley. Both the novel and the narration are good....more
Definitely funny.....but maybe too funny? Do you know what I mean?
Of course I chuckled at lines like these:
"You will never persuade a mouse that a blDefinitely funny.....but maybe too funny? Do you know what I mean?
Of course I chuckled at lines like these:
"You will never persuade a mouse that a black cat is lucky." (chapter 5)
"I had such a good memory.......once!" (chapter 6)
"I have never planned anything illegal in my life! How could I plan anything of the kind, when I have never read any of the laws and have no idea what they are?!" (chapter 7)
"A little honest thieving hurts no one." And then, "It was all very harmless and gave employment to many."(chap 8)
Have you noted how the statements get more and more criminal in tone? Can Graham Greene write a book without turning it into a mystery or a crime novel? (view spoiler)[Interpol, smuggling, art theft and counterfeit are on display here! (hide spoiler)]. What exactly is the relationship between Aunt Augusta and her nephew, Henry? It helps to enjoy crime mystery novels. Here you get an amusing spoof.
Back to the humor. I read somewhere that Graham Greene wrote this, his sole purpose being to compose a f-u-n-n-y book. The humor changes as the book proceeds. It becomes sharper, more satirical. Politics, sex, religion and human behavior are often the brunt of the joke.
I would like to give you a feel for the humor because what appeals to one will be dishwater to another.... and yet I fear that you have to know the characters to understand the message conveyed. On sex, Aunt Augusta declares, keep in mind she is in her seventies, "I have always preferred an occasional orgie to a nightly routine." Or, if you are annoyed at your kids, this line might speak to you, "They go away from you. You can't go away from them." The lines are clever and funny, and certainly I chuckled often, but it is exactly that that I cannot deal with. I cannot read a joke book from start to finish.
Have you noted that I have shelved this book in many different countries? The book is about travel and all the countries where I have shelved it are visited.....but you neither see nor smell nor experience the different couture of the lands visited. You get a teeny bit about Paraguay. The two, aunt and nephew, travel on the Oriental Express. So much more could have been done with that!
This is a book of humor. The narrator of the audiobook, Tim Pigott-Smith, did an absolutely marvelous job of revealing that humor. He uses different intonations for the different characters in a wonderful way. Five stars for the narration.
Please keep in mind that you may totally love this book even if it was not a good fit for me. ...more
Dear friends, how often is it that I dump a book? Don't I usually stick them out to the end? Well, I have had it with this one. It has not improved. IDear friends, how often is it that I dump a book? Don't I usually stick them out to the end? Well, I have had it with this one. It has not improved. I have gone over the half-way mark. Another 8.5 hours is unbearable.
In the first book of this series there is a friendship, albeit complicated. Now there is no semblance at all of any possible reason for friendship. You may think differently, but that is how I see it. I detest (view spoiler)[ Lila (hide spoiler)]! IF this is meant to be a coming-of-age-story, simply because it is about teenagers, I do not recommend it. Neither to adults nor a younger group of readers. I do not get a kick out of reading about nasty, mean people in my free time. I've had it.
The second book is so very similar to the first! I have listened to 1/3 or a 1/2 of the book, something like that. Same theme again. Same message, and it is so unpleasant to follow. Two girlfriends. They admire and hate each other. Jealous. Nasty. Biting. Yes, the girls have it tough; both of them, but the book is not going anywhere.
There are amusing lines like: "He is a student, but not too boring."
Am I too old for this book? It is a coming-of-age story, of figuring out what you want to do with your life. At this point I just feel like shouting, "Figure it out. Make up your mind and stop being so dependent on each other."
If I complain will it get better? If it does not improve I am certainly not going to read the third in the series.
WARNING significant spoiler ahead: One more thing, the very (view spoiler)[beginning of the first book is extremely important. It seems to say where this is all going to end up. So the surprise seems to be gone. Maybe I didn't hear that beginning correctly? This question is all that keeps an element of surprise to the book! (hide spoiler)]
BTW, the narration of the audiobook by Hillary Huber is excellent. It is not the narration that is the problem!...more
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
I chose Casanova in Bolzano simply because I had heard great things about the author, Sándor Márai, and this was the only one of the author’s books II chose Casanova in Bolzano simply because I had heard great things about the author, Sándor Márai, and this was the only one of the author’s books I could get as an audiobook. To top it off, the narrator is the well-known Simon Prebble, so what could I lose? Let me say right off that the narration was good, even if I could not hear from the intonation which character was speaking.
There are never-ending monologues. I have warned you. What is a bit strange is that there are extremely few conversations between characters. Instead one character talks and talks and talks with another character listening. I did get exasperated a few times after listening to one person jabber; they absolutely NEVER got to the point. I think I listened to one soliloquy for almost an hour and just had to give up, I was so exasperated. I will say this - these long drawn out monologues made the character’s personality sparkling clear! You learn about people through what they say more than what they do. I thoroughly admired the author's ability to draw a character through their speech, even if I did get exasperated.
You learn about the personalities of three very different people. One is the powerful Duke of Palma, the other his wife, the Duchess Francesca, and the last is Giacomo Casanova, who has escaped from a Venetian prison and is now in Bolzano,an Italian town near the border of Austria. The year is 1756. The theme of the book is love. The Duke loves his wife. The wife loves Giacomo, but who does Giacomo love? Anybody? Anyone? He is a gambler, a seducer, a swindler, a trickster.... The important question is though: Is he capable of love? Giacomo and the Duke make a deal. But who will win? The Duke? Casanova? The Duchess? Does anybody win? What you think about is the different loves portrayed and which and who is the real lover? This is what this book is about.
But ....the end concludes in a way that I find all wrong! (view spoiler)[ It ends with Giacomo realizing he does love Francesca, but he keeps his deal with the Duke and leaves forever. I don't see Casanova has being capable of love! Neither would Casanova keep his word. (hide spoiler)] A special twist, which I did like, is how (view spoiler)[Francesca out tricks the two men. (hide spoiler)]
Another weakness of the book is how difficult it is to relate to the proclamations of love. They are too exaggerated, too flamboyant, even in the Italian time-frame of the 1700s. Maybe the soliloquies work better in Italian?
Even if I enjoyed parts as I listened to the book, the author’s way with words is wonderfully creative, the more I think about the events the less sense they make.
(This is not a book of historical fiction portraying Giacomo Casanova's life.)...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