I definitely like this book, but its main thrust is not even alluded to in the book description! One of the two main characters is both a world chessI definitely like this book, but its main thrust is not even alluded to in the book description! One of the two main characters is both a world chess champion and a Russian political activist. This character is Aleksandr. He hates Putin. The most interesting part about this story is that Aleksandr is modeled on a real person, Gary Kasparov! His name should have been mentioned in an author’s note. The philosophical question of how or why or even if one should try to battle against a lost cause was for me a peripheral theme, even if that is why I picked the book. I doubt that your thoughts on this topic will be changed after reading the book.
The central theme, and that which should determine if you want to read this book or not, is your interest in political dissent in Russia from 1979-2008.
The similarities between Aleksandr and Gary Kasparov are outstanding. If you want to be surprised about how the events roll out, don't look at Wiki until after you have completed the book. In this respect, little is fictional.
There is a second central character, Irina Ellison. She is fictional. It is her story that connects to the philosophical question of fighting against lost causes. Her father died of Huntington's disease. A medical test has shown that she will begin to exhibit the disease by the age of 32. She is 31. Her emotional response to this information is intertwined with Aleksandr's, he too hasn't a chance of becoming a political opponent to Putin. Should he give up? Should she give up? What exactly do you do with the knowledge of impending doom? The dilemma is brought up in other ways too. Can a chess player win against a computer game? It is all very fine to intellectually analyze how one would react, but how will you REALLY feel. The book does an excellent job of making you feel, not just how you might think. These are two different things. There are however long sections of the novel that have little to do with this theme; if the Russian events are going to bore you, then I would not choose this book. I found the review of historical events reported in the news over the last decades interesting. You will recall many events.
The story is told through two first person narratives - Irina's in 2006 and Aleksandr's, beginning in 1979 and continuing till 2007, when the two stories intertwine. In the audiobook two different narrators are employed. Irina's narrator is Kathe Mazur. Aleksandr's is Stephen Hoye. I really enjoyed Mazur's narration. It is contemplative and slow. She is thinking. She quietly reflects on her emotions. And in fact there is humor in these lines. I did not enjoy Stephen Hoye's narration. In fact I had to force myself to pay attention to the author's words because I so disliked the intonation employed. It is has an insinuating, ingratiating tone throughout. Pleading, whiny, downright disagreeable. When I succeeded to turn of the sound and just listened to the lines themselves, I enjoyed the novel much, much more. Then I would slip back and get annoyed again. I do not believe that the author’s words warranted such a tone.
To enjoy this book you must be interested in the political events occurring in Russia since the 80s. ...more
What has happened to me? I started this book extremely annoyed and ended up liking it. Why? Why? Why? I don't quite know. I have to think........
By thWhat has happened to me? I started this book extremely annoyed and ended up liking it. Why? Why? Why? I don't quite know. I have to think........
By the book's end I know the central characters. Who are they? Let me start here. The book follows three women. First there is Virginia Woolf. She is recovering from headaches, terrible headaches. She is and was manic-depressive. The date of this thread is 1923 and Virginia is cared for, watched over or you might say even repressively ordered around by her dear husband who is doing all he can to help her recover. They live outside London, in the suburb Richmond. She is planning / contemplating her next novel: Mrs. Dalloway. Then there is Clarissa in modern day NYC. She is lesbian, living with Sally, but at the same time she always loved Richard, coupled with Louis, dying of AIDS. The third thread follows Laura Brown, living in Los Angeles after the Second World War, 1949. She is happily married with a considerate husband and a devoted child of three. But IS everything so hunky-dory? You flip between these three threads, which is confusing until you begin to know the different characters and places and so can immediately place where you are. There are other confusing elements. Clarissa is in fact called Mrs. Dalloway by Richard. As you proceed you recognize that different sections are entitled with one of the women's names. This is probably harder on the audiobook than in the written book.
All three threads are interconnected. All three threads depict a woman trying to escape. All three threads are about women trying to figure out how exactly they want to live their lives. All three threads are about feminism and homosexuality and suicide and death. They are all the events of just one single day, and that is also how Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf's book, is written. So you start thinking... You start comparing. Do you know Mrs. Dalloway was originally written with the ending that she committed suicide, but not in the published book!
I am sometimes uncomfortable reading lgtb literature. Is that so strange? I am heterosexual. I am glad I read this book. I just want to be upfront about this. Others may worry about this aspect too.
Here is why my view on the book changed. By the book's end I KNEW all of the central characters. I could relate to them. They felt real. I could understand what they did and why. Virginia Woolf was portrayed in such a manner that I felt Cunningham stuck to her real character and made her emotions and feelings and thoughts and ambivalences more clear. She felt genuine, not fictive. I learned more about her through reading this book. Laura, she was consistent. Different, but just as genuine. I even warmed to Clarissa who for me, by the book's end wonderfully exhibited the inner strength of women. Men and women have different strengths.
I liked this book. It kept me thinking.
It wasn’t until the end that I realized my view had changed, from negative to positive. I am terribly impressed by the author’s ability to tie together the different threads. At the same time I am not quite sure if that is a plus or a minus; should a book be so neatly constructed? Life isn’t so neat.
I still prefer Virginia Woolf’s writing to Michael Cunningham’s. …and I kind of think he stole her book! In a way. Sort of. Or you can reason he created something new from her original idea.
Even my view of the author's own narration of the audiobook changed. His tone in Clarissa's thread wonderfully captures the gay world of NYC. The language used in the different threads is modified. That is good; people do not express themselves today as one did in 1949 or 1923. You don't hear a difference in the narrative tone though, and this could be considered a weakness.
Who would have known that a book that started so badly for me would turn out so good?!
After two and 1/2 hours of a 6 hour and 15 minute long audiobook:
Does it have to be so hard to understand the story? I want a story, not a puzzle. I don't like being confused. I have even given up taking notes.
I will continue but boy, I certainly hope this improves.
AND authors are not often capable of narrating their own books. Get someone trained for the task.
This book has put me in a horrible mood. What? Am I nuts? It won a Pulitzer.
I see no need in repeating what is stated in the book description.
On completing this book I knew immediately why I liked this book so much. Two reasoI see no need in repeating what is stated in the book description.
On completing this book I knew immediately why I liked this book so much. Two reasons, the first, the most important, being that the author captures how people think and talk and relate to each other. Time after time I felt that the relationship between the Lesters, Elise and Herbie, was so realistically drawn that the author must have understood them. They are people that really existed, as well as the first family followed in the book. Neither is fictional. Don't you ever look at a person and only because you know that person well can you understand why they act, say or do what they do? What that person does seems so foreign to your own way of thinking, but you do understand. It is in this manner you look at these characters. This is not the only relationship that is so perceptively portrayed; many relationships were pitch-perfect in their accuracy.
The second reason I liked the book is how the author never distorted the facts. Every single historical or geographical element and character that I checked was correct. I found myself both looking up the island San Miguel and the central characters. They are all true. The book centers around two different couples that lived on San Miguel, the first in the 1880s and the second during the 1930s. San Miguel is one of the Channel Islands off the coast of Santa Barbara, California. I like historical fiction that teaches me history AND has characters that live and breathe. This book has both. The island, its history and geography, its flora and fauna and weather is interesting. The people that lived there are equally interesting.
The language isn't lyrical, but it describes events in a manner that is exciting and gets you thinking.
What did I think about besides relationships? I thought about how different the island was perceived by the two different families that lived there. I think this leaves an important message. Our personal attitude shapes events, but also that no two people will ever see things similarly. None of us have the same health problems or past experiences, and we are all born different. You cannot help but compare the two families.
I bet socially oriented people will be more moved by the first family's experiences, while people like me who instinctively love the thought of living alone on an island will understand the second family more easily. In that these two families were real, many factors complicated their lives.
I liked that what happens to Edith Alice Scott Waters/Inez Dean, from the first story, is clarified in the second story. I like the connection between the two. There is more that I liked. I liked the compassion Herbie Lester felt for animals.
Barbara Caruso ‘s narration of the audiobook was wonderful. Zero complaints.
I admire Sonia Sotomayor, born in 1954 of Puerto Rican lineage, she grew up in the Bronx. She shared the poverty and squalor off many of her HispanicI admire Sonia Sotomayor, born in 1954 of Puerto Rican lineage, she grew up in the Bronx. She shared the poverty and squalor off many of her Hispanic compatriots. Today she is an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, the first Hispanic Supreme Court Judge. She studied at Princeton, followed by graduate studies at Yale. Valedictorian of her high school class, she graduated summa cum laude at Princeton. This is a rag to riches story - except that she has never sought financial gain and has instead chosen to work for the good of the Hispanic Community and other minority groups rather than earning huge salaries at private law firms. To top it all off she has had type one diabetes since 1962, the very same year it was discovered I too had diabetes. I went to Brown, she to Princeton. So, we shared quite a bit, but in some ways we followed very different paths and are very different people. Of course the book spoke to me.
But why did the author write this book? Clearly the point of the book is to inspire others from minority groups who feel that success is not possible. Her story proves the opposite. Determination and willpower - that is what is needed! The book concludes prior to her becoming a federal judge, so do not look to this book to better understand her Supreme Court decisions. The book shows her interest in helping those who have less. Financial gain is never her goal, and I admire this tremendously.
Most often legal terms are sufficiently explained making the book easy to read for a lay person.
Do you sense my lack of enthusiasm for the book? I didn't love the book even if I have difficulty pinpointing what it lacks. Sonia is methodical and also the book is methodical. It covers family relationships - she has a large, but also close Hispanic family. It covers her career choices and explanations are given for why she made the choices she did. It covers her diabetes too. The problem for me was that she isn't a person comfortable about "revealing her soul". She states that she has difficulty “sharing” personal thoughts, and this shows. She holds back. She does give an honest, albeit "cleaned up" version. I felt often there is / must be more here, something is not being said. She is not one to want pity, so she guards personal emotions. What she says about diabetes.....well, either her diabetes is easy to control or something is missing. I similarly reacted to the emotional tumult one feels as a freshman at an Ivy League College. Again something was missing.
Spanish is often not translated and that was difficult for me. There are not large untranslated sections, but I want to understand everything!
The audiobook narration by Rita Moreno was spot-on! I kept thinking this IS the author herself speaking!
I felt the author wanted this book to be an inspiration rather than a revelation of who she was. ...more
This book, the whole 31 hours of the audio version, was fascinating from the very start to the very end. I was not once bored. The spread of topics coThis book, the whole 31 hours of the audio version, was fascinating from the very start to the very end. I was not once bored. The spread of topics covered is amazing. Surely you already know about Lindbergh's solo non-stop transatlantic flight of 33 and 1/2 hours in 1927 and the deluge of media coverage that never abated for the rest of his life and of the kidnapping of his 20-month old son in 1932. Most probably you have heard mention of his possibly anti-Semitic views. All of this is covered and much, much, much more. There is a thorough discussion of his anti-Semitic statements. There is his troubled relationship with his wife, author Anne Morrow Lindbergh. Her extramarital relationships and his inability to EVER be at home. Their respective writing careers, both his own and his wife's. Not one of these issues is cut and dry. To understand you need the details and you are given these details in a thorough but also captivating manner. Humorous anecdotes too - Göring had a pet lion that peed on his trousers. Lindbergh’s daughter, who later became an author in her own right, even as a child threw out priceless lines. These are quoted. You will laugh and laugh. Lindbergh was a savant. He wrote. He philosophized. He traveled and saw the world, the whole world. Yes, he fought in the Second World War even after he had renounced his military title as colonel. He shot down a Japanese pilot, advised MacArthur – all without military rank or pay. He wanted to do his part once America had joined the war. His disputes with Roosevelt are detailed, starting from their disagreement on air mail contracts. When he lived in France Lindbergh worked with the French Nobel Prize-winning surgeon Dr. Alexis Carrel. He invented a glass perfusion pump making future heart surgeries possible. He was a conservationist and an environmentalist. So you think he was only the aviator who crossed the Atlantic in his little Spirit of St. Louis winning the Orteig. No! That is simply the beginning of the story.
All these topics are interestingly presented, and it is this that makes the book fun to read. The little details are sometimes amazing, sometimes, heartrending, sometimes amusing. At the end you know his personal traits, his strengths and weaknesses, not only of him but his wife and children too. The book moves chronologically forward. It covers his parents’ lives, his birth in 1902 Detroit and his death in 1974 Maui, Hawaii, of lymphoma. He planned every detail of his funeral and burial! Weird, to say the least! This is all part of who he was. He was despotic, could never sit still and had to control everyone and everything. You get the good and the bad. The family endorsed the writing of this biography and provided full documentation – letters and diaries and interviews. The book was written with their consent. I wondered at times if perhaps the author’s views were a bit too lenient, but let me state clearly, I do not find the book favorably biased. I wished at times that some of the quotes were discussed and evaluated more thoroughly. OK, that is what was said and there is documented proof, but how does the author interpret the facts. I feel the author should have more clearly spoken of the rampant anti-Semitism in the US (and the world) at this time and that most Americans were against intervention, i.e. until Pearl Harbor. This is why I found the book very, very good rather than simply amazing. Tell me, how often do you read a book that never ever drags?! .
A word about the audiobook narration, by Lloyd James: in one word - superb! He reads the lines slowly and steadily, pausing when appropriate, and giving you time to think. THIS is how I like books to be read. No theatrical stunts; that is not necessary if the author's lines are fascinating. Occasionally he swallows the last word of a sentence so you don't hear it properly.
WOW, this book is fascinating. It is NEVER EVER boring! I have read a little more than half, I think.
OK, Lindbergh buys the island Ile Iliec in Brittany on the Pink Granite Coast. He says, "I have never seen a place I want to live as much!" Do I agree? Yes. I loved the book even before he said this. ...more