Yes, it did take me 13 months to read this 672 page book! I put it aside after reading the first 120 pages, and didn't pick up for 8 months. Even afteYes, it did take me 13 months to read this 672 page book! I put it aside after reading the first 120 pages, and didn't pick up for 8 months. Even after that lapse of time, I only would read a few pages at a time. Something mass murder makes for slow reading for me - even when it is perpetuated by such a charming fellow as Joe Stalin!
But make no [dead] bones about it - this is a fascinating, disturbing, and unforgettable account of the Stalinist system. And the underlying message is shattering - that Stalinism was not an aberration, but part of a human, all too human proclivity to follow leaders and their ideas to shocking, destructive, and annihilationist conclusions....more
Unfortunately, the platitudes outnumber the brilliant passages. This is really a series of short stories, set in occupied Naples in sumWildly uneven.
Unfortunately, the platitudes outnumber the brilliant passages. This is really a series of short stories, set in occupied Naples in summer 1944, inter-woven with a series of first person narratives about Burns' own experiences in North Africa and Italy during the war. These "promenade" sections particularly tedious to me. Throughout, Burns often strains to be profound, making broad generalizations about Americans and Italians that seem more suitable perhaps for a sociology textbook. Mr. Author, please show, don't tell us!
Among the short stories, "Momma," set in a Neapolitan "gay bar" frequented by American servicemen, is quite good. I also liked "Queen Penicillin," which relates the experience of a GI undergoing treatment for syphllis. Perhaps they could be anthologized, because they could really stand on their own....more
The randomness of life. . . the peculiarity of families. . . the intensity of belief, and of unbelief . . . the relentless search for patterns in whatThe randomness of life. . . the peculiarity of families. . . the intensity of belief, and of unbelief . . . the relentless search for patterns in what initially appears to be a random universe . . . the calm essence of the English countryside.
Careful readers of this collective biography of Penelope Fitzgerald's uncles (and her father) will discover many clues to understanding the matrix of meanings in her delightful and deep fiction.
One brother the editor of "Punch," England's most successful humor magazine. One brother a brilliant classical scholar and code-breaker who played a central role in deciphering the German Enigma code-machine during World War II. One brother a quiet and holy Anglo-Catholic recluse. One brother a widely beloved Roman Catholic priest who translated the Bible singlehandedly - and wrote detective novels on the side.
Penelope Fitzgerald was a Booker-prize winning novelist who published a much-admired series of small, gem-like novels from the late 1970s through the 1990s. Set in a variety of places - Italy, Germany, Russia, London - and in a variety of times - the 1950s, pre World War I Cambridge, early 19th century Germany - they are among my favorite recent fictions. In "The Knox Brothers" you really get a clear sense "where she was coming from." I much enjoyed the fondness and the sympathy which was behind nearly every page of this "family history." This was only the second book which Penelope Fitzgerald wrote, but it is written with a modest mastery that readers will also find in her later books....more