I liked this book so I am giving it three stars. Please do not think a three star book is not worth reading! Give it a chance; it takes a while to getI liked this book so I am giving it three stars. Please do not think a three star book is not worth reading! Give it a chance; it takes a while to get pulled in.
One can look at this book in two ways.
You can look at the plot and see what happens. There are three, let’s say four, central characters. Liza Kemp is eighteen and lives in Lambeth, a slum area in southern London. The year is 1887. We follow what happens from August to December of that year. She is vibrant, she is bewitching, she has zest and she loves to live, and of course she is interested in men. She has a beau—Tom, but she is bored by him. So guess what, there turns up another. His name is Jim Blakeston, but he is married, has five kids and is about twenty years her senior. As you might guess, she falls for him. The fourth character is Liza’s mother. Another interesting character is a midwife, Mrs. Hodges. She lives upstairs in the same building as the Kemps. I did not guess how the story would end, but I did guess quite a bit along the way. The plot line is just not all that unique.
The second way of looking at the book is by observing the milieu, the London slum area and its inhabitants that reside there. It is this that I liked. The author wrote Liza of Lambeth while he was a medical student interning at the obstetric unit of St. Thomas’ Hospital in Lambeth. There is the connection. Maugham is writing about people and a milieu he knows. It is for this reason that what is described is perceived as so very real. We see life on the street--the brawls, the drinking and the dancing. Domestic violence, high mortality and lack of health care are the norm. Gender roles are portrayed in a stereotypical fashion. We are not delivered a fairy tale story or a didactic lesson. What the characters do, feel and say may not always be nice, but is believable. We are given a mirror image of reality. I’ll take reality any day over fantasy!
I listened to an audiobook narrated by Annie Adlington. The author’s characters speak a South London dialect. Unusual slang words, shortened words and idioms pepper the dialogs. Adlington uses what sounds to me like a pronounced Cockney accent. This reflects the author’s written words well, but makes the lines even more difficult to understand. From the context one can usually grasp approximately what is meant. Due to the dialect and depending upon one’s own capability and preference, it might be better to choose the paper book. I have given the narration three stars. Clarity is important to me.
In the preface to this book and in the audiobook, W. Somerset Maugham tells us that over the thirty years between the production of his first play andIn the preface to this book and in the audiobook, W. Somerset Maugham tells us that over the thirty years between the production of his first play and his last he came to know “a great number of distinguished actresses. Julia Lambert, the heroine of Theatre, is a portrait of none of them. I have taken a trait here and a trait there and sought to create a living person. Because I was not much affected by the glamour of the brilliant creatures I had known in the flesh I drew the creature of my fancy, I dare say, with a certain coolness. I think Julia is true to life.... I feel a great affection for her; I am not shocked by her naughtiness, not scandalized by her absurdities.”
This quote tells us the author’s intentions and hints at what lies in store. Julia, the novel’s central protagonist, is the author’s creation, a composite figure of many. In my view, by taking traits from an assortment of different people, Julia fails to become real, fails to become the living person Maugham sought to create. We are given a figure made up of a conglomeration of traits found in successful actresses, but not a creature that lives and breathes. I did not come to understand her choices or why she did what she did. Her relationships with her husband, son and lovers did not ring true to me. She loves her husband and then she doesn’t, but we never come to understand why her perception of him has so radically changed. She is an actress, only an actress albeit in all that she says, thinks and does, but not a full person.
The book focuses on drawing a “born actress” rather than drawing one realistically drawn woman who happens to be a successful actress. Do you see the difference? Am I clear? The book does ask: What makes an actor or actress tick? What drives them? How do they see themselves? How do they react to the world around them? And can a born actor or actress ever stop acting?
Julia’s son Roger says to his mother: “You don't know the difference between truth and make-believe. You never stop acting. It's second nature to you. You act when there's a party here. You act to the servants, you act to father, you act to me. To me you act the part of the fond, indulgent, celebrated mother. You don't exist, you're only the innumerable parts you've played. I've often wondered if there was ever a you or if you were never anything more than a vehicle for all these other people that you've pretended to be. When I've seen you go into an empty room I've sometimes wanted to open the door suddenly, but I've been afraid to in case I found nobody there.”
Look at the quote in the preface for a second time. Maugham tells us that he drew Julia with a “certain coolness”. This coolness, this detachment, is evident in the writing. I didn’t like this.
The setting of the book is primarily England before and after the First World War. There are excursions to France.
The audiobook is well narrated by Lucy Scott, although the preface is read way too fast, like she was saying to us, “Let’s just skip this and get to the story!” Afterwards, the narration is easier to follow. She captures different accents well.
This is certainly not my favorite book by the author, but I do not regret reading it. It’s OK. I know little about the personality traits of actors and actresses. As a playwright, Maugham did. In this respect I found it mildly interesting to hear what he had to say about those in the acting profession. I cannot say I am attracted by such people. Viewed simply as a book about a fictional character, I was not sufficiently drawn in.
Two stars does not mean I disliked Educated: A Memoir, but rather that I found it to be OK. With this clarified I will explain the reasons for my ratiTwo stars does not mean I disliked Educated: A Memoir, but rather that I found it to be OK. With this clarified I will explain the reasons for my rating.
The beginning is confusing, which can scarcely be considered a plus. Initial questions that arise are resolved as one reads, and the further one goes the less is one willing to abandon the book or even put it down. I needed to know how the problems would be resolved.
Familial problems are what this book is about. Serious problems related to mental and physical abuse. This is by no means a light read. The family is Mormon, and they live in Idaho. The father is authoritarian, with clear fundamentalist leanings. There are seven children, of which Tara, the author, is the youngest. The mother is a midwife and a herbalist and supportive of her husband. The children are not educated nor given proper medical care. Any talk of home-schooling is a sham. The situation is extreme. This is what you will read about and about how difficult it is to leave the family and forge a new route. Three of the children do succeed, but what is the price that must be paid? The bonds of family, even those built on dishonesty, on fear and physical and psychological abuse prove to be almost impossible to break. This is the central focus of the book.
We are told in the beginning that this book Is not about the Mormon faith. I beg to differ. What happens in this family is tied closely to Mormon beliefs; the two cannot be separated.
Tara is telling of her ties to and her alienation from her family. What is presented is what has happened as she remembers it and she admits that her memories are at times confused. There are holes, lacking information and conflicting versions and there could be exaggerations. I am left with an uncomfortable feeling. I am not sure how much of this is absolutely true. Too much is fuzzy. All too often the author paraphrases. In other cases, quotes are given. I found myself wondering about the veracity of these too. How is it possible she remembers that? In any case, we are hearing one side of the story; I am not comfortable with this. I do not have adequate information to criticize specifics, but I am left uneasy. I certainly have difficulty believing all we are told. Call me a skeptic.
Furthermore, I find it strange that having completed the book I do not feel I know Tara. Something is missing.
The audiobook narration by Julia Whelan was good, in that it was not hard to follow, but clearly it is Tara’s views we are supposed to accept. I have given the narration three stars.
I am rating the book, not Tara. Although I feel unsure about the details, my sympathy lies with her, not with her father, nor her mother, nor her brother, Shawn.
Go ahead. Read the book. See what you think....more
Friends whose opinions I highly value have enjoyed this book. I can only explain my personal reaction. Perhaps it is best you read other reviews too.
PFriends whose opinions I highly value have enjoyed this book. I can only explain my personal reaction. Perhaps it is best you read other reviews too.
Please start by reading the short GR book description. The first paragraph tells you how the story unfolds. The idea is that one event leads to another and another and another. First of all, is this so strange that one event leads to another and another and another? Is it worth writing a whole book about such a rudimentary concept?! Secondly, it is not true “that entire lives become irrevocably changed”, (view spoiler)[at least not in this novel (hide spoiler)]. It is how an individual reacts to events thrown at them that determines where one will stand at the end.
The story itself is tedious, uninteresting, insipid, quite simply boring.
The writing style is not to my taste either. Lots of words, but so very little said. I prefer a simpler, cleaner prose that reveals underlying emotions and thoughts. I want more of the essential and less of the superficial.
The characters fail to interest me. They are not people I am curious to know more about. They are not people I admire. It is not necessary to like a book’s characters if the author has been able to create in readers a feeling of sympathy for them, despite their weaknesses. This does not happen here. I am left totally indifferent to them. I am sure there do exist people such as those drawn here, but who cares?
It is certainly possible to distinguish between an author’s written words and the performance of an audiobook’s narrator. Separating the two does demand concentration. I always give two separate ratings--one for the written book and one for the narrator’s performance. Here the narrator was Anna Bentinck and she did a really good job. Her performance I have given four stars. The speed, the clarity of the words and the intonations for the different characters were all very well executed. It was the story itself I had problems with, not the narration....more