This book was on my to-read list for many, many weeks before I actually checked it out at my local library. I was skeptical about the luxuriant praise showered on this book – it was about bees, how interesting could it get? Very, as it turns out.
The book’s main character is Flora 717, a lowly sanitation worker-bee in a beehive. She lives with, and is surrounded by, hundreds of her sisters in a close knit community. Each bee has her station and calling. Some are sanitation workers like Flora, some are foragers, while some are high priestesses. All are united in doing their best to “accept, obey and serve” working for their hive and their Queen mother, whose love keeps them motivated.
Although low-born, Flora 717 is intelligent, strong and resourceful. As she rises among the ranks, she breaks the one Sacred Law governing the hive, one which makes the Queen’s High Priestesses her enemies. Now she must fight for her own, and a hard fight it will be.
The Bees is an unusual book for me, since I have never read a fiction novel featuring animal characters. Of course Paull’s bees aren’t just insects, because she imbues them with human traits – love, hate, sisterhood, jealousy, self-preservation. After a while you forget that Flora 717 is a bee, so interesting is Paull’s story-telling. I also enjoyed learning about bees, because the author in her narrative, tells us about how a bee-hive functions from season to season, and how the different job functions promote its smooth running.
This book also works because Flora 717 is a very likable character, and we root for her. The Bees is anthropomorphism done very, very well. The audiobook is made even more enjoyable by Orlagh Cassidy’s narration. Cassidy has a smooth, velvety, mellifluous voice, perfect to portray bees, because I imagine them speaking (if they did) as sweetly as the honey they make. Cassidy also has great tonal shift, and conveys moments of happiness or strife very well. Her narration kept the pace interesting.
This is one of those books that you come across every once in a while, harried and unsatisfied by all these other tomes that have come much recommended, and resolving to read only Booker and Pulitzer prize winners hereon. I chanced upon this audiobook when I really wanted to read something surefire – something so outstanding, that it would keep me from wandering off mentally while it played.
It did, and how.
The Remains of The Day is the story of Stevens, a very proper butler at Darlington Hall, a great English Manor. Darlington Hall is now owned by an American Mr. Farraday, who seems to be a very nice man. Steven has served at Darlington Hall from its heydays under Lord Darlington himself, and now muses over the shut-off rooms and the reduced staff. When the egalitarian Mr. Farraday offers him the use of his car for a road trip, Stevens decides to avail himself of the opportunity to travel and meet a female associate Ms. Kenton.
The narrative is first-person, and the story is told via Steven’s reminiscences as he ponders over the past, while traveling through the English countryside. Stevens considers his life well spent in the service of Lord Darlington. He seems venerable and as he ruminates in his most proper English about professionalism, dignity, courage and life-changing decisions, we almost take him for his word. As the novel progresses, Ishiguro reveals Stevens’s character layer by layer so we come to understand his life better. And so beautifully is this done, that you are drawn into this lovely tale of self-realization, empathizing and feeling for this lonely butler.
This book talks about life, a profound subject, in a simple and dignified manner. Very few authors manage to convey themselves as elegantly as Ishiguro. It is then truly wonderful then that the narrator is just as accomplished. Simon Prebble’s stately voice lends dignity and poise to Stevens’s very proper butler. Prebble talks very calmly since Stevens himself is very conscious of diction and decorum, and is quite spectacular in his rendition.
This beautiful book has my highest recommendation and regard.
I’d read many wonderful reviews of this book and was attracted by the “mystery/psychological thriller” bit. Unfortunately, what I’d missed, was that this novel was part horror. By the time I realized that I was already 8 hours in – way past quitting-time.
Night Film’s main character is investigative journalist Scott McGrath who’s lost some of his credibility years ago, by throwing up an unfounded accusation against horror film-maker Stanislas Cordova. Now he lives alone, sharing custody of his little daughter with his ex-wife. When Cordova’s 24 year old daughter Ashley commits suicide in an abandoned Manhattan building, McGrath decides to investigate. He finds unlikely co-investigators in a coat-check girl and a dubious drug-dealer.
The title of this novel, “Night Film” refers to the cult horror films that Stanislas Cordova is famous for making. As we delve into Cordova’s private world and the unnatural influence he had on family and fans, the story gets creepier. The initial listening hours pass by very quickly, because there’s mystery and eerie suspense. The tone is sinister with talk of black magic, curses, witches etc. The story goes on in a procedural fashion with the three investigators rooting about for clues to Ashley Cordova’s disturbed life and her father’s philosophy, habits and whereabouts; Stanislas is reticent and never appears in public.
Pessl develops her story well. The initial build-up sets you up for something big. Unfortunately, that something big never comes, and I was disappointed by the ambiguous ending. Her characters are interesting. I actually liked McGrath because he had a sensible head on his shoulders, but as time passes, he starts to get uncharacteristically imaginative, wondering if his theories are grounded in the real world or the occult.
Night Film is an atmospheric novel, so full points to Pessl on setting the mood. Her descriptions are detailed, so you get a good sense of the settings and the people in them. I’d been anticipating a literary thriller, and although it starts off all right, Night Film gets too pot-boiler-ish for that. Post-read I’d liken this book to Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code; if you liked that you will probably like this.
Night Film is narrated by Jake Weber, and his raspy voice is similar to Jeremy Iron’s. Weber tone was well suited to portray McGrath, and he did well in playing out the other characters too. I would look forward to other books narrated by Weber.
Australian triplets Lyn, Cat, and Gemma Kettle are about to turn thirty-three and one is pregnant, one has just had her life turned upside down, and one is only just keeping hers from skidding off the fast lane. Meanwhile, their divorced parents have been behaving very oddly indeed.
In this family comedy by Liane Moriarty, we follow the three Kettle sisters through their tumultuous thirty-third year — as they deal with sibling rivalry and secrets, revelations and relationships, unfaithful husbands and unthinkable decisions, and the fabulous, frustrating life of forever being part of a trio.
The above blurb attempts to lure you in with talk of a “family comedy”. Know that this is definitely not a family comedy; it is a tale of the three sisters, and they go through life’s ups and downs, more downs than ups; the book reeks of gloom and doom (those happy, colorful flowers on the cover are deceptive). So I did know what I was getting into; I just didn’t expect it to be this listless, given Moriarty’s reputation and obvious skill. The events in the trio’s lives happen in no particular order, and they do not lead to some big conclusion or poetic ending. The book then, is kinda choppy, flitting from one sister to the next, just one thing happening after another, with nary an end in sight. There is no plot, so to speak.
If you’ve been following my reviews, you know that I loved Moriarty’s “The Husband’s Secret” – it made my Best Audiobooks of 2014 List. That book had three main characters, tenuously connected. This book also has three main characters, very overtly connected, being triplets and all. But there end the similarities. While that book had well-developed characters, this one has them trite, cliched and too smart-alecky for my taste. Character development is so shallow that I couldn’t quite bring myself to care about any of the sisters at all.
This book is narrated by Heather Wilds. I haven’t heard her before, and I will give her the benefit of the doubt seeing the poor material she had to work with, but even so, I am unimpressed. Wilds has a nice melodious voice, but I couldn’t quite distinguish between the different character voices when they conversed – they all seemed just the same, which was a bummer, because there are so many characters and you would like to “feel” them differently.
It is ironical that I chanced upon a wonderful read, “The Chaperone”, because I thought that Liane Moriarty had authored it, and the book that Moriarty had actually authored (this one) turned out be such a dud. I guess Moriarty has improved over the years; “Three Wishes” was her first book, published in 2004, and “The Husband’s Secret” was published 9 years later. I still remain a Moriarty fan, although I will be careful from now on to only read her later books.