Review Room

Book reviews and miscellanous thoughts

Audiobook Review : The Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian

Written By: amodini - Sep• 09•15

The Double Bind (Vintage Contemporaries)Title : The Double Bind
Author : Chris Bohjalian
Narrator : Susan Denaker
Genre : Contemporary
Publisher : Books On Tape
Listening Length : 11 hours 27 minutes
Rating : 2/5
Narrator Rating : 4/5

You win some, you lose some. This is one of the latter. After Laline Paull’s The Bees which had been on my to-listen list for a very long time, and turned out so well, I took a chance on “The Double Bind”, and am sorely disappointed.

The Double Bind is about Laura Estabrook, a young social worker, who has had a majorly traumatic event in the past. The trauma haunts her to the present day, and when she encounters through her work, a homeless man, who has photographs which could be related to the events of that horrific day, it turns her life upside down.

Bohjalian’s writing is mesmerizing, it sucks you in and doesn’t let go – and this from me, who’s only actually only heard the book, not even read it. I emphasize the distinction, because it is harder to focus on an audiobook than a regular book. While listening to an audiobook, and I listen in the car, amid teeming traffic, it is easier to get distracted and drift off, because the eyes are not focussed on a particular object. An audiobook is a true test of how good the book actually is. In that “were-you-hooked sense, Bohjalian’s book passes with flying colors.

So you wonder – why the 2 stars? I do not wish to give away the book, so all I can say is this – The Double Bind uses a literary trope, which when done well, makes an outstanding, suspense-filled, didn’t-see-that-coming book/film etc. Unfortunately, Bohjalian’s use of this trope is shoddy and fraught with holes. He changes the rules of the game to suit his end, and I as a reader/listener feel like I’ve been taken for a ride. This is especially annoying also because this happens pretty much at the end, when I’ve already listened to most of the book. The Double Bind is humming along nicely, and there are some great plot twists, a nice sense of mystery, and then it all goes splat. That’s 11 hours and 27 minutes of my life I will never get back.

I did like the narrator Susan Denaker. I think she did a great job and I would listen to her again.

Wordless Wednesdays #44

Written By: amodini - Aug• 26•15

Decoration on building, Lucerne

Audiobook Review : The Bees by Laline Paull

Written By: amodini - Aug• 12•15

The Bees: A NovelTitle : The Bees
Author : Laline Paull
Narrator : Orlagh Cassidy
Genre : Contemporary
Publisher : Harper Audio
Listening Length : 10 hours 15 minutes
Rating : 4.5/5
Narrator Rating : 5/5

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.

Highly recommended.

Wordless Wednesdays #43

Written By: amodini - Jul• 29•15

Zunfthaus Pfistern restaurant, Lucerne

Audiobook Review : The Remains Of The Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

Written By: amodini - Jul• 15•15

Remains of the DayTitle : The Remains of The Day
Author : Kazuo Ishiguro
Narrator : Simon Prebble
Genre : Contemporary
Publisher : Tantor Audio
Listening Length : 8 hours 13 minutes
Rating : 5/5
Narrator Rating : 5/5

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.

Wordless Wednesdays #42

Written By: amodini - Jun• 24•15

Rathaus, Lucerne

Wordless Wednesdays #41

Written By: amodini - May• 27•15

Ceiling detail, Jesuit Church, Lucerne

Wordless Wednesdays #40

Written By: amodini - Apr• 29•15

Jesuit Church and Kapellbrucke, Lucerne

Wordless Wednesdays #39

Written By: amodini - Mar• 25•15

Dornach House at Hirschenplatz, Lucerne

Audiobook Review : Night Film by Marisha Pessl

Written By: amodini - Mar• 18•15

Night Film: A NovelTitle : Night Film
Author : Marisha Pessl
Narrator : Jake Weber
Genre : Contemporary
Publisher : Random House Audio
Listening Length : 23 hours 9 minutes
Rating : 3/5

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.