Tuesday, April 7, 2015
Audiobook Round-Up: Getting My History Groove Thang On
Seven for a Secret by Lyndsay Faye is the second book in her historical mystery series featuring New York City police officer Timothy Wilde. I listened to the first book last year and enjoyed it enough to include it in my Best of 2014 round-up. But this book? This book was ahhhh-mazing. The premise is essentially 12 Years a Slave-ish. Free blacks in the city are being accused of being runaway slaves, are kidnapped, and then shipped back south. Timothy gets roped in when a beautiful (and married) free black woman, Lucy Adams, comes home from her job at a flower shop to discover her young son and her sister have been taken. Complicating issues? Timothy's brother, Valentine, and his various Democratic party, Tammany Hall political connections, and Lucy's very white husband.
This is one of those series that I think I would enjoy in print, but dude - the audio productions? Words cannot express how amazing the first two audiobooks have been for me. Steven Boyer narrates and he's Jim Dale/Harry Potter good. Seriously. That good. So that's probably colored my enjoyment of the series somewhat. The story by itself? Is very good. I did have one quibble - in that Timothy was sometimes unnecessarily dense (for what I felt) as a way for the author to educate the reader on the lack of civil rights among the free black population in the 1840s. But, quibble. Brother Valentine continues to be a reprobate with one foot hovering over his own grave (drugs, booze, women.....and men), but Lord help me - I loved him. I loved the twisted brotherly relationship, Timothy's relationship with his landlady, the reappearance of many players from the first book (so yeah, book two doesn't stand alone entirely well), and all the political shenanigans.
These are dark, dark books, so probably not for everybody. But the historical detail, the immersion in the world that the author has created, the dynamite audio narration? The third (and final?) book can't get here quick enough.
PS: Dear Hollywood, someone buy the rights to this series. It would make a killer TV series, like on HBO or something. Surely Martin Scorsese isn't too busy?
Grade = A
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah is a book that her publisher was promoting fairly heavy to librarians at last year's ALA conference. I took an ARC, and of course, neglected it - but decided it was the kind of thing I'd like to try on audio. This was totally a second half book for me, and I'm glad I stuck with it.
Opening in 1939, it tells the story of two sisters - steady, quiet Vianne and impulsive, rash Isabelle. The girls have baggage (a dead mother, a neglectful father haunted by WWI) and their relationship is strained. Then the Nazis show up, occupy the majority of France, and everything changes. Vianne's husband goes to the front, and she is left to care for her daughter, Sophie, by herself - all while having to billet a Nazi officer in her home. Isabelle, ever rash and impulsive, throws her lot in with the French Resistance.
It took me a while to warm up to these characters. Isabelle comes off as a little girl playing dress up for a long time (Look at me! I'm serious! I want to be remembered! LOVE ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) while Vianne is trusting to a fault (to be fair to her, I had the benefit of hindsight). Sometimes the language got a bit flowery (and repetitive) for me, and there's a huge, whopping amount of Insta-Love going on between Isabelle and a fellow Resistance fighter, Gaetan. I just had to get to the turning point - which is Isabelle growing up, Vianne quietly fighting her own war, and the ending. I was a crying, sobbing mess while driving my car down the freeway during the last couple of CDs.
It's a war book, so basically it's one huge trigger warning. But it's women's fiction written in a way that I find intriguing. There's a line at the end of the book, spoken by one of the characters many years later that is essentially, "Men tell stories, women get on with it." And that's what happens to Isabelle and Vianne. They fought the war in ways that only women could fight it, and changed the course of history - their own, and the world's. If you're part of a book club? This is one to consider.
Oh, and the film rights have already been optioned.
Final Grade = B+