Rating: 5 A Tale for the Time Being A Novel by Ruth Ozeki Narrated by Ruth Ozeki 2013 /14 hours and 45 minutes
My first ever 5-star Man Booker nominated book! A Tale for the Time Being (audiobook) was absolutely fantastic. Stunning. Remarkable. Most assuredly one of the best audiobooks and stories I’ve read this year. I was completely and utterly invested in this story, in the characters and in the tremendous creativity and ingenuity of this multi-layered tale.
The audio narration of this ingenious story is something that I cannot simply explain to you how amazing it was. To hear Ozeki breath the life and soul in to each and every one of her characters as she intended the reader to understand them, was an incredible listening pleasure. Each voice was distinct and I found myself arriving at work late every day so I wouldn’t have to stop the audio, I found myself driving an extra 20 minutes on the commute home, I even took to leaving for lunch to just around and hold on here…. at one point I even strapped on the running shoes to go for a run (!!) all just so I did not have to end my time spent with Nao and Ruth, and Old Jico, Oliver and Haruki #1, the inhabitants of the island where Ruth & Oliver lived, etc. That my friends is sound and genuine proof that A Tale for the Time Being is a stellar 5-star read.
Rating: 5 The Luminaries A Novel by Eleanor Catton 2013 / 848 Pages
Underneath, is there a golden soul?
In which Aaron learns to never judge a book by its cover, not to be swayed by first impressions, and marvels over the wonder of self-imposed story-telling structures.
Set in 1860’s, at the height of the New Zealand gold rush, Eleanor Catton’s impressive sophomore effort is so much more than the sum of its visual parts. Weighing in at a massive 848 pages and featuring an absolutely horrendous dust jacket that screams “Need more Jane Austin-esque Victorian romance in your life?” far more than it does “Here’s an intricately layered, complex murder mystery for your brain to devour!,” the way in which The Luminaries is packaged and presented by both its UK and US publishers doesn’t beg one to instantly read it so much as it dares them to even bother with opening its cover in the first place.
Rating: 5 The Testament of Mary A Novel by Colm Tóibín 2012 / 96 Pages
Full of grace
Testament /ˈtestəmənt/ noun: something that serves as a sign or evidence of a specified fact, event, or quality.
At their very worst, fictional works that rely heavily on the Bible as their source material can be negatively explosive and highly blasphemous, at their best these same works can be critically acclaimed, but these accolades can never arrive without some measure of controversy. Colm Toibin’s slim Man Booker nominated novella The Testament of Mary clearly falls under the latter designation. It’s a wonderful, surprising, and moving piece of literature, but it will most certainly upset a fair number of people who read it and then seek it interpret its contents as being something greater than a piece of fiction. When the book is raised up falsely as having some factual merit and then challenged to stand up against their personal religious or spiritual beliefs it will most certainly fail. If it didn’t, then everything that they have been taught to believe could come crumbling down around their very knees. In order for it to work properly, a belief system must be infallible, and any perceived threat to its existence must be immediately dismissed in any way possible.
Reading the synopses of each of the 2013 Booker Long Listed novels made it very difficult to choose which book to read first. At first glance each book appeared to have a very good opportunity to not only make it to the short list but also win out right. Slowly picking through the list using various means of choice including random number generator I finally picked up The Luminaries. I am very glad I did.
Rating: 5 Bring Up The Bodies A Novel by Hilary Mantel
2012 / 407 Pages
Hilary Mantel’s brilliant sequel to her 2009 novel, Wolf Hall, has once again earned her a spot on the Man Booker Prize shortlist. Bring Up the Bodies is a continuance of Thomas Cromwell’s story as it intersects with Henry VIII and his second wife, Anne Boleyn. As the novel opens, it is the fall of 1535 – Former Queen Katherine of Aragon is on her deathbed and current Queen, Anne Boleyn, is also inching dangerously close to death. She has made many promises in her relentless efforts to become Queen, yet the most important promise – to produce a male heir to the throne – has yet to be fulfilled. In the meantime, rumors have begun to circulate that perhaps Anne has not been faithful to her husband, and that, perhaps their daughter, Elizabeth, was fathered by another man.
Pretty soon, the swirling rumors reach the ears of the King, and although Henry is outraged at the prospect of his wife’s extramarital encounters, he also sees it as an opportunity to rid himself of Anne Boleyn, who has turned out to be more trouble than pleasure for Henry. And of course, “Queens come and go,” so Henry enlists the help of Master Secretary Thomas Cromwell to remove Anne Boleyn of her position so that a new (and hopefully more fertile) Queen can take her place. Luckily for Cromwell, “the affairs of the whole realm are whispered in his ear,” so the process of Anne’s removal is expedited. In fact, it takes just about a month for Cromwell to compile a case against Anne, have her tried in court, and finally beheaded. The crimes against the infamous Queen include treason, incest, and adultery, and her trial and subsequent death prove to be extremely consequential for the Tudors. Many others are sent to their deaths because of what they may or may not have said and done with Anne Boleyn, and Henry’s Court is in disarray after living in the midst of potential conspirators and traitors. (more…)
Rating: 5 Half Blood Blues A Novel by Esi Edugyan 2011 (2012 US) / 304 Pages
The Setup: Paris, 1940. A brilliant jazz musician, Hiero, is arrested by the Nazis and never heard from again. He is twenty years old. He is a German citizen. And he is black.
Fifty years later, his friend and fellow musician, Sid, must relive that unforgettable time, revealing the friendships, love affairs and treacheries that sealed Hiero’s fate. From the smoky bars of pre-war Berlin to the salons of Paris – where the legendary Louis Armstrong makes an appearance – Sid, with his distinctive and rhythmic German-American slang, leads the reader through a fascinating world alive with passion, music and the spirit of resistance.
Half-Blood Blues, the second novel by an exceptionally talented young writer, is an entrancing, electric story about jazz, race, love and loyalty, and the sacrifices we ask of ourselves, and demand of others, in the name of art. (from the hardcover edition)