Publisher: Blackstone Audiobooks

Audiobook Review – Blindness by José Saramago

August 28, 2015 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2015 6 Comments

Audiobook Review – Blindness by José SaramagoBlindness by José Saramago
Narrator: Jonathan Davis
Series: Blindness #1
Published by Blackstone Audiobooks on September 1st 1998
Length: 12 hours and 36 minutes
Genres: Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic, Literary Fiction
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
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four-half-stars

From Nobel Prize–winning author José Saramago, a magnificent, mesmerizing parable of loss

A city is hit by an epidemic of "white blindness" that spares no one. Authorities confine the blind to an empty mental hospital, but there the criminal element holds everyone captive, stealing food rations and assaulting women. There is one eyewitness to this nightmare who guides her charges—among them a boy with no mother, a girl with dark glasses, a dog of tears—through the barren streets, and their procession becomes as uncanny as the surroundings are harrowing. AsBlindness reclaims the age-old story of a plague, it evokes the vivid and trembling horrors of the twentieth century, leaving readers with a powerful vision of the human spirit that's bound both by weakness and exhilarating strength.

‘… here he was plunged into a whiteness so luminous, so total, that it swallowed up rather than absorbed, not just the colours, but the very things and beings, thus making them twice as invisible.’

In an unnamed city full of unnamed inhabitants, a contagion of blindness which leaves individuals unable to see anything but complete white spreads like wildfire with no reason or possible cure. The individuals that attempt to help those suddenly without sight find themselves suffering soon after. A single individual, a doctor’s wife, is seemingly the only one to remain unaffected by the contagion yet pretends to have lost her eyesight so as to remain with her husband. From the first moment the contagion began to have its effect on civilization, everything about basic human decency begins to deteriorate. It’s an apt expose on what would happen to society if we were forced to go back to our very basic mentality: survival.

‘…for dignity has no price, that when someone starts making small concessions, in the end life loses all meaning.’

In an attempt to prevent the continued spread of the disease, the government resolves to round up the afflicted and place them inside an abandoned mental institution. In one ward, those who are already blind. In the other, their family members who are likely to join the others soon enough. Within these walls is where humanity deteriorates and where ethics corrode. It’s an epidemic that inspires to bring out the best and worst in people. Where many effortlessly revert back to their survival instincts and work to gain power by force over the others that still delicately hold on to their memories of morality.

‘Perhaps only in a world of the blind will things be what they truly are.’

It’s a deceptively simple concept: the loss of a single sense bringing society to its knees. Sure, sight is arguably the most important, but the fact that the loss of it would inevitably change us as people, as who we are in our core, is a frightening thing. And while some underwent their transformation into an animalistic thing, others were more hesitant to go there. But would it have only been just a matter of time before each one of them succumbed to their true natures? Basic human decency and the morals we cling to are clearly nothing more than an illusion when faced with adversity.

I first picked up this novel and found myself immediately lost in Saramago’s writing style. The narrative mode is a stream of consciousness and it’s quite a disorderly style of writing where commas run rampant and it’s difficult to separate between who’s who in conversations. I tried it in print first but couldn’t keep my facts straight so I opted for the audiobook where the narrator did an amazing job and fortunately made vocal differentiations in order to make the lack of quotation marks easier to bear. I definitely plan on seeking out more of Jonathan Davis’ narrations. Listen to an audio clip here.

Blindness is an incredibly difficult yet amazing read. It was horrifying and preposterous yet when you give thought to the concept of such an event occurring, the actions of these individuals appear terrifyingly likely. Let’s hope it never does.

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Audiobook Review – The Piano Teacher by Janice Y.K. Lee

December 8, 2011 Bonnie Adult, Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Read in 2011 0 Comments

Audiobook Review – The Piano Teacher by Janice Y.K. LeeThe Piano Teacher by Janice Y.K. Lee
Narrator: Orlagh Cassidy
Published by Blackstone Audiobooks on January 13th 2009
Length: 10 hours and 46 minutes
Genres: Historical Fiction, WWII
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
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two-stars

Exotic Hong Kong takes center stage in this sumptuous novel, set in the 1940s and '50s. It's a city teeming with people, sights, sounds, and smells, and it's home to a group of foreign nationals who enjoy the good life among the local moneyed set, in a tight-knit social enclave distanced from the culture at large. Comfortable, clever, and even a bit dazzling, they revel in their fancy dinners and fun parties. But their sheltered lives take an abrupt turn after the Japanese occupation, and though their reactions are varied -- denial, resistance, submission -- the toll it takes on all is soon laid bare.

Enter Claire Pendleton from London. Months after her husband is transferred to Hong Kong in 1951, she accepts a position as a piano teacher to the daughter of a wealthy couple, the Chens. Claire begins to see the appeal of the sweltering city and is soon taken in by the Chen's driver, the curiously underutilized Will Truesdale. A handsome charmer with a mysterious limp, Will appears to be the perfect companion for Claire, who's often left to her own devices. But a further examination leaves her with more questions than answers.

An intricately woven tale of lives changed by historical events, Lee's debut brings this hothouse flower of a city alive with passion, and imagines characters both unforgettable and tragic.

I didn’t enjoy this quite as much as I had hoped. The story was riveting; however, the characters were tremendously shallow, hard to understand, and extremely hard to like.

The Storyline
The story switches points of view between 1953 and 1942 when World War II has struck Hong Kong.

In 1953, Claire and Martin Pendleton, a recently married English couple, have moved to Hong Kong. Claire becomes a piano teacher teaching a young girl named Locket. Her parents, the Chens, employ Will Truesdale as their driver whom Claire eventually begins to have an affair with.

In 1942, Trudy Liang, a Eurasian, and Will Truesdale, an Englishman, are lovers. WWII strikes Hong Kong, Will ends up in a POW camp, and Trudy forms some treacherous alliances in order to keep him alive and as safe as possible.

Thoughts
The women in this story were borderline impossible to like. Claire’s ‘habit’ of stealing various items from the Chen household was the most strange and it was never really explained. There would just be occasional references to her dropping things into her purse… maybe it was explained, I may have simply missed it.

Everyone seemed to be enthralled with Trudy and I couldn’t understand why. She was charming in an overly obnoxious way and seemed to have quite a big head.

‘People have always expected me to be bad and thoughtless and shallow, and I do my best to accommodate their expectations. I sink to their expectations, one might say. I think it’s the ultimate suggestibility of most of us. We are social beings. We live in a social world with other people and so we wish to be as they see us, even if it is detrimental to ourselves.’

As the story progresses you get the whole story of what she ended up doing because of her love for Will and you can’t help but dislike her a little less, except not really. I had an emotional disconnect with this story and despite Trudy’s protestations of love for Will, I couldn’t see it. Essentially, I found Trudy’s actions to be more selfish than not, that all she did was to protect herself.

Bit of a disappointment from what I had anticipated.

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Audiobook Review – One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

October 9, 2011 Bonnie Adult, Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Read in 2011 3 Comments

Audiobook Review – One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken KeseyOne Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey
Narrator: Tom Parker
Published by Blackstone Audiobooks on 1962
Length: 10 hours and 35 minutes
Genres: Classics, Contemporary
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
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five-stars

In this classic 1960s novel, Ken Kesey's hero is Randle Patrick McMurphy. You've never met anyone like Randle Patrick McMurphy. He's a boisterous, brawling, fun-loving rebel who swaggers into the ward of a mental hospital and takes over. He's a lusty, profane, life-loving fighter who rallies the other patients around him by challenging the dictatorship of Big Nurse. He promotes gambling in the ward, smuggles in wine and women, and at every turn, openly defies her rule.

The contest starts as sport, with McMurphy taking bets on the outcome, but soon it develops into a grim struggle for the minds and hearts of the men, an all-out war between two relentless opponents: Big Nurse, backed by the full power of authority, and McMurphy, who has only his own indomitable will. What happens when Big Nurse uses her ultimate weapon against McMurphy provides the story's shocking climax.

Another on my list of Banned/Challenged books. And another book that I apparently failed to be given as a reading requirement when I was younger.

I don’t have much to say about this series as I know the vast majority of you have already read this, but I will say that I was most definitely thrown by the story as I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into. ‘Wow’ was the most used word while reading/listening to this book, for sure.

The setting of this story is in a mental institution and you’d never think that you’d find yourself laughing, but you do. Patrick McMurphy really makes this story what it is, he was such an influential character: funny and rebellious and being in a mental institution certainly doesn’t stop him from doing whatever he damn well pleases. The one part that cracked me up (as wrong as the situation was) was following one of his electro-shock therapy treatments:

’…he just laughed and told me Hell, all they was doin’ was chargin’ his battery for him, free for nothing. “When I get out of here the first woman that takes on ol’ Red McMurphy the ten-thousand-watt psychopath, she’s gonna light up like a pinball machine and pay off in silver dollars!”’

As the story progressed I got so caught up in loving these men that I practically forgot that they were all in a mental institution… and because my mind glazed over this fact, by the end, my heart broke for them. This is a really powerful tale that I’m glad I finally read.

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Audiobook Review – Animal Farm by George Orwell

October 7, 2011 Bonnie Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Read in 2011 0 Comments

Audiobook Review – Animal Farm by George OrwellAnimal Farm by George Orwell
Narrator: Ralph Cosham
Published by Blackstone Audiobooks on December 15th 1999 (first published 1945)
Length: 3 hours, 11 minutes
Genres: Classics, Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic, Literary Fiction
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
Amazon
Goodreads


five-stars

 

A farm is taken over by its overworked, mistreated animals. With flaming idealism and stirring slogans, they set out to create a paradise of progress, justice, and equality. Thus the stage is set for one of the most telling satiric fables ever penned--a razor-edged fairy tale for grown-ups that records the evolution from revolution against tyranny to a totalitarianism just as terrible.

 

Another on my list of Banned/Challenged books.

Having missed this in my childhood education it’s always been one that I’ve heard so many things about but have never been able to experience. I have to say that I’m quite glad I didn’t read this until later in life because I don’t believe I’d be able to appreciate it or understand it half as much as I would have in my early teens. I remember hearing about this book when I was younger and thinking that it was literally about animals.

I was amazed at how easy a read it was (although I stopped about halfway and started listening to it on audiobook) yet how complex the topic really was. At the start of the book their rebellion against their owners was a beautiful thing and their strength was remarkable.

“The animals were happy as they had never conceived it possible to be. Every mouthful of food was an acute positive pleasure, now that it was truly their own food, produced by themselves and for themselves, not doled out to them by a grudging master.”

Unfortunately, as time progressed, social classes were established. I found myself so wrapped up in this book that when the pigs that ruled and had all the privileges would change rules at random to suit their needs I was groaning and pitying these other animals who suffered because of it. The ending was inevitable and despite the fact that I saw it coming it still left me gasping. An incredible that was well worth the read; a novel I won’t be forgetting anytime soon.

“ALL ANIMALS ARE EQUAL, BUT SOME ARE MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS”

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