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What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?
I love reading stories set around World War Two but for me the book did not set itself into its time period well. It starts with a family being told to leave their home. We don't know anything about the family or the context, except what we see through a child's eyes. The family dynamics are well shown but that's about it. There's a good scene at the station when the father bargains for tickets to leave, but there is no tension or drama. I found it hard to work out the passage of time in the story and figure out if anything was happening. It's like a piece of art that everyone raves about and you just don't get it.
Did Tristan Morris do a good job differentiating each of the characters? How?
I disliked the silly accents but the narrator was consistent and yes, he did a good job of different characters.
What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?
I was hugely disappointed and frustrated. I don't need a history book as I'm already familiar with the period in history, but this honestly felt like someone had ripped out the start of the book and expected the reader / listener not to mind. I don't mind books starting mid story but I kept thinking maybe more backstory would be revealed and it didn't happen.
Any additional comments?
I didn't enjoy this book so I can't recommend it. The focus is on family, conversation,and the narrow views of a teenage boy. Sadly there is no drama, tension or action. Even if you are aware of World War Two and Hungary and the terrible things people experienced, this does not come across. It is a micro look at one family, at one period in time and from a child's perspective. I realise a child narrator can't provide a comment on world events but there was a lot of description typical of a teenage boy - watching women undress and how babies are made and very little of interest to me.
The narration was so painful that I cannot believe I listened to it for seven hours. The narrator affected what was supposed to be a Hungarian Jewish accent, and which sounded like a mishmash of Eastern European accents, largely Czech. Toward the end of the book, it became clear that he cannot even pronounce French! Why did no one coach him? It would have been better to let him read in his own generalIy pleasant accent. The story was an odd assortment of historical details stirred into implausible episodes. The climax in the sewers of Paris was particularly egregious: the kind of thing that an author defends by exclaiming, "But it really happened!" The few metaphors stick out. I wanted to learn something about Hungary, but most of the book takes place after the family leaves. Why did I keep reading? I admire authors who record and shape for us their experience, particularly that of emigration; and for that, I thank Kertes.
Every moment offered a surprise and a moment of fascination. Humor and not-humor were in every chapter. This is a very good accomplishment.
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