May 10th, 2010
|09:35 am - The Final Solution|
I don't get so many opportunities to listen to audio books as I used to, because I rarely walk into work these days (working from home, driving in for meetings) and H comes with me on my country walks - a welcome development but less reading gets done. But I made special time this weekend to listen to The Final Solution by Michael Chabon. It's only three or four hours long, a novella rather than a novel. It is about Sherlock Holmes (not actually ever named as such) coming out of retirement at age 90-ish, to solve his final case, involving a young Jewish refugee fleeing the Nazi exterminations. It features a wonderful and endearing parrot called Bruno. Can you marry fictional parrots? Not sure.
I always remark how a good reader or actor enhances text. This one was read by Michael York in a lovely restrained musical cadence, which I can hardly describe, but was quite beautiful. So, it may be this is giving me a heightened impression, but it seems to me that this is exceptionally well written. The sentences are complex and yet under complete control, and the metaphors vivid and consistent. The emotional development of the story seemed perfect to me, both moving and dry.
All in all I can not recommend it more highly. I really enjoyed it; as a genre pastiche it's in a class of it's own.
ETA Here is a single sentence, which I have transcribed from audio, so the punctuation is my best guess. The pov at this point is a Malayalam Anglican vicar.
He felt a mounting sense, as they headed down towards Bethnal Green Road, a sense that had obscure roots in that vanished market morning when he had passed among the hectic stalls of the dealers and animals, that they were penetrating to the heart of some authentic mystery of London or perhaps of life itself: that at last in the company of this singular old gentleman, whose command of mystery had at one time been spoken of as far away as Kerala, he might discover some elusive sedation of the heart-breaking clockwork of the world.
I can imagine it making an interesting audio recording. The print version has lovely illustrations that I am currently failing to find a link to ;)
There's one on wikipedia. The section from the point of view of the parrot brought tears to my eyes, and I was hanging on every word.
the heart-breaking clockwork of the world
That's a wonderful phrase. Thanks for transcribing the sentence. I keep pondering audio books - I'd need to get an iPod or something similar since I have a fifty minutes both ways train journey at least once a week. I'd be able to listen to something and watch the world going by from the train windows - something I can't do when reading an actual book.
I've been listening to them for about four years and I am now starting to exhaust the best ones that are available on audible I think. There's a wide selection of rubbish available, but some gems. I just hope they make a few more gems.
Thank you for the recommendation. I've also had the book highly recommended by someone else, so I've used one of my audible credits, and it's now on my iPod, ready for tonight. I've been listening to a lot of non-fiction audio books recently, so I'm looking forward to this in several ways.
I didn't choose it for a while because it's pretty short, and I didn't want to waste a credit. But now I don't have so much time it seemed the right opportunity. I think Michael York's voice is rather stylised and honeyed, but I liked the way he did it. Might be too much to take for thirty hours, but for three it was just right.