Nina's Reading Blog

Comments on books I am reading/listening to

Archive for August, 2008

The Pillars of the Earth

Posted by nliakos on August 24, 2008

by Ken Follett (abridged).  Penguin Audio 1989; read by Richard E. Grant

As a huge fan of the Brother Cadfael series by Ellis Peters, I really enjoyed this historical novel, set in England during the period in the 12th century when King Stephen and the Empress Maud both claimed the throne of England and everyone else’s fortunes rose and fell depending on which of them had seized power.  (Brother Cadfael’s chronicles took place during the same period and also in a religious setting.)  Pillars has a host of interesting characters: Philip of Gwyneth, whose integrity and devotion to God run through the novel; the witch Ellen and her gifted son Jack; master builder Tom; Lady Aliena, a “modern” woman who overcomes numerous setbacks to achieve her goals; the despicable Bishop of Kingsbridge, Allerin Bygod (N.B. I have only listened to the book, so the spelling could be wrong) and the evil William Hammley.  Yes, the characters do tend to be a bit one-sided, but the story moves along nicely (unfortunately, this audio version is abridged) and along the way the reader gets quite caught up in the events of the time and also in the art of cathedral-building.  The book made me regret never having visited the Cathedral of St. Denis when I lived in Paris.  Richard Grant’s reading is excellent; I wonder if he also narrated the lovely story, “Brother Heinrich’s Christmas,” as it sounds like the same voice!

Posted in Fiction | Leave a Comment »

Identical Strangers

Posted by nliakos on August 18, 2008

by Elyse Schein and Paula Bernstein

The authors of this book are identical twins who were adopted by different families; their families were never told that they were twins.  They discovered each other when they were in their thirties.  They also discovered that they had been separated on purpose and enrolled in a psychological study of identical twins raised separately, although they did not continue in the study.  The book chronicles their getting to know each other and trying together to find out about the study (which was never published and was sealed in a university archive for 75 years).  Along the way they report many of the findings of other twin studies, most of which indicate that nature outweighs nurture to a very large degree.  They are painfully honest as they examine their feelings about each other and their birth mother, whom they eventually identify.  A very interested read.

Posted in Non-fiction | Leave a Comment »

Henry VIII

Posted by nliakos on August 18, 2008

by William Shakespeare. Arkangel. Paul Jesson as Henry VIII, Jane Lapotaire as Katherine, Timothy West as Cardinal Wolsey, Katharine Schlesinger as Anne Bullen; directed by Clive Brill.

Vicki has been reading me historical novels about Anne Boleyn and Catherine of Aragon, so I actually got this CD book in the hope that she would listen to it (which she didn’t). I haven’t read any of Shakespeare’s histories other than Julius Caesar in the 9th grade. What I found fascinating about this one is that Shakespeare was writing not many years after the events in this play actually happened. Elizabeth I was queen when Shakespeare was alive, and Elizabeth’s mother was Anne Boleyn (Bullen). The play seems to have been written partly as a paean to Elizabeth, especially the last act, which recounts Elizabeth’s christening and includes a very enthusiastic blessing by Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury. Yet it is interesting to remember that Henry had Elizabeth’s mother executed on a trumped-up charge of infidelity. Shakespeare seems to have gotten around this unpleasantness by portraying both Henry and Anne in a positive light and making Cardinal Wolsey into the villain of the piece. It must have been a challenge!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »