The House at Tyneford by Natasha Solomons – Audiobook Review

The House at Tyneford by Natasha Solomons, narrated by Justine Eyre
Published in audio by Blackstone Audio, published in print by Plume, an imprint of Penguin

Synopsis:

From the publisher:

It’s the spring of 1938 and no longer safe to be a Jew in Vienna. Nineteen-year-old Elise Landau is forced to leave her glittering life of parties and champagne to become a parlor maid in England. She arrives at Tyneford, the great house on the bay, where servants polish silver and serve drinks on the lawn. But war is coming, and the world is changing. When the master of Tyneford’s young son, Kit, returns home, he and Elise strike up an unlikely friendship that will transform Tyneford – and Elise – forever.

Thoughts on the story:

The House at Tyneford is certainly a charming story, with the well-off young Jewish woman from Austria leaving everything she knew to be safe from the encroaching war as a parlormaid and subsequently falling in love with the heir to the estate. However, the story was also utterly predictable. At any given time while listening I could likely have predicted at least the next hour’s worth of plot. This, in turn, made for a less-than engaging experience with the story. If there are no surprises and no wonder, if the plot is all but formulaic, then what, really, is the point? Nothing amazed me, and as a result I find The House at Tyneford to be more than a little lackluster.

Thoughts on the audio production:

Eyre gave a fairly good performance, although she didn’t really blow me away. I was impressed, however, with her ability to switch between Austrian and British accents. For a more detailed audio review, please see my review for Audiofile Magazine.

Overall:

Although many others have loved this story, I cannot particularly recommend it either in print or audio.

Buy this book from:
Powells: Audio/Print*
Indiebound: Audio/Print*

I encourage you to review any audiobooks you review on Fridays and include the link here. If you have reviewed an audiobook earlier in the week, please feel free to link that review as well. Thanks to Pam for creating the button.

Source: Audiofile Magazine.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.
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The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka – Book Review

The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka
Published by Knopf, an imprint of Random House

In the early 20th century, many immigrant men living and working in the United States desired wives from their native lands. Matchmakers, armed with pictures of the men who were unable to travel home to find a bride and recommendations from family members, paired couples and sent the girls, frequently referred to as “picture brides” to America to meet their mates.

It is a group of these picture brides whose lives form the basis for Julie Otsuka’s anticipated second novel. As with her debut, When the Emperor Was Divine, Otsuka follows the fortunes of persons of Japanese descent living in the United States in the first half of the 20th century. Interestingly, her trademark style is very impersonal. In When the Emperor Was Divine, most of the story is told in third person limited omniscient. The Buddha in the Attic is told in first person plural, attempting to convey the variety of responses of the picture brides to their new life, resulting in passages such as the one below, which describes the women’s first nights with their husbands:

That night our new husbands took us quickly. They took us calmly. They took us gently, but firmly, and without saying a word. They assumed we were the virgins the matchmakers had promised them we were and they took us with exquisite care…. They took us greedily, hungrily, as though they had been waiting to take us for a thousand and one years. They took us even though we were still nauseous from the boat and the ground had not yet stopped rocking beneath our feet.

Coming from most authors, this would be distancing, but from Otsuka it is universalizing. We see a variety of responses from the different women in different situations that shows both their individuality and the commonalities between them. The result is a beautiful and surprisingly emotionally work culminating with World War II and the “Instructions to all Persons of Japanese Ancestry.” Highly recommended.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Library.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.
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