Pretoria, South Africa
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4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-12-14

Animals Know

Nkosi Sikelele uAnthony. (Zulu for May God Bless Mr Anthony) and others like him. When the majority of humanity is out to hunt, capture, kill and destroy animals, these people bring the gift of life.

Lawrence Anthony’s game reserve was aptly named Thula Thula. This Zulu and Xhosa word means ‘be calm, be still, be quiet’. An African mother will comfort a crying child with “Thula baba”, don’t fret. All will be well. You are protected and cared for. “Thula, thula”. This is how the animals are treated on the reserve. He writes about the silence of the bush, without city noises, so that the multitudinous sounds of nature can be heard. The “Whisperer”.

Yesterday, my cat brought me the cutest bush baby. It scampered up a curtain, and I spoke it calm, until it went to sleep on the curtain rail. Thula baba. Anthony does this with elephants.

I have the greatest respect and admiration for his incredible courage, patience, perseverance, compassion, understanding, wisdom, and the unconditional love he has for all creatures, as also the sacrifices he makes for them. He gives so much, and knows how to receive. His interaction with the elephants is so beautiful and special. Death, which is very much a part of life in Africa, is described with heartfelt poignancy, particularly the tragic demise of Mnumzaan, the young “rogue” elephant.

For me, the way animals “know” is deeply touching, and is sensitively portrayed in the book . I remembered the time we made a short pit-stop in a reserve. When I turned around my 6 year old child was gone. About to panic, I saw her blithely standing in between the front legs of an enormously tall giraffe. Instinct told me not to go near, but softly call her. Eventually, she ambled towards us, totally unharmed.

Anthony’s life with the elephants is quite extraordinary and forms the core of a wonderful and well-written book. I also loved hearing his other anecdotes, which are so close to home, a normal part of life in the bush. The dogs, veldfires, neighbours, snakes… I’ve visited with the westernised Sangomas with their leather jackets and cell phones, but also those in traditional skins with stuffed lions in their huts. It’s all so warmly familiar. We knew there was a problem with snakes on my son-in-law’s game farm, when a large Kudu bull lay dead in the grass, spiral horns intact. On our next game drive, he suddenly slammed on brakes of his 4x4, and jumped out running with his firearm. After a while, he returned saying “Black Mamba”. Whilst driving, he had seen it sliding down a tree and hoped to shoot it before it disappeared in the long grass.

This brings me to the only parts of the book I found difficult to believe or accept. Nobody I know would walk about unarmed in the bush. Yet, time and again Anthony has no weapon with him. That seems plain foolhardy, with so much to protect and so much unforeseen danger.

I have one more gripe. I think Simon Vance is a brilliant narrator, and I always enjoy listening to him read audiobooks. BUT, the British accent (which tends to go Australian when he tries to sound South African) sounds most colonial. Not a good thing here. It keeps reminding me how awful it was in the past, when those very colonials used hollowed out elephant feet as ashtrays. Horrific. I remember this all too well. I understand that the author’s background was very likely colonial, coming gradually further south from Kenya. But he’d clearly become far more Afrikanised. Surely, Audible, you could find a South African reader? Someone with a plausible accent who can pronounce the English, Afrikaans and Zulu words correctly? That takes my 5 Star rating down to 4.

Just a final word about the reviews, which were interesting to read before I bought the audiobook. A “preserve” involves a jar, food, and eating. A “reserve” is where wild animals are kept in a protected environment. No eating them! But thanks for your lovely comments.

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4 of 5 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 02-15-14

Insightful family and community drama

A very well written and narrated novel (which almost felt like a true account) of what a family and a community goes through, when this kind of incident occurs.

It draws the reader/listener in fully. I felt as if I were right there, with the family during dinner or breakfast discussions, driving to court, feeling their emotions. Frustration, concern and worry over their uncommunicative youngster became my own. I felt the pain of the murdered boys family, felt the ostracising and blame by the community.

One feels the tension between the mother's willingness to see hard truths yet still love her son, and the father's propensity to cover all in his strong sense of loyalty.

A very worthwhile and interesting read, with a strong psychological component.

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5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 02-12-14

Not a dry eye in this face!

What can I say? A beautiful book, beautifully narrated by Michael York.
Except for:
"Sofeeeyatown"??????? Its pronounced SoFIYA town" with the accent on the FIYA and veld is not like a gentle [s]velte m'dear but FELT! agge nee. fIRE AND fELT, this is Africa!

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10 of 12 people found this review helpful

1 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 02-09-14

Long, political, and uninteresting

I love long books, and tend to buy audiobooks which run over 20+ hours. But this is 5 Parts of interminable boredom. I agree with all those reviewers who wrote "tedious". Indeed it is, tedious in the extremest sense.

The first two parts are mostly political. I listened enough to set the scene which should have taken about 5 minutes, not 14 hours.

Part 3 is about Arianne growing up, through childhood and adolescence. I've brought up daughters. Nothing new there.

I don't remember anything noteworthy about the fourth part.

And finally, o joy, it ends after Part 5 and a most unsatisfactory ending it is too.

blah blah blah is the best summing up of this book that i can think of.

I only managed to listen to it as I was at the same time busy with a very tedious and drawn out task. We're busy renovating, packing boxes, cleaning out old crap along with cobwebs and dust, and the book fitted in perfectly. But out it goes along with the other old .............

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2 of 3 people found this review helpful

3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 02-02-14

To blame or not to blame

I know that to apportion blame subsequent to events is a fruitless exercise. Yet this book got me thinking ... and pondering ... and trying to figure - who is to blame? The overly strict and narrow parents, or the teenagers for whom life did not live up to their dreams and expectations. Frustration, futility, and compassion are the order of the day.

The endless battle of generations, of dark and light, of eternal contrasts.

In some ways it reminded me of the play "Equus" by Peter Shaffer. The teenage boys bring an element of sexuality, life and virility into play, as do the girls' passions, while the girls' stagnant environment maintains a status quo of suspended dying. In the same way that in the end death always overcomes life.

The irony - were they all virgins? In body or in mind? In a place as bleak, dark, and unclean as their home. Virginal in life experience?

Readers who enjoy an exercise in psychology and depth would probably appreciate this book. I read it as an intro to Eugenides, as I intend to read Middlesex next, and didn't want to feel disappointed by ''Suicides" as a follow-up.

I gave it three stars because a definite plot would have made the book more interesting.

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1 of 2 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 12-07-13

Thrilling courtroom drama

A well written and interesting court drama, with transparent narration. Themes include racism, testamentary legalities, humility, justice, compensation and forgiveness.

I love the way the story comes full circle, the end meets the beginning, and the loose ends are all neatly tied up. Very satisfactory, especially after staying awake through the night, unable to turn it off!

This is my first Grisham book, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I cant seem to find the (unabridged) prequel, "A Time to Kill", on Audible but maybe that's only due to where I live. I would've liked to have listened to that as well.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 12-03-13

The content is a shambles

The narration was great. I always enjoy the singsong Indian accents.
The writing was good.
The content was dismal. It seemed to be a tangle of rejects knitted together into a truly atrocious whole.

Now I know this isn’t the politically correct thing to say, or the intelligentsian response, and I don’t care. Like when art critics tell me an abominable piece of work is soooo flapping magnificent. I have eyes as well as good taste. Its damnably ugly. The same holds true for some works of literature.

I thought highly of Rushdie’s Shalimar the Clown, and still intend to read Midnight’s Children, but I remain singularly unimpressed with this offering, despite the very occasional noteworthy, well written idea.

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4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 12-03-13

For all Ages

I put off buying this series for a long time although it sounded very interesting, but I don't like YA and wasn't sure about this. Having bought it, I discovered it really is a book for all ages. I felt much heartache for young Ender, and wanted to continue to Book 2.

OSC says he wrote 'Ender' as an incidental book in order to introduce 'Speaker for the Dead'. This next in the series was ok, but doesn't quite have the appeal of the first. I therefore decided to end my listening there, without overdoing the experience.

'Ender' makes me think of many of our school children, of whom so much is expected. Each day's diary is filled choc-a-block with activities intended to enhance achievement levels. There isn't time for kids to be kids any more, which is very sad.

Both the above are entertaining and worthwhile books, which I would recommend. The narrators are excellent.

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3 of 5 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 12-03-13

I Love this Book!

Herman Wouk plays me like a cheap fiddle in this book. He bends and shapes my emotions, flips and twists and snaps them back, anywhere he wants them. A brilliant author!

By the time the protagonist commits his alleged indiscretion, I would've done it ten times over, and would've stood in the dock afterwards ten times as guilty. I STILL think the end was grossly unfair, but ... ladies and gentlemen ... the law is the law. And Justice wears a blindfold.

I loved every minute of the Caine Mutiny, and I don't easily give 5 Stars. My thoughts and emotions are also not easily manipulated by any old con move, but Wouk is a true artist! :-)

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7 of 8 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 12-03-13

Information, Admiration, and Patience

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was heroic. Anyone who is prepared to live and die for what s/he believes in is a hero in my book, whether that be Dietrich Bonhoeffer or Che Guevarra. DB was probably also a saint.

This book was not what I expected. Somehow I thought it was more about providing practical assistance to people, helping them escape, survive, and so on. Similar maybe to Schindler's List. Instead, DB tried to exert his influence on higher levels of the political and religious hierarchies, which is not surprising considering his aristocratic background and connections. Sadly, despite all his efforts, he managed to achieve very little.

I'm grateful for new awareness about a man I'd never heard of, and for the publicity that not all Germans were Nazis, when in fact many were definitely not! I'm in agreement with many of the praises which have all been sung by previous reviewers, and I don't regret the hours invested in this book at all. That being said, I also found that it contained excessive particulars about theology, church history, religiosity, and a plethora of minor details which I didn't need to know. I guess it depends on the in-depth intensity of a reader's interest. Overall, it was perhaps less of a general interest bio, and intended more for historians with an interest in church doctrine.

Narration was good, with the German pronunciation fractionally better than most others I've heard. It always amazes me that no bilingual English//German speaking narrator can be found for a book which is so fundamentally German in character. Its like having Michael York's fabulous voice massacre a beautiful South African classic 'Cry the Beloved Country' with pronunciation which inflicts full-body cringes.

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2 of 3 people found this review helpful