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The prose is elegant, the performance masterful, and the wisdom of the words something to consider, reconsider and cherish. But I will admit, when I first started listening, I had no idea where the story was going -- nor any idea of where its main character and his friends would take me. I'm so glad I persevered through the first hour, because it's turned out to be the best book I've "read" or listened to in decades -- and I read a lot. For those who like to savor life, it is a must read.
61 of 64 people found this review helpful
I am so glad I eventually clicked on this book. I had not read Rules of Civility, but was looking for something uplifting for easy summer reading and the description seemed to fit. What I received instead was a masterpiece which carried me to another place and time, only to remind me of the quiet goodness and dignity of everyday people in ordinary life, whom I encounter daily.
What first struck me, however, was the beautiful language. Lyrical and complex- yet so easy to read. It feels more like a conversation with the author, than a novel. The main character is both prodigious and ordinary. He speaks with the authority of royalty, yet feels at times like your grandfather who wants to share his hard fought wisdom. We are with him through tumultuous changes as he realizes the folly of the comfort found in heirlooms and traditions that are passed from generation to generation, objects that lead us to believe that 'the passing of an era would indeed be glacial.' Instead, political upheaval in Russia forces Alexander Rostov to acknowledge old ideas can be swept away in an instant--especially when the 'men in charge distrust any form of hesitation, or nuance, and who prize self-assurance above all'. He finds himself among the 'humbled', those who 'greet adulation with caution, ambition with sympathy, and condescension with an inward smile'. We follow the life of this man as he resolves that small actions can restore a sense of order.
The plot does just what it should, it twists and turns, surprises and satisfies; but this is so much more than good story telling. It's the rare book that causes you to slow down as you approach the last chapters, to feel like a friend has moved away when you turn the last page, and make the next book you start just a little harder to get into.
Lastly, the narration is perfectly matched to the story. I've listened to audio books since 1998, this is probably my favorite narrator. If you're old enough to know--he's something like Mr. French meets Shelby Foote (without the southern accent). If that's a meaningless reference to you, just know this narration is sublime and somehow articulates the inward smile and humble brilliance that is Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov.
12 of 12 people found this review helpful