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I'm ashamed to confess, but I selected this book because it was Looooong and I figured I'd get my money's worth in using a book credit on it. Well, I did get that, in spades!
"Brother Fish" is a superb read -- the characters are memorable, the dialogue superb, the atmosphere excellent and the reader gets an education in everything from the Korean War to crayfishing, Chinese Warlords, and Russian expatriates. The storytelling is terrific, though the book is long it never falters, the author maintains a pace that keeps the reader engaged for well over thirty hours.
The writer also does two things that I don't see writers of any caliber achieve with frequency-- the first is that he is able to depict memorable, likable humans without a counterpoint of extreme villainy. The unsavory characters who people this book are, much of the time, given redemptive interactions. I believe it is much harder to create fully realized, truthful characters and keep them interesting without seeding the novel with intriguing villains as counterbalance. What this author has done is seed the novel with intriguing heroic characters. I think he forsook the cheap but heady thrills a great villain can bring to the table for a larger, more truthful look at the human experience and this only heightens the book's success.
Also, the writer creates interesting and authentic male and female characters -- major and minor, and the main female character is no less compelling or heroic than the males, also a treat!
I have one minor quibble with the wrap up of a romance in the end -- but I hate to even mention it because it is only that, a quibble. "Brother Fish" is an extraordinary read, Bravo to the author for gifting us with this novel!
44 of 45 people found this review helpful
First of all, the narrator is a real artist, replicating all the voices and singing several songs. He can sound like Paul Robeson, a Russian countess, ordinary Australian blokes, ordinary Americans, Orientals of both sexes and every class from royalty to gangsters, and on and on. For long periods, he doesn't forget that he is one of the secondary characters telling a story. This performance is transparent and seamless.
The events of the book will take you from an island off Australia, to the Korean War, all over the Far East, and to rougher parts of the United States. Courtenay's outlook is global. If you can get through all the mud and blood of the Korean War, including serious wounds and a long time of miserable imprisonment, you will be rewarded with exotic locales and ultimate love and fulfilment. There's never a dull moment. Courtenay knows about race relations. In this story, a white Aussie soldier and a black American soldier become fast friends. They go into business together along with a most mysterious and wonderful older woman. While there are bad characters and bad things do happen, Courtenay is essentially optimistic. Even in prisoner of war camp, there are angels. The book is about brotherly love, excellence, intelligence, business sense. I feel like I know these people; if I could just buy the plane ticket, I could go see them. As my own immediate previous life was as a banker's daughter in China in the early 1900's, I could see, feel and smell the Shanghai and Hong Kong scenarios. The banker's daughter had to support younger siblings however she could. . . . Excellence is sexy; fluency in several languages is sexy; silk cheongsams and exotic cooking are very sexy. Ditto working hard and making lots of money, helping others, improving government policy, loving one another. Courtenay's book is inspiring and entertaining. It has a good balance of colorful description and fast action. It ties up all the tag ends of plot and ends well.
45 of 47 people found this review helpful
This book although focussing on one character is undoubtedly the story of three. It is therefore more of a trilogy with the one thread of its main character uniting them, but any one of their three stories could stand on its own. And the canvas is vast from small town Australia, to the Korean war, from life as a POW to that of a young White Russian emigre trying to survive in China after the First World War, or as a black orphan in the US, or from rags to riches .... The list could continue, and these are not superficial cameos, but windows through which we gain clear pictures of worlds and experiences few of us in the UK know of, other than perhaps superficially or as stereotypes or caricatures.
The reading is excellent, and combined with the fine writing results in a book you will not want to come to an end.
8 of 8 people found this review helpful
I've listen to lots of great books, but this one is at the top with just a few others. I thought at first I'd made a mistake and selected a book solely about war - not so. It's a wonderful story that was totally engrossing and is brilliantly read. It was a real disappointment when I came to the end. Just don't miss this one.
By the way, I'm Jean not Rob - just in case you want a female critic.
7 of 7 people found this review helpful
I was very supprised by this story i am not that keen on byrce Courtney but this story was interesting covered lots of subjects and was not woffley, really enjoyed this book.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Loved it! Spans 80 years with characters I wish I could meet in real life.