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A few words from Neil on The Land of Laughs: "I chose The Land of Laughs for Neil Gaiman Presents because I love Jonathan Carroll’s books and want to bring them to as wide an audience as possible. I suspected the character of Thomas Abbey would be both a challenge and an opportunity for the right narrator. Edoardo Ballerini conveys a certain wistfulness and vulnerability underneath Abbey’s grumpiness."
Thomas Abbey is a man stuck in a rut. An English teacher in a small Connecticut prep school, Abbey is in a crisis. His career is unfulfilling, he has no social or love life to speak of, and he cannot break out of the shadow of his famous father, the actor Stephen Abbey. To kick-start his life, he takes a sabbatical to work on a biography of his favorite writer, Marshall France. France's books were the only thing that kept Abbey sane during his childhood, and though he was renowned for his lyrical and imaginative children's books, nearly nothing was known about the writer's life.
Although Abbey has been warned that France's daughter, Anna, has blocked all previous attempts at her father's biography, he and Saxony Garder - an intense woman also obsessed with France's life - head to Galen, Missouri, with high hopes of breaking down Anna's resistance. They are surprised to find Anna the soul of small-town hospitality and quite excited about Abbey's proposal - even eager to get the project finished as soon as possible.
Even stranger than Anna's behavior is the town of Galen itself. On the surface, all is as a small Midwestern town should be. But the people of the town seem to know what their future holds - freak accidents and all - down to the hour and are as eager for Abbey to finish the biography as Anna is.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Daryl on 11-01-12
It's Not You - It's Me
Was The Land of Laughs worth the listening time?
I got half way through this book and was so. intrigued. Here we had this utterly delectable little novel with a great premise, wonderful characters, and an completely unique perspective, and by the time I got right smack dab in the middle of it I was tearing my hair out trying to figure out what diabolical mystery it could all be building up to. And then I found out and all I could think was "oh, is that all? well I can tell where this is headed".
And the book rolled on. And it ended just like I thought it would (I really loved the closing lines though) which afforded me the opportunity to nod sagely to myself while listening to my ipod between classes and ruminate on the inadvisability of trying to predict plot twists. For a long time after I sat and mulled over why I thought it was that I didn't enjoy the latter half of this book as much as the former. I think its because I've just read, if at all possible, too much fantasy. If you know your tropes you can spot this one from a mile away.
But I still liked everything else about it. And obviously I am in the minority in my opinion about not being so hot on it. I don't mean to seem self congratulatory for having figured it out, that's not my intention. I was just hoping for something different. That being said I do not consider this to have been a waste of a credit - I still enjoyed the story, I'm still utterly fascinated by the characters and Ballerini did a fantastic job in bringing it all to life. Quibbles aside, I still recommend it.
In the end I think this book did what it was supposed to do - it introduced me to an author I never would have heard about otherwise, and it made me want to listen to his other works (I've added everything else he offers through Neil Gaiman Presents to my wish list). While this might not have been a strong entry into his cannon for me personally, I can tell he's someone whose work will appeal to me and I look foreword to listening to more first chance I get.
13 of 14 people found this review helpful
By WILLIAM on 06-05-12
I got this because I was looking for horror. Turns out it's really more interested in exploring what happens when you live for your art rather than living for actual life.
Fans of metaphor and hyperbole will love this book. See, the way Jonathan Carroll rolls is to describe things using biting quips that echo what pops into our heads day-to-day -- for example, your lover doesn't "cling so tightly to you that you have to peel yourself away in the morning"; instead, she "scotch-tapes herself to you".
As for the narrator, Ballerini does a great job with the male leads but it gets hard to tell the voices of the main female leads apart.
8 of 9 people found this review helpful
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Paul Snook on 05-10-16
Laugh? No. Be disturbed? Yes.
I had not read or even heard of Jonathan Carroll before I came across this suggestion from the estimable Mr Gaiman. And I am very glad that I did because this book is so compelling, so enthralling, and at the same time quite, quite disturbing, that one is hooked from the very start.
It seems a trait with Carroll's work that the story itself, the real meat as it were, never really gets going until about two-thirds of the way through. The last third is where the action is at yet the rest is about the fleshing out of the characters, the setting of the tone, the background, everything that makes a masterpiece what it is. And despite all this apparent extraneous padding you still want to hear it. You want to know what makes the characters tick, their faults, their foibles, because I have yet to come across anyone who better portrays real people, complete with hang-ups and doubts, as does Jonathan Carroll.
The title of this book is the title of a fictional book by an author much admired by the main protagonists. That so much detail of this fictional book is included makes one wish that it was for real, so fantastical are the characters and clues to the mythical text.
The end, when one eventually gets there, is fairly predictable. You can sense how things are going to pan out and yet it is still a surprise when the inevitable happens.
Edoardo Ballerini narrated this story impeccably and, as a result, will have me hunting down more of his work.
Buy, listen and be beguiled.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
By Laurence on 09-27-16
A brilliant listen from a fantastic writer
Any additional comments?
This debut novel by Jonathan Carroll deserves to be discovered by many more listeners. If you love a story that slowly slides from reality into fantasy and horror then this is the audio for you. Introduced and recommended by Neil Gaiman it also had a host of fantastic reviews at the time of its release, including Ruth Rendell.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful