Who Is Martha?

  • by Marjana Gaponenko
  • Narrated by Allan Robertson
  • 7 hrs and 45 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

In this rollicking novel, 96-year-old ornithologist Luka Levadski foregoes treatment for lung cancer and moves from Ukraine to Vienna to make a grand exit in a luxury suite at the Hotel Imperial. He reflects on his past while indulging in Viennese cakes and savoring music in a gilded concert hall. Levadski was born in 1914, the same year that Martha - the last of the now-extinct passenger pigeons - died. Levadski himself has an acute sense of being the last of a species. He may have devoted much of his existence to studying birds, but now he befriends a hotel butler and another elderly guest, who also doesn't have much time left, to share in the lively escapades of his final days.
This gloriously written tale, in which Levadski feels "his heart pounding at the portals of his brain", mixes piquant wit with lofty musings about life, friendship, aging, and death.


What the Critics Say

"A sweet, sad, sunny meditation on birds and music and the gentle approach of death." (John Rockwell, former New York Times arts critic and editor and founding director of Lincoln Center Festival)
"A book like a fantastic party, as unshakeable as a child's faith... Astonishes to the very end." (Neue Zürcher Zeitung)
"With layers of inventive language, vividly drawn characters, history, music, birds, love, loneliness, and wisdom, this is a brilliant book, rich and satisfying as a Viennese torte." (Sy Montgomery, author of Birdology)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Audio DEFINITELY way to go here!

I wasn't sure exactly what to expect from this novel, and now that I'm done, I'm still not sure exactly what I thought of it. Can't say as I liked it exactly, although Luka was a pretty cool guy, but the story did hold my interest, and the writing (and, presumably, translation) was of a high standard. Not sure if I would've been as engaged by the print book, but the audio narration was well done (including the occasional bird chirps!) that it merits an extra star overall. Slow start was the weakest feature for me, but as I'm not great with multi-generational sagas and flashbacks, keeping the action largely in the present helped a lot.
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- John S.

A Moving Story About a Spectacular Life

WHO IS MARTHA? is a magical work of literature written by MARJANA GAPONENKO who will definitely be on my author to watch list from now on. I hope to hear more of her work. This audiobook was a fantastic treat for the ears and I’ll listen to this one again for wonderful pearls of wisdom within its audio corridors. I feel honored as well as pleased to have had the opportunity to listen to this one. An audiobook not to be missed by contemporary fiction lovers as well as any book lover for its exceptional quality and importance. The way this story contrasted the life of one man with that of birds was fabulous.

Levadski, an aged ornithologist learns he has lung cancer and spends some time weighing the gravity of his situation. He’s 96 years old and reflects upon his life which has been rich and colorful then decides to live out his final days at the Hotel Imperial in Vienna. He sees anthropomorphic characteristics between people and birds as the meaning of life begins to reveal its mysteries to him. While reflecting back on his life, he has flashes of clarity through the fog of his declining health. Things begin making sense to him and he begins having ‘aha’ moments. He becomes friends with Habib, the hotel butler who helps him with his baths as well as the concierge and another elderly gentleman he meets named Mr. Witzturn whom he also chats with.

As I listened to this audiobook, I began to wonder if Levadski had maybe become slightly senile in his age and as his condition worsened perhaps he was hallucinating about being at the hotel in Vienna. Throughout his process of dying, he began to see the many truths of his lifetime and life overall. This book will make a person think. As for Martha, I feel that she influenced his entire life. I especially loved where he said that birds give up their entire souls to the world when they sing. It almost seemed like a metaphor of himself when I think about him making bird calls. Another place in the book I thought was interesting was when they were talking about different alcoholic beverages and likened them to some of life’s quandaries and he said he wanted a spirit cocktail. This audiobook was a true gem.

ALLAN ROBERTSON epitomized Luka Levadski. His narration was exceptionally amazing. He had perfect voice inflections and voice control. I thought his accents and bird calls were extremely good and he made this book an absolute joy to listen to. Congratulations on a job very well done. This was impressive work. This has become one of my favorite audiobooks thus far.

Audiobook gifted in exchange for review.

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- Teresa "It makes me happy to wake up everyday and look forward to listening. Many times I listen while doing artwork. I find it very relaxing."

Book Details

  • Release Date: 02-09-2015
  • Publisher: ListenUp Audiobooks