Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Snow Queen by Michael Cunningham - Audiobook Review

“For pure, elegant, efficient beauty, Cunningham is astounding… an irresistible performance.”
– Ron Charles, The Washington Post on By Nightfall

By Michael Cunningham
Read by Claire Danes


Michael Cunningham’s compassionate new novel begins with a vision. It’s November 2004. Barrett Meeks is walking through Central Park when he is suddenly inspired to look up at the sky, where he sees a pale, translucent light that seems to regard him in a distinctly godlike way. Although Barrett doesn’t believe in visions – or in God, for that matter – he can’t deny what he’s seen. At the same time, Tyler, Barrett’s older brother, is trying to write a wedding song for Beth, his wife-to-be, who is seriously ill. Barrett turns unexpectedly to religion while Tyler grows convinced that only drugs can release his creative powers. And, Beth is aided by her cynical, but perversely maternal friend Liz, as she tries to face her own mortality. In subtle, lucid prose, Cunningham demonstrates a profound empathy for his conflicted characters and a singular understanding of what lies at the core of the human soul.

The Snow Queen, beautiful and heartbreaking, comic and tragic, proves once again that Michael Cunningham is one of the greatest novelists of this generation. The skillful narration of television and film star Claire Danes intensifies Cunningham’s already electric prose and further connects listeners to the death, addiction, religion, and search for transcendence that plague the story’s characters, and afflict us all. The audiobook program also includes a bonus conversation between Michael Cunningham and his publisher, Jonathan Galassi, making it an absolute must-have for any Cunningham enthusiast’s collection.

My Review:
The Snow QueenThe Snow Queen by Michael Cunningham
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It is 2004 and Barrett, who has recently been dumped, is walking through Central Park and sees a light in the sky. This occurrence causes him to consider things he hasn't before. He is not a person prone to visions, but he feels as if he has been seen, and ponders what this might mean for him. Tyler is struggling to write the perfect song for his terminally-ill fiancé Beth. Barrett and Tyler are brothers in their 30's living together in a modest apartment in Brooklyn and are at a point in their lives where it seems that understanding the meaning of life, love, and family is very important.

This is a book with similes and metaphors abound. This was fine with me because this author does a magnificent job of presenting concepts and experiences in a vivid way that is easy to relate to. It's the kind of thing where you wonder why you didn't think of things that way yourself before. What we get throughout the book are the innermost thoughts of these characters as they try to figure out where they ought to be and whether they are getting there or not. Barrett turns to religion to see if there are any answers available there, Tyler uses drugs to try to unleash the songs he feels are somewhere inside of him. Beth attempts to come to terms with the fragility that is her own life. Barrett and Tyler are brothers and while very different, they are very close, and their lives remain severely intertwined. They are living the way they do primarily due to financial circumstances, but it is clear that Tyler and Barrett are also sharing a life because they both feel a strong duty to their relationship with one another.

This book spans an 8 year time period and through the years, we get to see how the lives of these characters change and don't change. I enjoyed this book a lot and the way it made me think about the lives of these characters while also considering my own. I was engaged in this story throughout and would recommend this to anyone looking to delve into the lives of Brooklyn dwellers heading towards middle-age as they contemplate what it all means in a beautifully descriptive story.

This book is narrated by Claire Danes, who does a wonderful job voicing these characters.  She is articulate, and easily helps the reader (listener) feel the mood of the story throughout.

*A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review

About the Author:
MICHAEL CUNNINGHAM is the author of six novels, including A Home at the End of the World, Flesh and Blood, The Hours (winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Pulitzer Prize), Specimen Days, and By Nightfall, as well as Land’s End: A Walk in Provincetown. He lives in New York.  

About the Narrator:
CLAIRE DANES is a multiple Emmy and Golden Globe Award winner actress. Her many celebrated performances include Homeland’s Carrie Mathison and starring roles in the films Romeo + Juliet, Shopgirl, and Temple Grandin. She shares a SAG nomination with the cast of The Hours and narrated Margaret Artwood’s A Handmaid’s Tale, which won an Audie award.

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