trying to see the world with my ears
This is my favorite of the Chronicles of Barsetshire. If someone had told me six months ago that I'd ever even pick up a Trollope novel, I would have needed smelling salts. After recently coming across the very clever Trollope Society web site, I thought there must be some merit to the man's works and downloaded The Warden. I enjoyed every book in the series. There's no Dickenesque social problem exposition, but clever observations on human nature, some nice Victorian prose, lots of opportunity to "read between the lines," and for a Victorian man, some protofeminist ideas (but, unfortunately, he wasn't above his era's racism). I still don't think I would "read" Trollope, but I will listen to everything Audible offers for download. (very good narration though the entire series, too)
I did not expect to like W&P (in fact, I downloaded it only because I was stuck in bed for a length of time and wanted to joke that I was so bored that I read/listened to W&P), but it's become one of my favorite listens. On one level it's a riveting 19th century soap opera, with breaks for philosophical treatises rather than commercials. Then there's Tolstoy's brilliant expression of his psychological insight. What I studied at university (70s, 80s,) as the "new" historiography was actually expressed better by Tostoy than the postmoderns I read. I usually skip battle scenes to avoid violence, but skipped none of this - even the description of "wolf hunting" referred to by another reviewer was so well done that it captured me. This is one of the few audiobooks that I will subsequently buy to read/reread passages.
Unlike other reviewers, I like Frederick Davidson's narration. His style for W&P was a bit more lively than usual (more variety than his delivery of Les Miserables but not as campy as his readings of P.G. Wodehouse). For me he enhanced the listen. As others pointed out - there ARE many characters, and Davidson's style helped me sort them out. Tolstoy sometimes changes his prose style to reflect his characters mentality does he not? The variety of inflection sometimes helped point to that.
Felix is not a five, but better than a four. I found Eliot's Middlemarsh, Daniel Deronda, and Adam Bede to be more satisfying reads all round. Like Adam Bede, Felix Holt starts with a great deal of exposition that might put off some listeners --but If you like 19th century British lit and/or social history - or even engaging characters and action in "historical fiction" this (once you are past the opening exposition), is very satisfying. I think it much stronger as a novel and more engaging than Bronte's Shirley, for ex.
If you are new to Eliot, then think Austen meets all the Bronte sisters with a touch of Dickens, and a good bit more implicit feminism.
I never read this book as a child. Neither was it read to me and I thought that Peter Pan was a cartoo character until I was an adult. I missed out.
If you have children then buy the book and read it to them. If you can't or won't then the next best thing is to let Jim Dale read it to them for you. His delivery is excellent and carries just the right balance of restraint and enthusiasm.
An excellent presentation of a classic story.