A part-time buffoon and ersatz scholar specializing in BS, pedantry, schmaltz and cultural coprophagia.
Les Misérables is one of those defining social/protest novels that deserves to be read (and listened to) in its entirety. It is easily on par with the great social novels of the 19th century: Brothers Karamazov, Anna Karenina, Uncle Tom's Cabin and Hard Times.
I remember the first time I read the unabridged version in high school, I was stunned that Hugo could engage me with such force. I practically read it straight through. Listening to Rose's relatively new translation and Guidall's audio version, I was transported back to the emotions and engagement I felt 20 years ago. All those memories and I was again anchored to my pro-unabridged novel bias. If you are going to attempt this work, please go the unabridged route, you will NOT regret it. There are few books I've read twice, but Les Misérables defintely makes the cut.
When you begin this novel it DOES looks like a beast (1376 pgs or 60.5 hours), but when you finish it you realize you have sat down to a feast with a master novelist and social gospel writer. Dollar per page or dollar per minute, you can't get much better for its price, unless you steal it.
I am a ravenous reader. I consume books (audio, electronic, and paper) by the pound and byte. I RARELY go back and reread a novel I've read before. It just seems a waste of time, a waste of an opportunity for another book, another story. The Great Gatsby, however, is one of those handful of books, those rare literary jewels, where this rule of thumb is consistently bent and re-broken. For readers of good literature, this novel is like scripture. IT is something you read to enjoy the page, the paragraphs, the sentences, the words. It draws you back. It haunts future books you read. It invades you.
For American Literature, The Great Gatsby stands with 'Moby-Dick' and 'Huckleberry Finn' as a monument of not just literature but the uniquely American experience. It captures the excess, the energy, and the decadence of the 'Lost Generation'. Other Fitzgerald books are amazing, but Gatsby is one of those novels that seems to have surprised everyone, even Fitzgerald.
Finding the right narrator for any book is an art form (often misunderstood, almost always ignored). Certain books require a certain type of reader. Gyllenhaal was an inspired pick for the Great Gatsby. He has the range to subtly capture the different characters, but the charisma and the energy to embody the dialogue of Gatsby and the easygoing narrator Nick.
'David Copperfield' contains more saints per capita than any beatified book by Butler. Dickens is amazing in his ability to be both grand and personal. 'David Copperfield' is sprawling, with dozens of threads that weave around David Copperfield's youth and adulthood. IT is amazing not only how he can transform a character through time, but also show that our perceptions of those same characters are drawn often from imperfect information and overly simple assumptions. Yes, there are parts of 'David Copperfield' that float between the melodramatic and the grotesque, but one doesn't read Dickens for the unmoving, normal or embellished. There are a handful of novels that I would consider to be the literary equivalent of scripture: 'Les Miserables', 'the Idiot', 'Anna Karenina', and for sure 'David Copperfield'.
There are several moments in 'David Copperfield' when, as a reader, you recognize you will never be half the writer Dickens was (on deadline). He might just be second to Shakespeare in my book, or at least be among a small cadre of writers that belong on the silver pedestal below the Bard.
This isn't as technically perfect as 'Great Expectations', but it is top tier Dickens for sure. A massive novel that floats with the weight of a beach read half its size. If you are going to read a Dickens, this might not be your first stop, but it shouldn't be far from your second.
This is the most wonderful presentation of a fascinating story. The plot is intricate and beautifully brought to a conclusion. The readers are simply marvellous. To listen to them all in roles of the colourful characters was a pure joy. An absolute thrill. Wilkie Collins writes with such clarity without wasting a word. Beautifully musical sentences. Lots of fun and a glimpse into an intriguing historical era. Wilkie Collins was a bon vivant and his writing reflects his thirst for life. Witty and clever writing. One of the best mysteries I have read. Great characters and I loved the settings of the action. Reading this has made me want to explore all his other stories and read his letters and biography. There is a Wilkie Collins Society in London which I will join when I finish reading and listening to all his works. I also listened to a shorter story called A Rogue's Life. This was great fun and very tongue in cheek. Again Collins creates a thrilling and symmetrical plot. When I listened to The Woman in White I also bought the book just so I could read the superb language he creates. There is not a single dull moment in this book. I recommend this famous novel to you. Next I am going to listen to and read The Moonstone. Wilkie Collins conveys tension and intrigue in a way that simply grips the reader. He sets scenes to a point where the reader feels totally immersed in his world. He is interesting in the way he treats his women too. The reader sees the sexism of the Age but also feels that Collins himself was not one to stereotype women to the extent that one may see in Dickens' characters. Collins creates somewhat more rounded characters. His virtuous characters are not quite as sickly as those Dickens creates. His villains are really wicked and conniving to an engaging and thrilling extent. Collins takes the reader on a ride that one wishes would never end but which forces one to rush enthusiastically to the conclusion. Brilliant presentation of a gem!