Shakespeare, Dickens, Homer, Mark Twain, Walt Disney, History.
I avoided this book for a long time: who wants to read a book about a person who's so good everyone around him thinks he's an idiot?
Boy, was I wrong. This is an intense and brooding novel, filled with Dostoevsky's usual array of deeply conflicted characters and blistering monologues. The idiot himself, Prince Myshkin, is no pushover: maybe he's a bit naive at times, but he insists on treating people as equals and assuming their good intentions until contrary evidence is overwhelming. He suffers from epilepsy, and in the course of the novel has a couple of seizures that dramatically alter the direction of the story.
Superficially, the novel is about Myshkin's conflicted relationships with two women: Aglaya, the youngest daughter of a distant relative, with whom he is in love; and Anastassya Filippovna, a "fallen woman" who's been fobbed off by her former lover and who seems to be drifting from one self-destructive relationship to another. Myshkin may have loved her once, but now he mainly pities her. Aglaya, who at one point seems willing to marry Myshkin, ultimately breaks off because of his obsession with Anastassya.
But that's only one small facet of this complex, teeming book. The characters are captivating, the scenes at times almost hypnotic in their intensity. I've only read a few of Dostoevsky's novels, but so far I'm inclined to say this is probably my favorite.
Robert Whitfield (=Simon Vance) gives a stellar reading. Of particular note is his ability to distinguish the voices of the many women in the book: sometimes the shading is subtle, but I always knew instantly who was talking. Well done, highly recommended.
Rating scale: 5=Loved it, 4=Liked it, 3=Ok, 2=Disappointed, 1=Hated it. I look for well developed characters, compelling stories.
I watched Johnny Depp’s “Finding Neverland” on TV the other night and had a craving to revisit this favorite childhood classic. Except that I am one of those poor souls who never read the original story, but was raised first on the Mary Martin TV musical production, then the Disney animation. As other reviewers discovered, there is more in the story for adults than I suspected from the child-focused versions. Filled with social commentary, current day critics of the home-and-child role imposed on Wendy need to remember that this was written at the tail end of the patriarchal family-first Victorian era.
In spite of the unexpected grown up tone of the story, there is no denying the timeless charm and imagination that has endeared Peter Pan to over a century of readers. Suspending my grown up self and experiencing it through my child-self retained the magic. The final chapter, after the return home, touched me the most. It well deserves to be experienced in its original format.
Unlike the majority of listeners I had conflicting feelings about Jim Dale’s reading. As the objective all-knowing narrator he was excellent. But when it came to the character voices, especially the children, I guess I wanted to hear a little more child-like wonder. By focusing on the false bluster of the children trying to be brave and self-sufficient, some of the charm was missing. His voice was just so obviously old-mannish, in my mind a contradiction of the youth oriented tone of the story. But he is still a talented enough reader to rate 4 stars. Listening to the sample may help others to discern if his style works for you.