Audiobooks have literally changed my life. I now actually ENJOY doing mindless chores because they give me plenty of listening time!
Walter Hartright, a young art teacher, is startled when he is overtaken by a young woman dressed entirely in white while walking on the road from Hampstead to London. Visibly distressed, the young woman begs him to show her the way to London, and he offers to accompany her there. The young woman accepts his offer on the condition that he allow her to come and go as she pleases. Once he's dropped her off in London, two men in hot pursuit claim that the girl has escaped a mental asylum and must be returned there at once, but Walter does nothing to help them in their search. The next day he arrives at Limmeridge House, where he has gained a position as a drawing master. There he meets his young pupils, half sisters Marian and Laura. In no time at all, her befriends Marian—no great beauty is she, but quick, smart and amusing—and falls desperately in love with the heavenly loveliness that is Laura. But the encounter with the woman in white will carry many consequences.
I took absolute delight in discovering all the plot twists of this great classic mystery, so will disclose no more of the story nor of how it is told, but will say that it offers a wonderfully evil conspiracy and several highly memorable characters, not least of which the strange and compelling villain Count Fosco, who stole every scene in which he appeared, in my view. Also, the sublimely selfish Frederick Fairlie is one of the most memorable invalids I have ever encountered in a work of fiction. I must say that this version, narrated by Simon Prebble and Josephine Bailey, greatly increased my enjoyment of the tale, with wonderfully rendered characters. Now that I've listened to it and that there are no more secrets for me to discover, I still look forward to listening to it again for a fun romp with highly colourful characters and plenty of Gothic frissons.
Tess Durbeyfield is still only a young girl when he father learns from the local clergyman that he is one of the last living descendants of an ancient English noble family. As the Durbeyfields are very poor, they soon convince Tess to present herself to a rich old woman and her son who live nearby, named D'Urberville. They believe them to be their rich relations and all but force Tess to ask for help in their dire need. What none of them can know is that these supposed relatives have only come by the name by purchasing it after having made a fortune, to elevate themselves from their origins as humble merchants. When Tess presents herself at the D'Urberville house, she is greeted by Alec D'Urberville, a young man who quickly proves to be a womanizing bully, who right away claims to be in love with the beautiful young Tess and contrives to have her live under his roof and work for him under false pretences. He uses every means at his disposal to break down Tess's defences and takes advantage of her one day, which, because this is a 19th century novel and no unmarried woman could have a sexual encounter without the most disastrous consequences, will of course determine the course of the rest of poor Tess's life and end in great tragedy. I’ve seen many people comment on Hardy's proclivity for writing depressing stories about doomed heroines, but if you happen to be in the mood for a fine 19th century tragic bucolic romance, this is just the ticket. I was too young to see Nastassja Kinski famously playing the role of Tess when Roman Polanski's classic movie came out in theatres, but that young woman's fragile beauty was at the forefront of my mind throughout this reading, which helped make the story that much more poignant somehow. A novel I'll be sure to revisit in future.
Newland Archer, one of Old New York society's crowned princes (so to speak) is overjoyed about his recent engagement to the perfect May Welland. She too has a perfect pedigree, is a pretty young rose just starting to come into bloom, is innocent and beyond reproach in every way, well trained to be the ideal dutiful wife. But when he gets better acquainted with May's spirited and independent-minded cousin Ellen Olenska, just recently returned from Europe and scandalizing all of New York with her revealing dresses and foreign way of expressing herself and behaving, Newland is at first shocked and then completely taken over with passionate love. So much so that he is in fact determined to drop May and marry the countess Olenska instead. What he forgets to take into account is that his desire to embrace a life of freedom and equality will not be tolerated by his peers. A wonderful look at New York's upper crust in the 1870s, whose lives revolve around being seen at the opera and inviting the right people to dinner parties. Wharton exposes a world she knew firsthand from the distance of the 1920s, and what she shows us is just how regulated life was among the elite in a New York which was cosmopolitan, but prided itself on it's rigid and old fashioned conventions. Because this is Wharton, we know this love story is not likely to end with a Happily Ever After, but along the way she touches on interesting themes and presents us with a fascinating cast of characters who may not be likeable, but don't lack for entertainment value. A story I will definitely revisit in future. This audiobook version was narrated to perfection by David Horovitch and is definitely recommended.
OK it's long but if you like listening to eloquent English it's for you. Villian's , sleuths, victims, innocents, love , passion, longing, regret and victory need I say more. Very easy listening but it really is Raymond Chandler stretched out over time. Part of me wanted the guys to grab the dames and waste the villian. Worth listening to overall.