I own this book and have been intending to read it for years. When I found it available on Audible, I knew that I would finally "read" it, and began listening to it. It was one of the first Audible books I purchased.
Being somewhat ignorant on the subjects dealt with in this book, I had to listen to the first hour about four times before it made sense to me, but I am so happy that I did. The rest of it was a piece of cake - very delicious. Who would have thought Homer would be so descriptive, funny, endearing and enlightening? I guess that is why this work has endured for so long.
I soon learned that the narrator makes or breaks an audio book, and Derek Jacobi is absolutely unbeatable as a narrator. I could listen to him all day. His characterizations are suburb. He made me laugh and cry. I will definitely listen to this one again and again.
I expect to listen to this book again in the not-too-distant future, because I am sure I missed a lot that I can pick up on a second time. As it is, I see so many of Screwtape's character traits in people I know, as well as in myself. Reading this book was like looking into a mirror in which one hardly recognizes oneself until forced to look long enough to see what is truly there. So often what one sees is very scary.
Unlike Screwtape, we still have the option of changing our lives for the better. That, to me, is the huge lesson of this book
Les Miserables is my favorite novel of all time. It is a big, long, involved book. You may want to read an abridged version, although I would not.
Some people have compared Jean Valjean to a Christ-type figure, but I strongly disagree with the analogy. Rather, the Bishop of Digne is most definitely the Christ figure. Valjean becomes, by virtue of the Good Man buying his soul, a counter part of Everyman. As he tries to make himself an honest man, he goes through struggle after struggle, but with the determination to live up to the vision the Bishop had of him when he gave Valjean the silver. The Bishop seems to already have transcended the bigger part of his humanness, and in fact, as he pays for the sins of Valjean, seems to have completed his work of becoming perfect. The silver was his last holdout, his last symbol of desiring the things of the earth, and he gave them away without a second thought when he realized that another of God's sons needed it worse. As I watch Valjean's transformation, it is impossible not to see myself in him.
Now, about the narrator. I have read reviews on Frederick Davidson that consider him everywhere from the absolute worst to someone you have to acquire a taste for. I am in the latter category. When I first started listening, I really wondered if I could listen to him read my golden book for 60 hours. Eventually, however, I came to love the man as a narrator, and forgave without a thought his little idiosyncrasies. His characterizations are without equal, and I have heard some pretty astounding narrators. As I listened to the last three hours of Les Miserables, I was putty in Davidson's hands. I cannot even express in words what it was like to listen to him read this most tender and spiritual part. By the end, I was a slobbering mess, but thanking my God for this book, this author and this reader, and the lessons I had learned once again.
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.