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.
This book has all the things which annoy me about supposed "great" literature.
It is excessively poetic. (Not a fan of poetry).
It is wordy for the sake of it. (Big fan of directness).
There is relatively little direct narrative. (I like a plain and simple central thread).
Its full of clever devices. (Like my English not mucked about with)
But it is magnificent! I'm pretty sure that I didn't properly follow a lot of it but it doesn't matter. Some of the words made no sense but the sounded beautiful. Some of the scenes were meaningless to me but they were magic to listen to. The whole thing was a joy to listen to.
One of the other reviewers suggest that you should be familiar with this book in print before listening to this but I disagree. I suspect that if I had tried to read this from paper I would have made it t about page 12 before throwing it out of a window. It was made to be read out loud and if there is a better version available than this I'm not sure I would be able to cope with it.
Jim Norton gives each character just enough depth to make him distinguishable wthout creating any cartoon Irishmen in the process. There are a few sections read in a female voice. (Marcella Riordan - who should get a narrators credit). Double handed narration can be clumsy but this is perfectly judged. Overall - an excellent listen.