This book was the first one by Sinclair Lewis I had ever read, and from the synopsis I was half expecting something along the lines of Faulkner, whom I don't find too thrilling, to put it delicately. What a pleasant surprise! The book is extremely energetic, sarcastic, psychologically credible and just plain fun. A thrilling ride from start to finish. The narrator, Anthony Heald, also delivers an outstanding performance. He has a very pleasant voice and an impressive control of accents: apart from the many American voices, the occasional British accents are 100% convincing, and his German accent would almost convince a native speaker (but not quite).
In short: a wonderful audiobook. Both the author and the narrator are going on my list.
First off, let me say that I was really very impressed with the book. On the surface, it's basically a freak show of religious nuts, con artists and madmen, with none of the plot lines making too much sense; but when you go beyond the surface you see the different themes -- religious, philosophical, social -- that make this such a deeply brilliant and open-ended work.
However, a couple of things about the narration bothered me. Bronson Pinchot has a very clear and pleasant voice, but I felt almost like he was performing the characters, rather than narrating a book. The biggest problem was that whenever characters speak in a low voice he actually whispers. For anyone who listens to audiobooks while commuting, this makes some phrases almost impossible to hear. Indeed, I had to listen to some passages over and over again before I could make them out.
The other issue I had with his narration is more a matter of taste: he took great care to give the characters different voices, but to me it resulted in over-interpretation. For example, he performs one character in the book (Enoch) as having a permanently stuffy nose, so that he would pronounce "I mean it" as "I bead it". Now, there is no trace of this in the printed book (I checked), and so I feel like the narration added more than I wanted. Like I said, I'm sure many people wouldn't mind this at all, but I like narrators to add the minimum required for me to be able to differentiate speakers, no more.
So, in the bottom line, I would recommend this book, but if, like me, you listen to audiobooks in an environment where there is some outside noise, or you prefer a more subdued narration style, be prepared.
The story itself is quite nice and well written, if slightly dated. Or perhaps you need to be younger to appreciate the story and ignore the fact that a lot of it has become cliche ("A mysterious island, shrouded in fear, evil, and darkness" etc.)
As for the narrator, I must say I didn't care for his performance. It's not that he does anything "wrong": his voice is pleasant, his diction is flawless. But to my taste it was overacted. Mr. Harrison simply expresses too much emotion in his narration. As always, this is a matter of taste, but that's what I thought.
All in all, well worth getting, especially for this price.
This book was on my bucket list. I didn't think I'd like it because it is currently popular with conservative wingnuts who do not share my political views. To my suprise, it seems to be more about rugged individualism than politics. The protagonists have a Hemmingway flavor, i.e., marching to their own tune. The plot moves well. And, contrary to what some critics say, the prose style is succinct and colorful. I heartily recommend this novel whether you are a righty or lefty. The price is right, too.