I love reading and listening to books, especially fantasy, science fiction, children's, historical, and classics.
I eagerly purchased this audiobook of T. H. White???s complete The Once and Future King, because for a long time Audible only had the individual books available. And I loved the first four books, which begin with the halcyon fantasy of The Sword in the Stone, in which the boy Arthur (???Wart???) is educated by an anachronistic Merlyn. The scenes describing the daily life of a medieval castle during different seasons are vivid and beautiful, while those recounting Wart???s fantastic adventures and transformations into various animals are imaginative, suspenseful, and humorous. White loved and respected flora and fauna (even snakes), and this first book is encyclopedic and fantastic, dense and rich, absorbing and moving.
From the second book, The Queen of Air and Darkness, which opens in the cold north as Queen Morgause boils a black cat alive while her four sons are telling the story of their grandmother???s rape by Arthur???s father, begins the increasingly dark movement of the novel, centered on the tragedy caused by Arthur???s family history and the romantic triangle between himself, Guenevere, and Lancelot (The Ill-Made Knight). In the 2nd through 4th books White most closely follows Malory, though he also moves the era forward from the 11th to the 15th century and empathically imagines how medieval men and women felt and thought with modern psychological insight. At the same time, he writes plenty of joie de vivre, questing and combating knights, and fascinating details about medieval life (food, fashion, feudalism, etc.).
The novel really concludes with the 4th book (The Candle in the Wind) as the last battle between Arthur and Mordred is about to begin, but this audiobook then adds The Book of Merlyn, which may be good for completists, but which I found disappointing, as on the eve of the last battle Merlyn takes his former pupil off for a night of anachronistic political and philosophical debate with Badger and company about why humans wage war and what might be done to prevent it. Apart from Arthur changing into an ant and a goose to experience two different social systems, there is little ???story??? in this last book: too little Arthurian Matter and too much Whiteian Musing.
Jason Neville does a marvelous job reading the long work, effortlessly giving different characters distinctive voices and personalities without over doing it (so that, for example, his female characters sound like human beings rather than like a man imitating ???women???). And his King Pellinore reminds me of John Gielgud.
I recommend this audiobook for anyone interested in the Matter of Britain or philosophical and well-written fantasy.
Although I had read The Lord of the Flies in junior high, I was grabbed and devastated by this audiobook of the novel (read by author William Golding). The British schoolboys who crash land on a deserted coral island and then try to survive to be rescued are in way over their heads. With ruthless yet caring inevitability Golding develops the conflict between society, rules, responsibility, tolerance, the individual, and ???doing what???s right??? on the one hand and savagery, play, violence, superstition, the mob, and might-makes-right on the other.
Some listeners have complained about Golding???s reading, but I believe it is a privilege to listen to a great author read his own classic novel, especially because Golding is an excellent reader. He does not change his voice like an actor (e.g. Tim Curry) to speak in a distinctly different voice for each character. Instead, he reads throughout with his own appealing, civilized, and sad voice, matching and enhancing whatever emotions his characters are feeling when they speak. You can hear him take deep breaths now and then, but that only humanizes him and makes it more like a ???live,??? personal, and private reading.
Things like the conch, the fire, and the beast become powerful symbols. The characters are compelling???I found myself marveling at (and appalled by) how accurately Golding captures the essence of boyhood and how boys imaginatively and cruelly, fairly and unfairly play and fight and love and hate and think. I remembered my own childhood ???games??? of army, how my friends and I would meet in council to choose scenarios and teams and spend all day hunting each other over the desert mountains behind our houses, lying in wait in ambushes with which to kill each other, with guns and rocks, until the sun started setting and we???d have to go home. Only of course the boys on the coral island can???t go home when the sun sets. I care for Ralph, Piggy, and Simon, and grieve so much for them. ???I got the conch!???
Listening to Kidnapped was a great adventure! While the story itself is not as intoxicating as Treasure Island, it is exciting, fascinating, grueling, moving, suspenseful, and funny. And Alan Breck Stewart, the outlawed Scottish lord on the run with first person narrator young David Balfour, is an even more appealing rogue-mentor-friend than Long John Silver: proud, hot-tempered, quick to take offense, loyal, brave, humorous, strong (when it comes to fighting and fleeing), weak (when it comes to playing cards and blowing the bagpipes), a complex, fully rounded person. It is a pleasure (that finally becomes quite poignant) to accompany the pair as they struggle to escape south over the dangerous, inhospitable heather covered highlands of northern Scotland through numerous patrolling red-coats.
Stevenson depicts the political and historical setting of mid-eighteenth-century Scotland complexly, depicting the rebellious Highlanders with sympathy for their loyalty, honor, and resilience, even as he exposes their pride, grudges, and violence.
Frederick Davidson does an excellent job reading the novel, appropriately making David na??ve and youthful, Alan experienced and mature, and all the other supporting characters just right for their roles and personalities.
The only criticism I could make with this production is to say that it has Davidson somewhat startlingly announce the next chapter number and title without pausing after ending the present chapter, but that is a very minor quibble about what is a great audiobook.