The title makes the main point: Wodehouse couldn't ask for a better interpreter. Jarvis is a perfect reader for Wodehouse.
It's important to understand what you're getting, though. There are only five stories on this audiobook. In their published versions, there is some overlap between this collection and "Carry On, Jeeves," and with a couple of exceptions Jarvis has omitted the ones that are in both.
If you're a real Wodehouse fanatic, you'll get BOTH versions of "My Man Jeeves" that are available here. The other one, recorded by Simon Prebble, gives you a chance to hear a couple of the stories in earlier versions: in one case involving a completely different set of characters. Prebble isn't as extroverted a reader as Jarvis, but he's quite good.
A nice sampling of shorter works by Chekhov. Stephen Fry is a first-rate narrator. He succeeded in doing what he said he wanted to do: stimulated my interest in Chekhov and sparked an effort to read (and listen to) more. Fortunately, to meet that need, there are several other audiobooks of Chekhov stories on Audible (by Kenneth Branagh and Ralph Cosham among others) with surprisingly little overlap: and of course a half-dozen new translations in the trade paperback market. The stories are sometimes light, sometimes dark, always full of selective and evocative detail. They have a certain quality I can't quite articulate: a kind of compassionate satire.
My one complaint, and it's something that's true of many short-story collections from Audible, is that the stories are jammed together: one story ends and the next begins in practically the same breath. Please: especially with stories like these, give us a couple of seconds of dead silence between each story: we need a moment to absorb the impact.
Good job (as usual) by Simon Vance. These stories are more explicitly religious than some of Tolstoy's work. The collection includes the title story, along with "God Sees the Truth but Waits," "Prisoner in the Caucasus," "What Men Live By," "Where Love Is, God Is," and "Alyosha the Pot." I particularly enjoyed "What Men Live By," which has a fairy-tale quality matched by both the writing and Vance's narration. "Father Sergius" and "Prisoner in the Caucasus" are more realistic, hard-bitten tales. An unusual and enjoyable collection. Unfortunately the chapter breaks are (apparently) based on the original CD lengths rather than the individual stories, so it's hard to navigate unless you're listening straight through.
I love reading and listening to books, especially fantasy, science fiction, children's, historical, and classics.
Anton Chekhov's The Kiss and the Duel and Other Stories translated by Constance Garnett (1916-1923) is an excellent collection. Each story features a crisis in some human relationship: between strangers in "The Kiss" (1887), when a bespectacled, lynx-whiskered, milquetoast army officer is mistakenly kissed by an unknown woman in a dark room at a tea party; enemies in "The Duel" (1891) when a coldly superior botanist challenges a lazy, spoiled, and amoral intellectual official to a duel; brother and sister in "Excellent People" (1886), when a listless sister who has always worshiped her wannabe literary figure brother begins asking him about the principle of non-resistance to evil; dupes and vamp in "Mire" (1886), when a younger cousin and his older cousin take turns visiting a cynical and mercurial Jewess who owes one of them money; brother, sister, and friend in "Neighbours" (1892), when a young country gentleman rides to confront his beloved sister and the idealistic and pathetic married man she's run away to live with; and royal and subject in "The Princess" (1889), when a spoiled princess who believes she's an angel dispensing light and joy to humanity asks a doctor she's fired to tell her the truth about her mistakes.
To explain the crisis and prepare for the climax of each story, Chekhov dispassionately and sympathetically cores the human soul. His insights into the human heart and mind are accurate, humorous, and devastating. He excels at placing people out of their depths in intolerable situations, so that if they manage to swim back to shore it's a heroic feat. At the same time, he concisely depicts Russian culture near the end of the 19th century, complete with growing conflicts between different classes, cultures, regions, philosophies, and so on.
Interestingly, Chekhov's stories, no matter how bleak, give me intense pleasure, and make me feel more alive. How does he do it? It must be his irony and empathy, keen eye for observation, and original mind for metaphors. Whenever his characters resolve to righteously take someone to task and then find themselves instead wimpishly appeasing the person, I think, Ah, that's me! The best we can hope to achieve, it seems, is coming to understand, as one character says near the end of "The Duel," "No one knows where the real truth lies." That and trying to treat people with humanity and kindness.
Fred Williams gives a solid reading of the stories. He doesn't dramatically change his voice for different characters, unlike virtuoso actor-readers, but he reads every word clearly and every sentence with appropriate rhythm and emphasis, and he enhances the text with appropriate wit and emotion. And I really like his deliberate, deep, and slightly gravelly and nasal voice. The only difficult point about the audiobook lay in my unfamiliarity with Russian names, so that, especially in the novella "The Duel," I sometimes mixed the characters up in my mind when listening. So I'd recommend getting a text version of the story (many free ones are online) and reading the character names in it once or twice so as to be able to hear their differences more readily.
You have to love lines like this from "Neighbours":
"It's a charming house altogether," she went on, sitting down opposite her brother. "There's some pleasant memory in every room. In my room, only fancy, Grigory's grandfather shot himself."
And it's a testament to Chekhov's genius that of the conclusions of the last two stories in the collection, the self-realization of the first nearly makes a happy ending, while the self-delusion of the second surely makes an unhappy one:
"From Koltovitch's copse and garden there came a strong fragrant scent of lilies of the valley and honey-laden flowers. Pyotr Mihalitch rode along the bank of the pond and looked mournfully into the water. And thinking about his life, he came to the conclusion he had never said or acted upon what he really thought, and other people had repaid him in the same way. And so the whole of life seemed to him as dark as this water in which the night sky was reflected and water-weeds grew in a tangle. And it seemed to him that nothing could ever set it right." (from "Neighbours")
Trying to look like a bird, the princess fluttered into the carriage and nodded in all directions. There was a gay, warm, serene feeling in her heart, and she felt herself that her smile was particularly soft and friendly. As the carriage rolled towards the gates, and afterwards along the dusty road past huts and gardens, past long trains of waggons and strings of pilgrims on their way to the monastery, she still screwed up her eyes and smiled softly. She was thinking there was no higher bliss than to bring warmth, light, and joy wherever one went, to forgive injuries, to smile graciously on one's enemies. The peasants she passed bowed to her, the carriage rustled softly, clouds of dust rose from under the wheels and floated over the golden rye, and it seemed to the princess that her body was swaying not on carriage cushions but on clouds, and that she herself was like a light, transparent little cloud. . . .
"How happy I am!" she murmured, shutting her eyes. "How happy I am!" (from "The Princess")