I don't think this is the best Aeneid on audiobook -- if you have to choose, get the Charlton Griffin one -- but it's not bad. The translation is wonderful: pithy, hard-hitting, and tough; it's worth having this one to get Fagles' take on Virgil, if nothing else. But the performance, though I liked it, is definitely not to everyone's taste. Simon Callow (or the producer?) decided to do it as if it were a one-man stage show, rather than a studio reading. If you've ever seen Callow doing Charles Dickens, you get the idea: it's a very broad performance.
On the other hand, Aeneas needs a boost. As epic heroes go, he's a pill and a half: dutiful to a fault, self-righteous and self-justifying ("well, I never actually used the word MARRIAGE, did I?"). Virgil takes received wisdom and the Grandeur that was Rome at face value, where Homer delightfully subverts everything he touches.
"Washington's Crossing" is a great narrative and has plenty of surprises. I'm no expert on the American Revolution, but I've read three or four books on the subject, as well as a couple of biographies of George Washington; and I don't remember any that laid out the action of this part of the war, or the stakes for the colonies, as clearly as this book.
I knew in broad outlines how disastrous the summer and fall campaign of 1776 was for the Continentals. Washington lost Brooklyn, Manhattan, and most of New Jersey in one long, nearly continuous, retreat. But I didn't know a lot of the details: the atrocities committed by the British and Hessian soldiers in New Jersey; the activities of New Jerseyites in fighting back; the second battle of Trenton, with Washington facing off against Cornwallis (and making a brilliant night march around his flank to attack the garrison at Princeton). I never thought about the vast difference in the way British generals and Washington held councils of war, and what that meant for the future of the republic. It never occurred to me that the very different way British and Americans treated their prisoners was a key to what the Americans were fighting for, and a reason why they were successful. (Americans gave quarter. British and Hessians did not. In both cases it was a matter of principle.)
Fischer also does a remarkable job clarifying what made Washington such a good leader. He learned from his mistakes, and he learned fast; and he valued the opinions of his subordinates, and fought tirelessly for the comfort of his men. He may not have always led from the front - sometimes his subordinates refused to let him do so - but he would never have been caught miles behind the lines in the arms of a mistress.
The problem with the famous painting of Washington crossing the Delaware, says Fischer, is that it makes Washington look Napoleonic; and there was never a general who led - not commanded - his army in a less Napoleonic manner.
Good narration from Nelson Runger. Enjoyed it thoroughly. Includes an interview of author by narrator that talks about a lot of the surprises Fischer himself encountered when researching the book.
I held off listening to this for a long time because it's abridged. I prefer unabridged when it's available, and I particularly wish this title was unabridged. (I took one star off the "Story" rating for this.) But it's a good abridgement: there's still plenty of detail and plenty of terrific yarns (and generous quotations from Twain's own letters and writings), and there are no jarring or incoherent gaps in the narrative.
There's lots of material here about Twain's boyhood, his mining expeditions out West, his trips to Europe, his crush on Laura Wright, his marriage, his kids, and his books: a good discussion, both biographical and critical, of most of the travel books, of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, of the later political essays. And there are some wonderful turns on the banjo to mark transitions.
I do wish the producers had allowed more time for Powers to discuss A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, which gets a full discussion in the unabridged text, but here gets only a couple of sentences. The period from 1888-1898 is, in general, the period that gets the shortest shrift in this abridgement.
As all biographies of Twain are bound to do, the work becomes sadder and darker as Twain passes into old age. He outlived his wife, two of his daughters, his brothers, and many of his friends. When the end came, he was more than ready to go. Powers' description of this period in his life is poignant and moving. (For a partial antidote to the gloom here, I recommend Michael Shelden's Mark Twain: Man in White, narrated by Andrew Garman.)
Ron Powers is an excellent reader of his own work. Without batting an eye he slips from his own voice into Twain's drawl, and sometimes even from there into spirited exchanges between Twain's characters. I'm quite surprised at the comments on his narration in other reviews. For my part, once I made the decision to listen to it, I couldn't stop.