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.
In The Children???s Homer Padraig Colum weaves The Iliad into The Odyssey to make a single narrative in two parts. He begins the first part with the scene from the Odyssey where Athene recommends Telemachus to embark on a voyage to search for news of his father, and then has a minstrel, Nestor, Menelaus, and Helen narrate to Odysseus??? son the major causes and events of the Trojan war. In the second part Colum closely follows the sections of The Odyssey from Odysseus??? leave-taking from Calypso to his arrival back home at Ithaca. As the subtitle of Colum???s book reveals (The Adventures of Odysseus and the Tale of Troy), Odysseus here becomes the focal point of both The Odyssey and The Iliad.
Colum keeps many of the humorous insults, terrible battles, moving conversations, cultural textures, vivid similes, fantastic elements, and epic flavors of Homer???s epics in his 4.5 hour book. Perhaps due to his young audience or limited space, he also leaves out many impressive things, like Achilles repeatedly dragging the body of Hector around the walls of Troy, Odysseus visiting Hades, and Odysseus executing his serving women after having them clean up the gory remains of his slaughter of the suitors. The English translation seems faithful and strong, though it does favor thee, thy, and thine, as well as ???archaic??? forms like hast and spake.
I believe that although any reader (from child to adult) should really listen to the unabridged Homerian epics (of which there are many excellent translations and readings available on audible), if kids would be daunted by their length or more graphic gore, this would be a good choice, for although much shorter than the originals, it is not dumbed down and retains their grim view of mortality and vibrant view of life. And Robert Whitfield (Simon Vance) gives his usual elegant and assured reading.
Ralph Cosham does a fine job of reading Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, using a clear and engaging voice and avoiding trying to do too much. That is, he does not strain to alter his voice too much for the different bizarre characters, sticking close to his appealing natural speaking voice, while at the same time expressing plenty of emotion and color, depending on the situation. I like his approach, because it allows me to savor Carroll's text more fully than do the readers of some other versions available through audible.com, readers who change their voices for the different characters to an almost grotesque and distracting degree.
And the text, of course, is wonderful: full of Carroll's unique blend of nonsensical logic and logical nonsense and philosophical conundrums and questioning of identity and reality and language and humorous parodies and dreamy and nightmarish fantasy and melancholy love and sweet nostalgia, all revealed through the many funny and colorful, severe or rude or mad or childish adult-figures through whom Carroll fascinatingly interacts with Alice.
There are three minor problems with this audio book, however, that prevent me from giving it five stars. First, the sound is a little muffled. Second, no sooner does Cosham read the last word of one chapter than, without enough of a blank space, or pause, his voice startles the listener by saying the chapter number and title of the next chapter. Finally, the moving and beautiful closing poem that Carroll wrote for the end of Through the Looking Glass is missing from the audio book. Nevertheless, I recommend this audio book for being perhaps the best one (in price and quality) among the unabridged versions available through audible.com.