professor. like great and VERY good books, fiction and history, mainly
This is an experience everyone should have at least once in a lifetime -- and, with luck, multiple times. Listen and read simultaneously for even more exquisite hours. The reader is fabulous.
Now I know why “War and Peace” ranks so high on great books lists. Tolstoy has the unique ability to move from the high to the low seamlessly. His minute descriptions of daily life are detailed, yet lithe enough to pulse with life without plodding. His treatment of his character’s psychology is nuanced without being pretentious. And lastly, his grasp of the philosophy behind human events is stunning, though decidedly debatable.
Plot-wise, there are few novels that leave me feeling that everything that happened was inevitable without second guessing the author. This novel, though sprawling and complex, has a feeling of self-contained inevitability.
The characters seem to breathe. Tolstoy develops his main character, Pierre from a seeming oaf in a prissy drawing room, through mystical insanity to a final solidity in his final married life. Indeed, it seems that the “peace” of Pierre finds in the hearth is the proper counterpoint to the backdrop of “war.” Other characters seem intensely real as well, from the duplicitous Kuragin to the lively, pretty and impetuous Natalia. These characters strike a chord of truth and grow to encompass their experiences.
There are, of course, flaws. Karatayev seems an idealized Russian peasant. Though feeling inevitable in the novel, the Pierre- Natasha- Andre love triangle seems overly novelistic. And Tolstoy has a propensity to preach for pages at an end.
The flaws, however, are far outweighed by the perfections. “War and Peace” is worth experiencing.
As to the reading, Davidson animates his characters, giving each a separate voice. He does have a habit of pausing in the middle of sentences to take a breath, and emphasizing odd phrases. Still, I find myself immensely pleased with the book. Great literature given justice; Entertaining as well as enlightening.
I have to be honest, this has been a rough go! I really appreciate Frederick Davidson's narration - he did a wonderful unabridged reading of Brother's Karamozov that I really enjoyed, and I LOVE Tolstoy's work ... but, I have to admit, this has been a really LONG and difficult story to follow audio-wise! There are so many characters and SO many detailed accounts of everything under the sun - it's obvious authors were paid by the word in Tolstoy's era - the entire chapter dedicated to the wolf-hunt just about did me in! In my opinion, reading the novel so that it's possible to go back and forth just to keep all the characters straight would have been a better option! Or, downloading an abridged version of the work probably would have sufficed! I usually do not like abridged versions of anything, but, unless you have a major surgery that will put you in bed for months on end in the near future, I would advise you to consider an abridged version. I wish I had!
Too long gone, two wrongs right, to a brighter day and Tupelo night . . .
To be clear, this review relates to the Frederick Davidson narration of War and Peace, with an Audible release date of 01-21-05. What a horrible recording, mastering, and narration! I sincerely regret that I didn’t purchase the Neville Jason narration, instead (Audile release date: 04-27-07).
Do not be encouraged by the favorable reviews given this Davidson narration. I was. That and I was too cheap to pay two credits for volumes 1 & 2 of the Neville Jason narration.
Criticisms of narration and production:
1.This is a poor quality recording. During pauses in narration, there is a low hissing background noise – almost like the always-present noise made by my old cassette recorder as it captured the friction of tape being pulled over the recording head. This becomes extremely pronounced (and annoying) when listening with noise-cancelling headphones.
2.The digital mastering of this rendition only heightens the annoying affect of background noise. At the discretion of the editor mastering this recording, the narration is frequently augmented with post-capture extensions of narrative pause. The stark silence of these edited-in pauses contrast, sharply, against the noise-filled pauses captured during narration.
3.Points 1 & 2 would be tolerable, if only Davidson’s narration wasn’t so bad. My chief complaint with Davidson’s narration is this: he reads War and Peace as though it were Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice. Not appropriate and even laughable at some parts. Also, Davidson’s character voices for women are grating and shrill. As he narrated certain women’s dialog, I had to pull the headphones from my ears to escape the pain his increased pitch and volume caused to my eardrums (seriously!). After one such insanely pitched, loud narration of a women character’s line, he then read: [character x] said, mildly. He then paused, awkwardly, as though thinking: guess I shouldn’t have hit that line so hard.
Criticisms of the story:
To be fair to the story, please understand I have aborted listening to this book after only fourteen hours (I’ve listened to 2 of 10 parts). Although I love long books, I couldn’t tolerate another 46+ hours of Davidson’s narration. So, my criticisms of content relate specifically to the first 14 hours.
1.Too many characters to get a clear idea of who is who or why the reader should care about any of them.
2.Most (as in 90%) of battle/action scenes are described in hindsight, through various characters’ point of view. Not a lot of showing, mostly telling.
In short, I regret buying the Davidson narration of this book. I wish I’d spent 2 credits on the 2 volume narration by Neville Jason, instead of wasting 1 credit and fourteen hours on this Davidson narration.
I would urge any reader interesting in tackling this classic Tolstoy novel to avoid the Davidson narration. Listen, carefully, to the Jason samples before taking the miserly path I took. Spend the 2 credits on the Jason narration and avoid the frustration of spending time with this Davidson narration.
Love to read, and Audible has made the two-hour daily commute enjoyable!
Tolstoy's huge tome constantly moves in three spheres, a plethora of characters and their families during the Napoleanic Wars both on the 1) battlefield and the 2) home front. The third sphere is a detailed look at the history of the era and his thoughts on freedom that are interspersed through out the book.
I learned more about the Napoleanic Wars than I had known - but I have to say that the discussion at the end about philosophy and freedom of choice made me weary. Overall, there are some glorious parts as Tolstoy covers the themes of War, Peace, Love, Betrayal, Revenge and God.
I was excited about this book because I loved "Anna Karenina", but this was just too much. By the end of the 60+ hours, I was ready to move on.
I was very disappointed in the performance. It's funny how some narrators do different voices and you don't even think about it. Davidson's older women sounded like Jonathan Winters in drag - that took me a bit to get over. In addition, the sound quality was atrocious - you could hear airplanes/machinery, pages turning, etc.
I might try it again in the future, but definitely either reading it, or with a different narrator.
This is an outstanding work by Tolstoy, and an excellent performance of the reader. The reader, though now deceased, has done great work for historic works as I can attest from his reading of "The History of the World" also in Audible. Believe me, this is well worth the time and cost even for those that don't usually use audiobooks.
The book is definitely a masterpiece, as praised already by so many critics, but the reading of it is astonishing. Frederick Davidson interpretation of the personages is extremely realistic and it helps a lot in enjoying this marvelous book.
Even if it doesn't seem to have the deepness of Dostoevski's books, this book definitely keeps a listener, who had been able to pass over the first 2 hours, hooked for the other 63.
The epilogue is a bit disappointing as it is awkward to hear lectures on "freedom" while praising a society based on slavery (serfdom), but I still give it five stars.
(Don't miss Kamarozov Brothers, interpreted by the same Frederick Davidson:)
Tolstoy's sprawling novel, set against the backdrop of Napoleon's wars against Russia at the beginning of the nineteenth century, is often called the greatest novel ever written. This is a superb rendition of that great novel. Narrator Frederick Davidson (a/k/a David Case) is a multiple award winner for his hundreds of recorded books, and he is at his brilliant best in creating the voices for Tolstoy's characters. Highly recommended.
I got this book for three reasons. First, I have always admired people who had the fortitude to read one of the longest, most acclaimed novels in history. Second, this book had a good number of five star reviews. Finally, I got this book because sixty-one hours is a lot of bang for my credit.
I wont kid you, I was kicking myself for about the first eight hours. The first eight hours is introducing various characters as they sit around gossiping in parlor rooms in Russia. It was so boring that only my tenacity to get my moneys worth, and a desperate hope that it would get better kept me going.
I was paid off by about forty-five hours of interesting story. The use of language is excellent. The characters are for the most part well developed (Especially Pierre). The story is very engaging. It needs to be because at the beginning of each new section Tolstoy makes you go through between 15 minutes and an hour of his rambling philosophical views. It’s like he wanted to expound philosophy and had to wrap it in a novel so people would read it. (This is because is not good enough to stand on it’s own(It has a lot of holes).) Even I as an ex-philosophy major couldn’t stand the drivel.
I would have given this book four stars, except Tolstoy really ticked me off when toward the end of the book he takes a two hour aside from the story to discuss the questions, “What is power?, and “Is there really any free will?”, and forgets to bring closure to the tale. There is no, “Happily or sadly ever after”. The reader is left hanging with no finality in any degree.
So there you have my opinion. It was O.K. but it was not all that. It was definitely not the best book I have ever read, and I very much disagree with the claim that it is the best book ever written.
True multitasking is "reading" a book while walking, running, kayaking, doing chores, gardening, driving or just drifting off to sleep.
The narrator does a fantastic job with a very challenging book. It is a pleasure to listen and the tale is truly enjoyable. Although it is 60 hours of audio this story is well worth it!