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.
Indeed the Narrator is an acquired taste especially for Americans not familiar with the "proper" English accent or the Russian Language. What some have called out as an annoyance (the raising of the inflection of the voice at the end of sentences) is actually part of its genius for that is how Russians speak. Not only did the narrator tell the story, but he captured the very essence of the book. Very well done!
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.
I bought this more than a 3 years ago and have not been able to complete the story because of the narrator effeminate accent... Arrrghhh!
What can you say about a classic like this! The narrator though...So hard to understand that it makes it hard to get through this. On a book notorious for being this long, it's almost a "crime" to have someone like this narrate it. For that reason alone I would NOT suggest you get this!
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.