"An investment you'll never regret!"
The television adaptation of War and Peace must be encouraging those who have never read Tolstoy’s daunting mega-book to have a go. If you’re one of them, choose this unabridged version read by Neville Jason. If you are going to invest 30 hours – and that’s Volume 1 alone – to listening to every word which Tolstoy wrote, the narrator is uber-crucial. Neville Jason is quite simply the all-in-one Rolls Royce and Ferrari of audiobook narrators who has recorded more titles than any other narrator for Naxos Audiobooks - including 153 hours of Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past!
War and Peace is a gargantuan recording accomplishment which within the first half hour takes you right into the pretentious aristocratic St Petersburg drawing room of Anna Pavlovna who ‘serves up guests like choice morsels’. Jason captures the self-absorbed characters through his voice and intonation, somehow making the names of families which can be so confusing - the Bezukhovs, Bolkonskis and Kuragins - and their individualities and complex relationships clear and glitteringly real.
Prince Andrei starts the ‘war’ sections when he leaves St Petersburg to join his regiment against Bonaparte. His father dismisses him with apparent stiff formality, but after his son has gone, he can be heard ‘blowing his nose like pistol shots’. It is into human details like these of love, marriage, despair and glory, and Tolstoy’s many similes, that Jason's nuanced, finely-paced narration draws you into, and which make the Battle scenes Austerlitz, Borodino and so on – with the soldiers ‘hacking away at the dogs’ as they are ordered to do a shattering experience merely to listen to.
Invest those 30 hours in this first Volume and you’ll never regret it. There is nothing else like it, with the whole brought into brilliant, kaleidoscopic life by the incomparable Neville Jason whose legacy this recording is. He died in Autumn 2015.
"better with an an abridged version?"
This is a VERY long book.
One of the reasons for this is that large sections of the book deal with Tolstoy's version of Napoleon's invasion of Russia, his views on Napoleon (he does not like him at all), the Russian general and the forces of history - all quite interesting but not at such inordinate length - I gave up with two hours to go when I realised that the actual story had finished! In between, 'War and Peace' is a timeless story rightly famed and deserving of classic status (though my own view is that 'Anna Karenina' is a far better book).
I dont normally like let alone recommend abridged versions, but I think this case is an exception; the book without the historical interludes would be about half the length, and much of the narrative of the story itself could be trimmed without losing too much. So unless you are a particular lover of Tolstoy, I would opt for a shortened version.
The length is not helped by what I thought was a rather one-paced and dry narration, with little distinction drawn between the various characters.
"for people with a lot of time on their hands"
Without wishing to state the obvious, you need a lot of time to listen to the story from beginning to end. There are lots of characters, lots of settings, lots of dramatic moments and a lot of historical references.
I had the time and enjoyed it very much. I'm not sure why it's such a celebrated novel. The story just goes on and on. There are also extended passages that border on the philosophical. I'm pretty sure I would never have had the patience to read this story in paper form.
"An imaginative and immaculate rendering!"
Most of the world seems to divide into two groups, those that are going to read War and peace one Day and those that reread it every five years. Whether you belong to one of these groups or neither, this is my ideal experience of having it read to me.
It is extraordinary that Tolstoy's massive novel centred round the Napoleonic wars and saturated in the Russian class system of the time manages to be such a remarkable comment on the human condition. Tolstoy's observations on the quirks of human nature and his reading of human psychology is a very good illustration of how great novelists are so much more useful than psychology textbooks if you really want to understand something important about how people think and feel.
Neville Jason has a delivery which, like that of a good interpreter enables you to forget that there is anyone between you and the text. His subtle but accomplished contributions of accidents and dramatisation (conveying the way the troops cheer on the battlefield, for example) brings everything to life but leaves the essence to your imagination in the way that a full dramatisation does not.
This is a reading it will be very hard to beat.
A very pleasantly read story by Neville Jason: absolutely absorbing and enthralling listening!
I had read the book in the past and I loved it but this is one of those cases where the story gains a lot from the reading from an actor...
I would recommend it.
"A great book, beautifully read."
I seldom award five stars to anything - on the premise that there is always room for improvement - but I have broken my rule in the case of Neville Jason's reading of War and Peace.
This is a very long book but Jason never flags. He manages the female characters convincingly (not easy for a male reader without sounding ridiculous) and possesses a first class command of accents. I was especially impressed with his reading of the great set piece passages in the book: battles, the hunt etc.
Thoroughly recommended; I am now embarking on Volume Two.
"An epic reading"
This is a superb reading. All too often with very long works read as audiobooks the monotonous, mechanical tone of the reader gives the impression that the words come out of the mouth without ever going anywhere near the mind. But Neville Jason proves to be an ideal reader for such a vast and varied novel. The narration is constantly sensitive to the tone and pace of Tolstoy's writing and he has an impressive skill in differentiating and giving a plausible voice to each of the many characters. Even readers who are very familiar with the text will find this reading illuminates scene after scene.
As for the novel itself recommendation is superfluous for anyone who has once read this marvellous book. I can think of very few other novels that leave the reader with so vivid a sense of lived experience and once read forever haunt the imagination. But if anyone has been deterred from undertaking such a lengthy work this excellent audiobook may well prove the ideal way to get to know one of the supreme(and most enjoyable) masterpieces of world literature.
Excellently read it leaves you wondering at the extent of human folly. I look forward to volume two.
"Not much war!"
Turns out this book is mainly just lots of conversations happening in various ballrooms. It's much more about marriages than war. I was rather disappointed with this. The Narrator is good though and it is relaxing, but I don't think I'll ever need to listen to it again!
"great book, great performance."
Great performance of a great book.
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