My review goes against the ecstatic judgment of the crowd. The vastly popular and nearly ubiquitous Simon Vance/Robert Whitfield (the same man) strikes me as among the most tiresome readers out there. I find this so in large part because of the generic 'extra' emotion he inserts and sometimes slathers all over the place in whatever he reads -- without sufficient sensitivity to the genuine subtleties of any text. To me it sounds like sight-reading much of the time, highly practiced, very smooth, applause-gaining quite professional sight-reading, but I want way better than that. Or at least I do not want to be distracted. If Vance/Whitfield were to read aloud that "two bridges cross the river, one to the north and one to south," his voice would rise and fall and rise, for his habit is to offer a three-act play when none is wanted. His voice is a pleased, singing voice and not a speaking one, and dulcet tones which aim to impress finally get on your, or my, nerves. A matter of taste, yes. Some people hate Fred Williams' profoundly respectful and ultimately magnificent reading of THE FORSYTE SAGA. He is a reader with no singing tones in him (few Forsytes would ever sing, anyway) and he has no tricks at all, except for deep respect and perhaps love for his text, which, I bet, he knows by heart in places. Or try Eileen Atkins's MILL ON THE FLOSS for a supremely intelligent reading that inflicts no dazzle. As far as OUR MUTUAL FRIEND, I spent $38.47 (I am not yet a subscriber) on a reading I could not endure -- and then I went to the David Timson narration (also on Audible), which is good, so good that much of the time you forget the reader completely, which is how some people like it.
Simon Vance brings this classic story to life. His narration is amazing and he is able to portray such a broad range of voices that every character is distinct and enjoyable.
Simon Vance emotes really well. And his voice is amazing.
I have listened to half a dozen narrators across the various Dickens' audio books. Nobody comes close to Simon Vance.
It is Dickens at his word-crafting finest. Every aspect of this novel is impressive. The plots and intrigues are well executed, the characters have purpose and depth, the human insights are subtle yet powerful, the scenes and stories are moving, and above it all Dickens's linguistic touch is at its best.
The reader is excellent, too. He enjoys the language, never stumbles over it, always stays in character. Perfectly executed.
Not much else to say. I'm surprised this novel isn't as well known as Dickens's other great achievements.
The summary on Audible should be rewritten, though. It gives away most of the book all at once. Don't read it if you haven't yet, just get the book and enjoy.
I tried to listen to this audiobook twice. The first time I was distracted and could not follow the story. There are a lot of characters and there is a lot going on. I gave up.
I tried again on vacation when I could concentrate and listen in long bursts. The book was great the second time.
Lastly, the narrator does a great job.
As he aged, Charles Dickens sharped his skill as a satirist. In his last book, Our Mutual Friend, he displays a skill that will probably never be surpassed in the English language. He skewers Victorian hypocrisy mercilessly—and being Dickens, gets away with it. Anyone else would have ended up in The Tower.
The British have always excelled at making fools of themselves, and the book’s characters have done this brilliantly. The narrator for the audio book, Robert Whitfield, is also brilliant; he knows how to speak the English Language.
The Victorians loved to make fun of themselves in a light-hearted manner, such as in the Gilbert and Sullivan operettas. This was one of their finer virtues. We Americans, by contrast, are an inferior lot. We never make fun of ourselves in a light-hearted way, but prefer self-righteousness. We take ourselves much too seriously.
Come to think of it Mencken might be an exception, or even the economist John Kenneth Galbraith; but I can’t think of any contemporary examples. We have lost our sense of humor—and that is a dark matter indeed.
Narrative makes the world go round.
I downloaded this only because it was on sale and I was out of novels and credits; I had developed dislike for Dickens, probably due to too much time spent as a student and teacher on Oliver Twist and Great Expectations, but I fell in love with Dickens again by hour two of "Our Mutual Friend." Great narration adds to his delightful description, humour, and irony; Whitfield/Vance navigates the prose so that it flows like music and makes the unique characters (and caricatures) live. A couple of the clever conversation exchanges between Eugene and Mortimer are worthy of Shakespeare. And of course, there are occasional scenes of pathos among the innocent poor (Dickens could overdo it), but sentimentalism is minimal compared to other of his tales. Dickens also redeems himself a bit from earlier anti-Semitism with sympathetic Jewish characters. All and all, this is a delightful listen from start to finish.
There is a tiny editing problem--at least a dozen times a sentence or phrase is repeated--but that detracts little from the overall listen.
I read 3 other reviews of this work and they all gave it 5 stars and for reasons I can relate to. Robert Whitfield, the narrator is a true master. In fact, I found this work by searching for books he narrated. The story is a 'good' one and makes for good, though light entertainment.
The problem I find with this work is that Dickens redeemed two character without clearly explaining why. Bella Wilfer is a spoiled, petty and very materialistic young lady. It is hard for me to buy her transition into a simple, generous, caring and loving wife and mother. I get the feeling that she was redeemable because of her great physical beauty.
Eugene Rayburn is the other character I can find NO redeeming qualities in. He is arrogant, hostile and insolent. In his case, Dickens made no attempt to explain why he was redeemable. At the same time he choses to villify the love-smitten and passionate Bradley Headstone and the formerly loving brother Charlie Hexom.
We often make allowances for works written in earlier periods because of advances in social thinking and awareness, among other reasons. And yet even today, woman are still charged with the need to be "beautiful". This work would have been infinitely better had the author invested more time in discovering the inner beauty verses the physical beauty of his characters. And while anyone can be redeemed in theory, their path to redemption should be clear and understandable.