I loved hearing this audio book read, and I think it is easier to listen to a book like this than read the print version.
He expresses the real emotion behind the characters and sets a good mood and tone for the book.
James' insight into human motivation for action or inaction. Also his beautiful use of language and his subtle humor.
Isabel's moments of self reflection are beautiful and often heartbreaking, especially near the end of the book when they are more pointed and more painful.
No, the book is quite long and dense. I preferred to listen, take a break, then continue or even re-listen to passages.
On the whole I liked John Wood's reading. He gets it. My one complaint is the way he handles young women's voices. They sound like mock children. This is especially a problem with this book as I feel the listener needs to somewhat fall in love with the protagonist to really understand the book.
Having never listened to a Henry James novel, I was concerned about the "readability" of it. I was delighted by the narrative abilities of John Wood. He really made this book shine with the pure magic of listening to his descriptive ability.
Every ten years or so I read one of James' novels, hoping it will "take," but I'm still not a fan. His fiction is so dispassionate that I find myself baffled by his characters. The heroine, Isabelle, is more self-possessed and self-aware than any 23-year-old I've ever known. Men are so crazy for her that they follow her across oceans and continents--the last time I saw such single-minded devotion was in "There's Something about Mary". With all this going for her, why doesn't Isabelle smell a rat when the creepy Osmond starts courting her? Why isn't she clued in by the fact that none of her friends like him--and that his unfortunate daughter, Pansy, is reminiscent of a character out of the Ghastlycrumb Tinies? The last third of the novel is more engaging; there's a discursive section on Isabelle's attraction to Osmond (which John Wood reads beautifully), and I found myself more involved with the characters after I had some of their history. If you are a James fan, give this one a try. If you're hoping to be converted, I don't think this audiobook will do it.
First of all I will say that the reader was very very good. Without his elegant and expressive cadence and with only a printed text, I would not have endured to the end. Second, on the plus side, I dusted off and vowed to use many antique vocabulary words..."desultory", "importune", "decorous", "prevaricate", "remonstrate"...to name but a few! The paragraphs were beautifully constructed and beautifully delivered by the reader.
But! As I said in the title..."Who are these people?" They dined...but on what? Did they enjoy it? They died...but of what...and was there any pain beyond their melodramatic efforts to utter the final monologue? They fell in love...but no word of sexual attraction EVER entered the narrative. They spoke of beauty, but only of tapestry, statues, and interior decor. (Maybe an occasional sunset from the terrace). Were they ever too tired, too hot, too cold..? Isabelle has a child who died. All we hear about that was that she concluded mourning the child after 6 months and adjusted her wardrobe accordingly.
I admit that I was finally swept up into their sterile lives and the utterly hopeless messes they made of them. I hoped for some kind of resolution for poor, pathetic Isabelle at the end, but when her "Mr. Darcy" in the person of Casper Goodwood finally planted a real KISS on her lips at the end (the first in the whole book)...she nearly fainted. The next day she hurried back to her horrid husband in Rome. The End.
This novel makes anything by Jane Austen or Edith Wharton read like Lady Chatterly's Lover in comparison.
All that said, I wouldn't have missed it for the World! Thank you for delivering this to me so elegantly, John Wood. I'll look for your narration again.
Wood is excellent. Don't believe the reviews about swallowing and smacking. One wonders whether they are just counterfeit intended to drive you to another edition, one of which costs twice as much. The annoying feature of the recording is the ponderously long pauses between chapters, but that is really about the editing and production, not the narration.
Once again, I'm pretty good at the perseverance needed to get through a lot of good books, but here's one I attempt 3 times to get through and gave up.
I like beautiful prose and am attracted to older books where writers took the time and trouble - but in my opinion this story is totally lost in too much flowery prose. It becomes extremely difficult to pick out the story among mountainous words, many that certainly do not add to following the story but rather cause the mind to wander.
Skip this one; there's just too many great books out there than to be caught in this writer's web of words.
This book is well-written. The dialog is interesting and the narrative flows. The narrator is first-rate. However, I can't say that I was able to like the main character much and I was disappointed by the ending. It's one of those non-endings that expect the reader to figure things out for themselves. I like my characters to grow. I prefer a story arc. I want resolution, darn it!