Way up there!--for two reasons: (1) Conrad's suspenseful romana clef story is wildly compelling, which surprised me because I had avoided it for decades, thinking it was more or less just for guys. Published in 1899, near the end of The Victorian Age, perhaps it did attract more male than female readers at the time, but having just finished it, I can say it is timeless and will appeal to all sophisticated readers, male, female, or otherwise. One of my favorite aspects of the story was its insight into European colonialism and empire-building, in this instance...Africa.(2) But, as well as this dark, sinister tale was crafted and presented by Joseph Conrad, the characters and situations literally sprung to life with Kenneth Branaugh's superlative performance. I am convinced that **no-one** could have brought more realism and understated passion to Heart of Darkness than Branaugh. Hands down, his narration of a story of this type is THE BEST I've heard on Audible to date. He set the bar very high. Henceforth, for me personally, his performance has become the standard by which all others will be judged.
I read "King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa (by Adam Hochschild), and that was a good look at the European power grabs for territory and the atrocities perpetrated on the people already living there. Joseph Conrad wrote about just such events at the time they were occurring. I might have to revisit my book by Hochschild now that I've heard Branaugh read "Heart of Darkness." I'm also reminded of "The Poisonwood Bible," a novel by Barbara Kingsolver that told of a misguided missionary who believed he was called to Africa to spread The Word. He moved his family from Georgia to the Congo in 1959, a time when that area was in considerable turmoil after foreign colonialism had broken down. The point being that when the Europeans gave up in that area, greed of a religious sort moved in to enlightened "the lost"--and the attempt to frighten Africans into submission continues.
He did all of them so well, even the minor characters. For that reason, I couldn't single one out as the very best. I'm convinced he could read the back of soup cans and have my full attention.
The depths to which man may sink if there are no checks and balances...
"Heart of Darkness" is not for light, casual readers -- say, readers who prefer romance novels, fantasies, etc. It IS for readers who would appreciate a foray into the psyche of man and empires--and the collapse of both.
The narrator - rich vivid descriptions.
Take the journey with Marlow - Conrad's descriptions so rich and vivid; vocabulary so wonderfully precise; Branagh with perfect tone, inflection, and animation - you feel the story as much as read/listen to it. A classic that is short enough to be read again and again, just to relive the adventure.
This is a powerful listen and Kenneth Branagh brings each character to gut-wrenching life. The passion and the heat of the strange and mysterious land comes out in his tone and cadence. I found myself going back and listening and re-listening to passages not because I didn't understand, but rather for the lyrical quality of this prose.
The brooding and simmering quality of the narrator's story as he muses upon the motives of others, but also his own thoughts, his own weaknesses. What happens to us when faced with culture, loneliness, avarice in a shockingly different and remote setting. Looking at "The Other' we can find those who look and talk like ourselves as strange and unfathomable as those who look and act nothing like us.
It is the narrator's story, and while he met many singular people, his reactions and thoughts stayed with me.
No. It should be taken in time, much like the journey he tells of. Let the story develop, build and grow just like the river boat's slow progress upriver. It is a powerful tale that should be savored and considered. Listen to this book.
Estate planning lawyer and mom to two boys. My older son liked audiobooks as an infant, and I've listened to a lot since then.
Kenneth Branagh's performance is amazing. I could listen to the man read the proverbial phone book, but he did more than simply read, he inhabited the narrator character who is slowly going insane.
It is a classic unreliable narrator story, and has influenced many succeeding works. In the ghost story vein, it reminds me a bit of Poe.
It is hard to pick out one in particular, but as they go deeper in, the book (and the performance) just keeps getting better.
Well, clearly this book inspired Apocalpse Now, but I would call it An Imperialist Ghost Story.
I read this book in college about 30 years ago, but this performance gave a whole new dimension to the book. Frankly, it was a difficult book for me to focus on then, but this experience was riveting.
The feeling of ultimate mystery that Conrad obviously wanted to portray, not just of the jungle but of the darkness of the human heart, is stunningly well conveyed by the narration. This is a short but complex piece that I have read many times since I discovered it in college. One of the hallmarks of great literature, to me, is that you can re-read (or hear) the story again every few years and find new dimensions of understanding. I'm more sure than ever after hearing this presentation that this is one of those great books. Moreover, Kenneth Branagh is perfect as a presenter for a work of this magnitude.
Strangely enough, it makes me want to go back and re-watch the last hour of "Apocalypse Now" (obviously the same story). I still think that Brando's performance really was up to the task of Kurtz, though the rest was flawed.
This is a classic character portrait, not just of Kurtz but of the narrator himself, and of other more minor characters. Branagh's vocal nuances bring the characters into focus in a way that, for me, is more personal and instinctive than just reading the printed words on the page. Even Conrad's sketchy but evocative descriptions of the persons and action come across with moody impact in Branagh's spoken version. I suspect this wouldn't be true for just any performer, but only for one with the consummate skill of Branagh.
Yes, though I didn't quite manage to do so. However, and this is almost unprecedented for me, I listened to it again as soon as I had finished it, and got even more from the second hearing.
Yes. The narration is maybe the best I have ever heard, and I have nearly 1000 audiobooks in my collection. He brought the darkness and despair out and gave it life through his reading. This was an Oscar worthy performance of an audiobook.
Branaugh had a wonderful work to begin with but his ability to bring it to life was a pure rare delight. I hung on his narration and felt the lonely dark despair of the characters
Life, fear, disenchantment and expectation of his next word. It gave the book vivid emotion.
No spoilers so ...Marlowe's emotional voyage at the near end.
This is one of the truest examples of the wonders an audiobook can be when a great book meets an unsurpassed narrator.
This is the best narration I have found! I was already a fan of his work, but he brings life into a story that I thought I could never enjoy (having tried multiple times to read, but failing miserably).
His storytelling ability shines here. When simply reading the story I was not compelled to continue, but his passion brings out the undertones of struggle that I missed in paperback form.
Kenneth Branagh (who I had already liked) did an excellent job, or the editors. But I listened straight through and found it the best I have heard, it just flowed.
I cannot say
I did like his Kurtz
Through the entire book, I felt as if I were there, experiencing things...that's what makes a book a good read for me.
Best audiobook I have ever heard
Brannagh brought all the characters to life, with excellent nuances and masterful tone.
Marlow - he gets the conversational storyteller's voice to a tee
The Original Apocalypse Now!
At just over three hours it is fulfilling, but not taxing. One to return to again & again.
This is short enough to finish in one sitting or a nice three to four hour drive. I usually go for the 15 hour books and this was a nice change. Kenneth Branagh is one of my favorites and I watch all the Wallander PBS shows which have cast him well. His voice is distinctive yet not intrusive. I get a little tired of Hill and Brick whom seem to read most of the books I select. This is a good choice for a short audiobook. I read the text as a youth and of course Apocalypse Now is based on the book so most readers will be familiar with the story if not the details.