Remarkably, I never read the Oz books as a kid. Weird, I know, but somehow I never went there. (And truly, this is a weird thing. I read *everything*. Maybe The Wiz was too firmly engrained in my psyche as a movie to register that it was a book first? Or was it a shying away from some aspects of it which seemed too childish for me even as a child? Or was it simply that I never had a copy in the house and the library had much shinier and cooler books to draw my attention? No idea.) This was a freebie on Audible, bless their hearts, and it seemed like time.
Whether aspects of the story might have been too childish for me once upon a time, aspects of the storytelling certainly were listening to this. The silly voices Anne Hathaway provided became a little much at times; there is only so much time I am willing to spend listening to certain types of cartoony voices. And I confess, being used to the relative conciseness of the MGM version, I became impatient with the rather wandering way in which the actual story was spun out. I wonder if I would have liked this as a child. I wouldn't have been trying so hard to apply logic to it then, though I would still have been comparing it to the movie…
I love reading and listening to books, especially fantasy, science fiction, children's, historical, and classics.
Because I love the 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz and had listened to Anna Fields' Blackstone Audio (2001) fine reading of the original book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900), I was curious to try an audiobook version read by a popular and accomplished actress, and so listened to the Anne Hathaway "performs" The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (2011), for audible.com's "a-list" line of classic books read by popular actors.
First, about the original novel itself, the story is light-hearted, with plenty of fantastic and appealing characters (like Dorothy's companions), exciting flare-ups of ultra-violence (like the orders and fates of the Wicked Witch's forty wolves, forty crows, and forty bees) ironic insights into human nature (like the pure Tin Woodman's mistaken belief that if he had a heart he would not need to be so careful to avoid hurting living beings because people with hearts naturally avoid hurting others), humorous lines (like when the Scarecrow asks the Lion if he has brains he answers "I suppose so. I've never looked to see"), and good themes for children (like personal hygiene is important and we all have the potential to develop the qualities we think we lack and just need to find the confidence and opportunities to use them). If you've only seen the movie, and if you like it, you should read or listen to the original book, because it's interesting to compare the similar and different points between them. The movie, for instance, stops about three-fifths of the way through the book, downplays the violence, increases Dorothy's age, and adds songs and dances, as well as the wonderful feature of some fantasy world characters having real world alter-egos.
One feature of the Audible a-list audiobook that's convenient and nice is that the 24 chapters of the book are divided into 24 navigable chapters and Hathaway reads out the titles of the chapters after their numbers, while the Blackstone version has only five navigable super audiobook chapters, so that when you click the fast forward or rewind button you end up several chapters ahead or behind rather than just one, and Fields only reads out chapter numbers rather than titles and numbers together.
Like many of the reviews posted on Audible, I have mixed feelings about Hathaway's reading. She mostly does a fine, fun job with the different characters' different voices. The Scarecrow is funny and scratchy (sure, he does sound a bit like a hyper Marge Simpson, but Marge's voice is not a bad one to recall); the Tin Woodman is sensitive; the Cowardly Lion deep and blustery and a little New York or New Jersey-ish; the Mouse Queen cute and squeaky; the Wicked Witch old and wicked; Oz feckless; Dorothy sweet. . . I suppose you could complain about her Stork sounding like a storky-valley girl, the pseudo-British King of the Flying Monkeys rolling too many of his Rs, the Guard of the Gates of the Emerald City sounding oddly Daffy Duckish (especially when he says "spectacles"), and the Hammer-Heads sounding a bit too much like the Scarecrow, but, hey, Hathaway does her best to give each character a distinctive feel, and I enjoyed most of them.
The problem for me was her over-reading too many of the third person narrator's lines, becoming, for instance, too breathy, fast, and excited when reading exciting parts of the story. In Chapter 1 Dorothy and Toto have been carried up into the air in their house on the cyclone, and although at first the scene has been exciting and scary, with Hathaway (perhaps over-dramatically) inflecting her voice for greater urgency, one paragraph ends calmly with the cyclone carrying the house "miles and miles away as easily as you could carry a feather." When the next sentence begins, "It was very dark, and the wind howled horribly around her," Hathaway briefly resumes her hyper danger mode, even though that same sentence ends, "but Dorothy found she was riding quite easily," and its paragraph ends, "she felt as if she were being rocked gently, like a baby in a cradle," for which Hathaway uses an extra sweet calm mood. Her vocal mood shifts sound too much right next to each other, and a sentence that ends calmly should be read from the beginning calmly, even if the first phrase of the sentence indicates some horribly howling wind, because the context before and after that howling wind is not scary. In short, Hathaway over-reads much of the narration, which detracted from the listening experience, making me think at times, as some reviewers have said, of Anne Hathaway rather than of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
Finally, it comes down to preference. If you like the reader of an audiobook to *perform* different voices and moods and so on like an actor (tellingly, the Audible title is "Anne Hathaway Performs The Wonderful Wizard of Oz"), you should listen to Hathaway. If you only want to hear a person with a pleasant voice, accurate pronunciation, and sensitive and smooth pace read a good book, you should listen to Anna Fields. Hathaway is strutting her actress stuff, mostly enjoyably (because she obviously enjoys the story), but although kids probably prefer her different character voices and high-tension narration, I prefer Anna Fields' more subtle differences between characters and more even-keeled and natural narrative voice.
I would recommend this in a heartbeat. The story had gotten old for me after so many years but Anne manages to breathe life into the characters more so than any version of the movie I have ever seen.
The initial scene where they meet Oz. I don't know how she came up with that particular voice for him (apparently, she doesn't either if you've seen the video clip of her talking about doing the narration) but I think it fits the character well.
I certainly would have if I'd had the chance.
Give it a shot. You'll be surprised how much you enjoy a story you've probably already experienced numerous times.
"A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one." - Jojen Reed. #ADanceWithDragons
Now that we have that out of the way... I won't spend much time on the story BUT... This is a jacked up children's book if it was meant to be one... For one they keep lopping off heads off of people! The 'Wizard of Oz' is at best a con-artist! And the characters are... let’s face it... gullible... Maybe I am reading too much into this story.. >_<
Anne Hathaway though.... LOVE HER.... And thankfully she didn't massacre the book and did actually produce a performance worth 5 stars. To be honest, I changed my score from a 4 to a 5 stars because Anne actually got me through the book. I don't think anyone could make me be completely thrilled with the narration here but this is because I think the story was lacking so much (note also I am reviewing this right after listening to "Water for Elephants" and "Outlander" which are EXCELLENTLY written and even more EXCELLENTLY narrated). Even with the annoying squeaky voices (it does get annoying after the bazillion little person), Anne really kept me listening and I cut her slack for the squeaky voices because quite frankly, that would be how they sounded.
I say this... Audible need to invite Anne Hathaway back to do a real book... and by a real book I mean a Jane Austen book! I think anything Jane Austen or even Phillipa Gregory (if we want to go more modern) would fit her.
This is simply a delightful and classic story that I and my children (ages 9 & 6) have enjoyed. If you've only seen the film, you should treat yourself to the novel - though it is admittedly difficult not to judge the book in light of the epic film.
What I could not tolerate was Anne Hathaway's dreadful performance. Ideally the narration should complement the story, but not distract or steal from the author's words. Hathaway's performance is a complete distraction - to the point that you hope certain characters won't have anything else to say because you don't want to hear her needlessly over-the-top voicing. Why does the palace guard have a southern (US) accent? Why does another person have a French accent? It's all just too much.
Do yourself a favor and pick from the 5 or so other versions of Baum's classic on Audible.
Anne is amazing .. you almost live the story .. and her performance is so amusing I laughed so heartily at many many times
her performance for sure .. so lively
yes .. when Anne was reading the tin mans parts .. she translates the feelings perfectly
highly recommended ..
Husband, Father, Son.
Heck yeah!!! It's a classic that everyone should read. Way different from the movie and so much better
That it was different from the movie.
She did a great job doing the different voices and acting them out through her words. It was just plain great
No, not really just amazed me that it was different from the movie.
I am normally a *huge* Anne Hathaway fan, however, I felt she went way over the top dramatizing this performance. In scenes where absolutely nothing is happening, she starts gasping and dramatizing as if the world is coming to an end. She does this multiple times throughout the story in all of the wrong places. Also, nearly every character she did had a New York accent or a valley girl accent which just made this classic story sound ridiculous. Marge Simpson with a New York accent crawled into the scarecrows body, and I'm permanently scarred. lolNormally, I would enjoy her attempts to breathe new life into a classic story, but she went way overboard with this one and lost me. Even my 11 year old daughter thought the whole thing sounded odd and that the narrator was just distracting from the story. I think that's really the key to what went wrong - instead of presenting the story and letting it stand on its own merit, she tried to take center stage and failed.
An old broad that enjoys books of all types. Would rather read than write reviews though. I know what I like, and won't be bothered by crap.
Dorothy sees Wizard!
This story is very different than the movie and stage play. There are a lot of different characters and more adventures for Dorothy and her friends that didn't make it to the movie. There are several sequels in this series and each story builds on the next. Very good!
Good first start.
Kansas vs. Oz?
I liked Anne Hathaway's performance for the most part. The only suggestions I would make is to leave out the valley girl character and the french maid accent. Doesn't fit in Oz.
I am probably one of the only children in America who never read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz as a child. So, as an adult, I figured it was time to experience it now. The story is a good one--very different from the movie, but fantastic and fun and complex in so many interesting ways. But the real stunner here is Anne Hathaway's reading of the story. She does a phenomenal job of bringing the different characters to life, all of them with fanciful, beautiful, spirited voices. I absolutely loved listening to her read this lovely story. I think her reading does an amazing job of making a story that seems more fitted to young people really wonderful and exciting for readers (and listeners) of all ages. Highly recommended.