This is a powerful and disturbing novel -- the tragic story of a man crippled by external misfortune and by his own proud and violent temperament. I began this book in paper format when it first came out but soon gave it up. I found the story to be grim and unappealing. I then decided to give Audible a try, and I'm glad I did. Christopher Lee's brilliant narration saved the book for me. He gives full justice to Tolkien's musical prose and The Children of Hurin carried me happily through several weeks of commuting. I have to say that the story is easier to take when split up into 20 minute chunks.
The text that we have was not completed by Tolkien, but was edited by his son from rough drafts and notes. This accounts for a lot. The novel is repetitious. In fact, it feels as if one is hearing the same story several times over. The same themes of heroism, followed by rashness and failure, occur again and again throughout the novel in slightly different episodes. And throughout, Turin, the hero, never seems to learn anything or to be changed by what he experiences. It occurred to me at the end, that perhaps what we have is precisely that: several attempts at the same short story, strung one after the other, rather than a complete novel with a fully realized narrative arc.
I suspect that if Tolkien had managed to finish the work to his liking, it would have been shorter, or more varied. It is one aspect of Tolkien's genius, evident in the Hobbit and the LOTR, that he never tells the same story twice. Every chapter of the Hobbit, for example, is not only a different adventure, but a different kind of adventure. That inventiveness is missing from The Children of Hurin. For this reason, I give the book only 4 stars instead of 5.
Nonetheless, I am glad that I bought this recording. Christopher Lee is first rate and the work is a masterpiece, albeit a flawed and unfinished one.
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