Hugo's sympathy with the oppressed; the grand scope of the novel; Hugo's gift for fine metaphors and aphorisms; some of the dramatic scenes; the sensitive narration.
Absurdly long, detailed tedious digressive essays on things like the battle of Waterloo, the history of convents, the history and geography of the Parisian sewers; hard-to-believe characters who act in unbelievable ways; corny melodrama and sentimentality; excessively long and repetitious accounts of almost everything due, it seems, to Hugo's sheer delight in showing off his poetic inventiveness.
I have great tolerance for long 19th century novels. But so often I found myself thinking: come on Victor, you've said everything you've got to say abou this event, character, situation, action, motivation, relationship, dilemma. All you're doing now is just repeating yourself using alternative metaphors. Let's get moving! I also found the plot pretty silly in places; a lot depends on coincidence and people acting in unbelievable ways.
Hugo's philosophical reflections, which abound throughout, are sometimes interesting; but he's too much in love with paradox and coupling unexpected antitheses--a tendency which has bedeviled French writing ever since.
The narration is good. I liked the translation: it employs up-to-date language which makes the novel less stodgy than it might otherwsie be.
I read Great Expectations a few years ago. I was underwhelmed. I love Dickens, and I know this is one of his most highly rated works. But I found the characters a bit too stock, and the plot dragged in the middle of the book. Listening to it, I enjoyed it more and understood better the sort of themes it explores. For all, that I still think it short of Dockens' best; but it's very good, and Anton Leiser, as always, narrates it brilliantly. If there is an award for reading aloud, he should win it.
Tuchman is a fine writer, and the narration is very good. The most impressive feature of the book to me is the depth of her research; she really seems to know exactly what was happening at all times in all places during the summer of 1914. I must admit, though, I found the narrative, while compelling, difficult to follow at times just because of the number of characters involved. I do like her caustic wit, though; she's great at exposing the pretensions and follies of the people in charge.
Zadie Smith is a great writer. She's funny, creates marvelous characters, and has a fantastic ear for diverse speech patterns. I've listened to over 100 audiobooks; this was one of my favorites so far. Jenny Sterlin, the narrator, does a wonderful job handling all the different accents and putting ironic inflections into her narration at just the right moments. I found the very end of the book a little unsatisfactory. There's some great plotting to get to that point, but then the climactic scene and the little coda that follows seem rushed. But that's a small criticism; overall, I thoroughly enjoy the book.
The novel portrays the New York upper middle class society in the late 19th century. Wharton writes elegantly, and is an acute psychologist and observer of manners. She's also very witty at times--with what you might call a stiletto wit. The reading is excellent, with subtle difference of voice and accent nicely calibrated to the character speaking.
I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the book. But it made me wonder why writers like Wharton and Henry James devote themselves to writing about people who don't do anything--a class of idlers, in fact, who are terrified that they might have to work for a living. Perhaps they think that this idleness produces greater subjective sensitivity and depth. But I think their long descriptions and analyses of people's inner depths are rather more refined and sophisticated than is justified by reality. OccasionalIy found myself saying: Bring on a pirate! Let's have a murder! Or at least have someone kicked by a horse.
The story is just what you expect from Dickens: some memorable characters (the villainous ones are especially memorable); a somewhat complex interweaving of plots leading to surprising discoveries about birth and parentage; some good women who are rather insipid; some sickly sentimentality, especially regarding a brother-sister relationship; a poignant young death; justice to the villains; a happy ending; and much wonderful prose. The reading is excellent. My only complaint is that the plaintiveness of Smyke and the Yorkshire accent of John B. is a little overdone. But this is minor. Dickens is a very great writer, and Simon Vance does him justice.
Little Dorrit offers the best and worst of Dickens (wit, lyricism, character, humanity, caraciture, sentimentality, over-extended passages, great plot with some very clunky bits). Overall, though, it's in the top half of his novels. I can't praise Anton Lesser enough. His narration is simply fantastic. Audible has some great readers but Lesser is unsurpassed. It's not just his mastery of accents; it's also his perfect but subtle timing and stress. Just listen to the way he puts he emphasis on "off" when he reads the brilliantly funny account of the "circumlocution office". Thats shows absolute mastery and understanding of his material.
Christian Rodske's narration is brilliant as always. I preferred the first part of the story, where Hornblower is sent to deal with a mutiny, to the later part where he's in France. Perhaps it's because one feels that Hornblower is at his best when on a ship.
Christian Rodska narrates all the Hornblower books he's done brilliantly. This story is pretty good, although the section where Hornblower is in France seemed a bit stretched out. One reviewer says the last chapter is missing. Certainly the book ends very abruptly.
My title says it all. This is Hornblower at his most swashbuckling. The narrator, Christian Rodska, is quite superb, as usual.
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