If you care at all about the English language you must use 2 1/2 hours of your time on the planet listening to this work. It is possibly the simplest scenario imaginable for a novel but is completed with style and economy which is what made Hemingway unique. The icing on the cake is that Sutherland's narration is nearly as exceptional as the book itself. Buy it!
I don't often give in on a book. This one, this time, I did. And about 80% of the way through! On the rare occassions when I abandon a book it is usually early on but this one took hours to grind me down.
I suspect that I kept giving it the benefit of the doubt because I have enjoyed other tiles in the Flashman series.It may be because the historical background to this one is little known to me. It may be because the narration didn't strike me as well fitted. It may be because even a great author (MacDonald Fraser is quite good but definitely not great) pushes out a dud every now and then. More realisically it is a mix of all of them.
I came to this after relistening to an old Flashman favourite (F in the Great Game) and a new addition (Flashman).
The first of these is narrated by Timothy West who is perfect for the part.
The second by Rupert Penry-Jones who was startlingly adequate at the role. I was wthin a whisker of abandoning that one when it finished.
But this title is narrated by Toby Stephens whose performance was as patchy as they come. The reason West is perfect is because these are the memoirs of a man being read in his later years relating his exploits as a young man. They should be read by an old duffer and Timothy West does old duffer about a hundred times better than either of the other two. I'll be willing to bet cash money that he costs more than either of the other two but the quality is there all the way through the recording. It just sounds very very wrong to have a 12 year olds voice reading an old man story.
So I'm left up a stump now. I had intended to build a listening career on this series but now find that unless they are narrated by West I am quite likely to abandon them.
My advice is probably to either only listen to the ones narrated by West or never listen to them. Without his performance they are pretty insipid stuff.
I purchased this with some small fear. Not about Twain's part of it but because the first volume was ballasted with way too much information about who the editors and compilers were and how clever they had been in editing and compiling the work. And in volume 1 it was all at the beginning of the book and of the chapters so at no time was it safe to use the guff blocker that is labelled "fast forward".
But this edition is done the way it should be done. Hoorah!!!! There is still some content about the editors and financial contributors, as I am sure is only fair. But it is all at the end. Hoorah Hoorah!! Puttng it there, where it belongs, means that as a listener you have been able to enjoy Twain's stream of consciousness after which you realise how much you should be grateful to the people in the credits section and are happy to listen to it and give them credit.
Grover Gardner is an inspired choice as narrator reading the material with inflection and style. Getting excited in the exciting bits and amused in the amusing bits. If anybody ever wants an example of how an audiobook should be performed then they shoulduse this as their guide.
As to the content - It's Twain - Just buy it.
I could not help visualising a scene in the office of Haggard's publisher where the publisher is saying
"Can't you do King Solomon's Mines 2 - The Return or something like that. That I can sell."
"All the same old stereotypes?" asks Haggard
"Of course. Oh - do you think you can fit a cowardly and stupid Frenchman in there as well. Everybody likes a cowardly Frenchman. Oooh Ooooh - I know - make him a chef"
"Not a problem" says Haggard as he gets up to leave.
And that's what he did. Same old stiff upper lip nationalism. Same set piece action scenes. Same over elaborate pointless descriptions with bizzare irrelevant details which go on and on and on.
Narration carefully chosen to be as pompous as the writing. And I usually like this stuff!!!!
My previous experiences of reading Wyndham have been in his "childrens" novels which I loved as a child and now love as a man. This is written on a more adult scale and despite the fact that time has overtake some of the ideas in the book there are others which remain absolutely plausible today. The story is well written, well narrated and thoroughly enjoyable.
I worked with a bloke once who quoted this work endlessly. I'd never read it and never quite understood what he was talking about. So this was one of the first books I signed up for after signing up of Audible (several years ago). And I've just got round to writing this review.
I listen to this 4 or 5 times a year. It makes me laugh out loud every time. The fact that it is narrated by Douglas Adams is a real bonus. The man is a real loss. Not only was he clever and witty and a talented writer but he knew about performance as well. The science isn't bad either.
So if you have a teenager who you want to make curious about how the universe works get them to listen to this to start them off and then make them read the rest of the series on paper. Paper. Not kindle - paper! Then let them listen to Douglas Adams doing those as well. And if you don't have a teenager and you are interested enough to be reading this review then do the same thing yourself and start by buying this book. Today.
I probably misunderstood the ambitions of this title. I think I was hoping for more insight into Goodall's work with primates than this title sets out to give. Basically I was hoping for chimps featuring Jane Goodall and what you get is Jane Goodall featuring chimps. As an inspirational story for children it's probably great but as science or natural history less so. I'm afraid that I also find it offputting when scientists make reference to supernatural beliefs in their writings. Personal prejudice. I'm stacked full of them.
So basically this was interesting but not what I was hoping for when I purchased it. Goodall is a competent narrator as well.
Another classic that I have been seeking on audio to add to my library for a while. This one because I had read it as a boy and enjoyed it greatly and wanted to add it to my rotating library of repeat listens. It makes it to that list very very easily.
The basic story is probably fairly well known. Group of boys. Desert Island. Add some time and wait for chaos to reign. I remembered that much from my boyhood read but there are layers here that I didn't get as a spotty teen.
And I'm coming to the conclusion that this is what makes a great book great.
Every time you read it it makes you think about some element of it differently and see some feature in a new light. Ostensibly this is a book about how small boys will happily become savages if left without authority. It is also wider, deeper and longer than that if you pause the recoding every now and then and let your mind wander over a scene for a few minutes and think about whatever else it throws into your head. Bit like tasting a good wine where you can (I'm told - cheap plonk man myself) start to seperate out individual notes from the flavour. "I'm getting - the beginnings of religion - the draw of superstition - mans inhumanity to man.........."
That said , if all you want is a good book with a good story well told and well read then this will do that for you too. Just that there is more there if you want it.
Martin Jarvis does an excellent job on the narration.
I have been looking for this on audio for a while. I live near Selborne and have visited Gilbert White's house several times and that always helps to make a work more interesting. Also this work has been quoted as an influence by several respected naturalists and scientists so I wanted to see what the fuss was about.
My concern was that a 220+ year old book by a country parson talking about swallows and spiders might not be that rivetting or translate well to audio. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
From the first few words it is a complete joy to listen to. The narrator manages to give the perfect feel to the work and the words themselves are beautifully written and sound like they could have been produced yesterday.There is very little archane langauge and the pace is crisp and clear. The book is actually a series of different letters written over a period of time so each one forms a discreet package and none of them dwells too long on any one subject. The observations in the letters are not just natural history but also give a facinating glimpse of life , human and animal, in the English countryside in the 18th century.
The narration is clear and measured and the production is very good. There is a tiny introduction by the narrator which sets the scene nicely without getting in the way of the work.
This book has all the things which annoy me about supposed "great" literature.
It is excessively poetic. (Not a fan of poetry).
It is wordy for the sake of it. (Big fan of directness).
There is relatively little direct narrative. (I like a plain and simple central thread).
Its full of clever devices. (Like my English not mucked about with)
But it is magnificent! I'm pretty sure that I didn't properly follow a lot of it but it doesn't matter. Some of the words made no sense but the sounded beautiful. Some of the scenes were meaningless to me but they were magic to listen to. The whole thing was a joy to listen to.
One of the other reviewers suggest that you should be familiar with this book in print before listening to this but I disagree. I suspect that if I had tried to read this from paper I would have made it t about page 12 before throwing it out of a window. It was made to be read out loud and if there is a better version available than this I'm not sure I would be able to cope with it.
Jim Norton gives each character just enough depth to make him distinguishable wthout creating any cartoon Irishmen in the process. There are a few sections read in a female voice. (Marcella Riordan - who should get a narrators credit). Double handed narration can be clumsy but this is perfectly judged. Overall - an excellent listen.
Twain is one of my favourite fiction writers. All his talents are also there in full strength in this non-fiction work.
Telling the story of a journey through the Mediteranean and the "Holy" land by a group of Americans it is laced with all the humour, irreverance and intelligence that I love in his work. As a travel book it gives just enough flavour of the countries and places it visits to be relevant and contains some interesting historic details that were the currency of the day. I came away with a clearer picture of the reach of the Turkish (Ottoman?) empire than I had before and a better notion of some of the scale of the geography.
But you're not going to enjoy this for geography or history. You're going to enjoy it if you're interested in people and intelligent and witty comment on their behaviour. That is what Twain did best and this is one of his best.
Grover Gardner does an excellent job of the narration. Just the right level of old man growl to fit the words perfectly.
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