One of Dickens' oft-overlooked gems, this is a fabulous story and should have rated a 5. The narration of the tale, however, leaves much to be desired. As the English setting and dialects are so critical to Dickens' works, the Americanized accent of the narrator seems out of place and his imitations of the broad accents of London's working classes are unconvincing. Children are always the focal point of this author's work, and so one would logically insist that a narrator must be skilled in youthful tones and inflections; this narrator, sadly, makes everyone sound downright elderly and strips away any youthful vitality from them at all (the sprightly young Kit sounds oddly like a middle aged undertaker). The main character of this book is a young girl, Little Nell; a great shame that the narrator's deep, extremely masculine voice is so singularly unsuited to it, aping an irritating, "weak" female voice which nears caricature. Dickens adored detail, sometimes to a flaw, but nothing kills his verse more than a s-l-o-w delivery; owners of 4G iPods will rejoice to be able to speed this one up a little... other listeners will at times wish they could get out and push if it would help move the voice along. I loved the print version; at approximately one third through the audio version, though, I wonder if I will be able to stick it through to the end without the narration making me grind my teeth down to stubs. If you can get past those issues, this is a beautiful and memorable story. It's just lacking its wit, sparkle, and energy in this recording.
The book, as hefty as the king it brings to life, is arguably Margaret George's finest book. Bringing to life Henry's reign, from the splendid promise of its beginnings to its sordid and dangerous conclusion, the lush detail makes the reader/listener feel as if we are actually there, so vivid are the descriptions. The narrator's voice conjures up a haughty richness eerily reminiscent of Peter O'Toole's Henry II from 'The Lion in Winter'; it made for an immensely enjoyable listen; Henry's larger-than-life ego simply explodes through this voice! (If you like your audiobooks read in dry monotone, skip this one!) The narration of Henry VIII is augmented by side notes written as if in the diary's margins by his court fool, and his dry, rapier-sharp wit is the perfect foil for the king's own viewpoint. This is one of my very favorite audiobooks and I heartily recommend it to any historical fiction fan who is looking for a substantial and riveting 'read'.
Good grief! This is *not* the book to read for a lighthearted take on the holiday! Despite the publisher's summary suggestion that this book will make you "laugh your holiday aggravation away", the tales were depressing enough that halfway through the recording my husband made me promise not to play this in the house! Stories involving crashing cars into deer, and even into Santa himself; musings on holiday suicide; children suffering through poverty (with the mice and rats eating the decorations off their Christmas tree, no less!); more children weeping over the divorce of their parents; people miserable over the bleakness of Chanukah... my goodness, this is enough to have you reaching for the antidepressants. I suppose the bright side of this recording is that it will make you realize just how mild your holiday complaints are compared with these tales. But it's not family listening... or even recommended for anyone who's not in the mood to wallow in misery. The narration being done by the authors is a nice touch, but ths book itself is just depressing.
This is like claiming to have seen a famous city if you've never left the airport. It just doesn't let you get deep enough into this very substantial book to truly appreciate it or claim to have even "read" it: every time that (godawful) music plays during the reading, you know huge chunks of essential storyline have been dropped, seemingly at random. Much longer books have been successfully done in unabridged version; that this one has been hacked into with such unliterary brutality borders on the criminal. Having read the novel in print many times, this was heartbreaking. Who do we need to bribe to see this done well?
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