Jerome creates comedy not only from his choice of words but from the raised-eyebrow pauses between them. Several characters are timeless because their traveling equivalents exist today: the arrogant traveller who expects every system to run exactly as it does at home; the quarrelsome member of a tour who criticizes the route but offers no help with directions.
There are traditions and occupations described which I am sure have vanished and others which, I am surprised to find, have persisted. I was delighted to find that the German tradition of putting a restaurant at the top of every picturesque peak amused Jerome in 1900 as much as it did me seventy years later. But I was disturbed to find out that academic dueling has not disappeared from Eastern Europe.
Tucked into an overall lighthearted story are Jerome's impressions of pre-war Imperial Germany. These are time-capsules and some are now impossible to read without sharp pangs of sadness: Jerome could not have known the devastation that two World Wars would bring. Particularly painful to read, with modern retrospection, is his observation that a venerable 800-year-old Jewish ghetto in Prague is gradually being repaired with new streets, promising in future years to be "the handsomest part of the town."
Frederick Davison's narration is too sneering to suit the story. His shifts in voice are disturbing when he imitates a female, and his inflections turn Harris into a simpleton and George into a street thug. His attempts at German pronunciation sound like a cat coughing up a fur-ball. He does not even put syllable stresses in the right places. Is German so unknown in the UK that he had never heard any before narrating this book? Couldn't a pronunciation coach have been found?
There are politically incorrect satires of races and nationalities that probably seemed humorous when first printed in 1900, but now elicit a wince. The narration makes them worse. Better to read this book in print than to hear it read by this narrator.
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