The horrible music - totally unecessary and inappropriate for the style of the book. Why not choose music from the period in which the book was written - Vaughn Williams perhaps. The book is an English classic set on an English river bank and featuring creatures from the English countryside - read with a broad and grating Australian accent - being Australian my self this is not demonstrating a predjudice against Aussie accents - but for heaven's sake! Use them for reading Australain classics. I found listening to this audio book intolerable and after about half an hour was really annoyed that there was no indication that the book would be ruined in this way before I paid my money for it.
In terms of the inherent gentle humour and "Englishness" of this book I guess one could compare something like Winnie the Pooh (although that was written about 15 years later) - it has such a dreamy gentle style which carry the reader back in time and space to an Edwardian England pre WW1. It is a book which captures many aspects of country life now lost - but certainly worth recapturing. The chapter dealing with finding the lost baby otter is (in my opinon) one of the most beautiful and numinous examples of children's writing ever created. In this respect it reminds me of the feeling I got from some of C.S Lewis's works which also dealt with deeper subjects within the stories. This is what makes it such a "classic" - a children's book which does not talk down to children and which they will continue to love as they grow up. The characters of Rat, Mole, Toad, Badger and Otter characterise an ideal of personal interactions - full of interest, love, concern and duty - but in no way "preachy" - lightened by many moments of intrigue and humour. What is also important about this book is the inherant beauty of the English language within it - another reason why it calls for an English narrator.
Totally inappropriate Australian (or perhaps New Zealand?) accent - it came across as brash and made the inherant English characters in the book sound ridiculous -indeed it made them sound unbearable - especially combined with the disgusting background music. (and remember - this is an Australain reviewing this audiobook!)I believe Stephen Fry has done a reading of this work - much more appropriate and if his wonderful readings of the Harry Potter books are any indication I am sure his reading of Wind in the Willows would be brilliant. I was unable to find a copy of Mr Frys reading - if your company has one I would very much like to buy it (so long as it is unabridged) - and throw Mr Smith's version in my delete bin where it belongs.
The book is one I have always really loved - the depth of feelings aroused by the book is complex - there is humour. pathos and sadness - and a wistfulness for something precious which is slipping out of reach. Something we can find again - if ony briefly - between its pages. However the feeling sparked in me by Mark Smith's reading of this book combined with the ghastly music was one of anger and disgust. How could anyone believe that such a rendering of this classic work could do anything other than destroy it? Bizarre.
Please get hold of Stephen Fry's rendition of Wind in the Willows - or if one doesn't exist get him to record one!
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