For my money, Our Mutual Friend is the best novel Dickens ever wrote--a bit darker than the others, but all the more powerful. Although it presents the usual cast of caricatures, there are no throwaways, the themes they represent are not trivial. Dickens (sorry, no apostrophe function) attacks on snobbery and greed are unusually vicious as well as funny, and there is a new depth to the main characters--especially in the darker romance (there are two). Lizzie Hexam is a breathtaking character--serious, beautiful, redemptive. Dickens sentimentalism (to my mind the serious flaw in his works) is kept to a minimum in this one.
And--The reading is perfect. Robert Whitfield is a talented and sensitive reader. I will be looking for more of his work.
I truly did like "On Beauty" and though that I'd try another Zadie Smith. I listened to the sample before buying, and the reader was pleasant enough. BUT that was the reader doing the third-person narrative. Had no idea of quite how horrible she'd be with the voices. I thought I'd get used to it, but just got more and more annoying. Had to give up.
Can you go wrong with Dickens? Well, yes. No disputing that D. was a great author, and this books has great moments, the usual vivid characters, and a very funny view of the Englishman in America. The added bonus with this author is that he was an actor, very aware of the way his books would sound read aloud--as they most often were. Too bad the same care was not taken with this recording. Sound quality is very bad--hard to hear in the car. And though Flo Gibson really does a competent read here, she will never be a favorite of mine. So the combination of muffled production and a less than ideal reader make this one a disappointment.
This book and the rest in the series are just wonderful--lively characters and action, rich with historical and naval detail, and beautifully and wittily written. Patrick Tull's reading takes the experience to an even higher level. It was hearing Master and Commander that got me hooked on audio books for life. Even if you think naval/adventure novels are not for you (I certainly thought so), give this a try. You may fall in love.
I really enjoy Wilkie Collins' Vistorian potboilers; they're full of sly humor and mysterious doings, and his characterizations are great. Too bad I couldn't get past the reading on this one. As said by previous reviewer, women's voices are cringeworthy. So are the rest. Weird accents and a delivery that makes me suspect that reader was seeing the book for the first time. Had to give up.
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