This is a review of the audiobook narrated by Timothy West, not a review of the novel per se. (I would advise new readers/listeners to Trollope to start with Barchester Towers.)
This is an superb performance of Trollope's speaking narrative. Trollope, I think, would love it; it is entirely in Trollope's service. Trollope's style, syntax, and voice are all excellently rendered throughout the 28 hours of storytelling. The acoustic quality is consistently perfect throughout all 28 hours. If West made any mistakes, they were edited out perfectly. The microphone was placed perfectly. I listened to the Audible enhanced MP3 format, which is 800 MB for the unabridged novel. The recording is so good that the lighter MP3 formats are sure to be of the highest quality also.
West's differentiation of individual characters is excellent, as each narrative voice is specific and recognizable and yet not delivered with extravagance. West's aim is to be expressive yet subtle. (Perhaps the subplot with Mrs. Greenow and her two suitors is a bit extravagant, but that is as Trollope wishes.) West renders sustained dramatic dialogue perfectly (very important for one of Trollope's greatest strengths), with just the right timing and nuances of tone. Glencora's quick, witty, passionate voice comes through very well.
In short: The narrator is performed as a speaking voice, and the characters are acted through the narrative voice. Trollope provided the score, and West is a great musician.
I will someday write a review of the full Case reading of The Forsyte Saga, which as you see by my ratings I think is outstanding, but just wanted to note here that the last "chapter" in this download ("Interlude") includes instructions to "turn the cassette over", deletes some material, and repeats two large sections of text, which destroys the beauty of the Interlude. Just a warning for those who do not have a printed copy of the book. This corruption was noted by Chad in Texas way back on 01-27-09, and Audible should fix this.
I read the Autobiography before I listened to it, and I was surprised how much richer the audio version is. As others have noted, Mayes here has a 19th century voice and delivery, and I really could imagine him as Trollope himself.
Juliet Stevenson does an excellent job reading this delicately nuanced novel. When the time comes to purchase other Austen audio novels I don't yet have, I'll simply choose Stevenson's performance, whoever else may be available.
I like all three novels in Farrell's trilogy, but this one, like Woolf's To the Lighthouse, has a perfect structure and is exquisitely written. It is performed admirably.
The story will not be to everyone's liking. It is funny and melancholy at the same time, like other Farrell novels.
I never listen to audiobooks unless I have read the book first. For Room I made an exception because I had a crazy notion of reading the Booker shortlist this year, and I anticipated that the 5-year-old Jack would be fun to listen to -- if the narrator was adequate. Fortunately, Jack is performed well; ma is fine and grows on one, but she seems to enter the narrative as a module, as do many of the voices (perhaps a result of how this recording was produced). The male voices are not so well done.
But so what, ultimately. This novel made me feel weird when I listened to it and I still feel weird a week later, and I imagine I will keep on feeling weird, and if I don't, I'd better listen to it again.
Finally, a comment on the tone of the book -- something that would have helped me in deciding whether to listen to or read it. Terrible as the subject is, the book is quite funny and is decidedly not depressing. Quite the opposite: Good beats Bad.
As others have written, this is another extraordinary recording by Timothy West. The problem is, only 3 of the 4 parts are available. Audible customer service knows this -- or knew it -- and pulled the download for a month or so. Now it's back up, but part 4 is still not available (August 20, 2010). One star to Audible for making any Trollope narrated by West available -- one star, that is, if Audible tells their customers that this is incomplete.
John Wood's narration is just about perfect. The "American" accents are not "realistic," but that is a minor quibble, especially as it is offset so well by the perfect rendition of the narrative voice. Wood clearly understands the arc of the novel as a whole, so each chapter, paragraph, sentence has the right tone and nuance; the little refracted ironies strewn about everywhere are nicely expressed. Best of all -- I say this without having heard other readings -- is that Wood reads slowly. He savors the words, and we have time to understand them. The production values and audio quality are fabulous. I echo Linda's comment: Please, Mr. Wood, record more James!
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