This is Harry Potter for adults, but much, much better. This book was a labor of love for the author, taking 10 years to write. This really shows in the depth of the characterization and richness in the historical details, both real and imaginary. In JS&MN, Clarke created a parallel Regency England where the only difference to the real thing is the presence of magic. As I've always like fantasy novels with strong ties to reality (it makes the fantasy that much more palpable) I thoroughly enjoyed this conceit. It is rare that I feel like I learnt so much of history from a fantasy novel!
How disappointing. I second a previous reviewer when he described the narrator as sounding like "Niles from 'Frasier' trying to impersonate a robot.' What haven't been mentioned is how bad this particular translation seems to be. Take this passage from book 1 chapter 11:
"The dark-eyed little girl, plain, but full of life, with her wide mouth, her childish, bare shoulders, which shrugged and panted in her bodice from rapid motion. Her black hair brushed back, her slender, bare arms and little legs in lace-edged long drawers and open slippers was at that charming stage when <b>the girl is no longer a child while the child was not yet a young girl.</b>"
What the! I don't know if the illogical last sentence was the fault of the translation or the narration. Either way, it's ridiculous that a mistake of this kind should have passed muster. Compare this with a better translation of the same passage:
"This black-eyed, wide-mouthed girl, not pretty but full of life -- with childish bare shoulders which after her run heaved and shook her bodice, with black curls tossed backward, thin bare arms, little legs in lace-frilled drawers, and feet in low slippers -- was just at that charming age when a girl is no longer a child, though the child is not yet a young woman."
In order not to have to put up with this terrible audiobook for 60 hours, I'm listening to it in the "fast" mode of my ipod, just for something to listen to while I clean the house or walk the dog. Meanwhile, I'll be checking out a copy from my local library so I can enjoy Tolstoy's masterpiece in its untainted form.
For an example of a well-narrated audiobook, check out "Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrel" or "The Well of Lost Plots." The narrators in those books really get into the characters and seem to be enjoying themselves, adding to the richness of the experience of the book rather than distracting from it.
What the blurb doesn't tell you is that this recording is divided into two halves, each about 20 minutes long. The first is more introductory, while the second takes one on a nice guided imagery tour. I thought this was a flaw since I needed more time in the relaxed state to feel rested, but will continue to use this product as a "power nap".
I didn't really like the hypnotist's accent, which was english in a rough and grating way. The music was also kind of hokey. But considering the product I guess it could have been a whole lot worse.
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