This is the UNabridged version of "I, Claudius". I've listened the the abridged version twice and enjoyed it very much even though I generally avoid abridgments. But I found the abridged version a little hard to follow in places, and bought the unabridged to fill in the gaps.
This book goes on and on and yawn ... the reader is very good and I'd like to hear him read something with a clearer narrative line, but the even he can't save this from soporific tedium. The book should have been called "I, Tiberius Claudius Drusis Nero Germanicus." I gave up after 90 minutes.
The good news: Juliet Stevenson is my new favorite narrator. She's brilliant. I'd listen to her read the phone book.
Other good news: the writing is superb. Sarah Waters' descriptions of emotional reactions, and the way they can ricochet like silver balls in a mad pinball machine, is subtle and brilliant. She has the gift of metaphor (”they embraced, and they felt their hearts beating like fists hammering on opposite sides of a closed door") and the good sense not to abuse it.
On the other hand. Oh dear. The actual story is pretty grim, and suitably enough, the characters are unsymapthetic and depressing. Frances is a doormat who thinks she's the hinges. Lillian is as dumb as a bag of hair. Leonard is a chauvinist pig from central casting. And the mother plays the entire Greek chorus in Schadenfreude minor. I'm telling you, there isn't a single sympathetic character in the whole long book. But yet the narrator ... the numinous writing ... well. You do see.
I'm giving it four stars for "overall" becasue the narration is a 5 and the story is a 3. so four is the average. But ... welll .. yeah, ok. Four. As I said, I'm ambivalent.
Other reviewers have mentioned the steaminess and the quantity of sex scenes. Yep, there's a lot of it. If that makes you uncomfortable, skip this one. If not, take the Juliet Stevenson and try to rise above the plot.
This was my first Elizabeth Strout, and I'm looking forward to the next. The writing is precise and lyrical. Precise, in that there isn't a wasted word. Lyrical in that although there are few specific descriptions of places and things, you can "see" the rooms and settings clearly through the characters' dialog. The story is simple and urgently familiar to anyone who ever lived a limited life in a small town. My mental pictures as I listened were very Hopper: this is small town life, red in tooth and claw. It's not an easy listen but a worthwhile one.
I'm picky about narrators, and this one is pretty good. Occasionally a bit actor-ish, but generally authentic and without the overlay of her own opinions that spoils so many otherwise good audiobooks.
Another reviewer called it offensive. Well, a couple of scenes are quite explicit, but that was really necessary to evoke an adolescent girl's ignorance in the context of her first sexual encounter. Really poignant, the way she mistakes rutting passion for romance, and without that nuance the rest of the story wouldn't play.
No, the two hours I spent with this book are lost forever.
The narration is a performance, not a reading. Children's voices are squeaky, men's voices are gravelly, and the narrator's voice is flat. There's a weird pause before "he said" or "I replied" almost every time (probably so the reader can adjust her voice). There's a strange rhythmic pattern to the sentences: two are read on a rising tone, one on a falling tone, and one is flat. Rinse and repeat.
Depending on the casting, yes I would.
I wanted to like this, I really did. But after two hours, I knew It was a waste of time.
A different reader
Yes - the story is pleasant. Not earth-shakingly great literature, but a good story.
The narrator does a perfectly acceptable job until he voices a female character. For all female voices, he uses a horrible music hall falsetto. It sounds like something out of Monty Python, and it's completely out of place. It's so bad, in fact, that I cannot finish the book. It ruins the listening experience altogether.
As I said, a pretty good story. What a shame the narrator is more enamored of his drag queen voice than of the author's words.
Can I get a refund?
The narrator was really bad.
Complex and engaging plot.
Over-acting, over-pronouncing, and sing-song. Narrator is extremely self-conscious.
Save your money.
I've read this book on paper and enjoyed it, and I usually like this narrator. But the narration here is very disappointing. The reader ends 2/3's of the sentences with the kind of lilt you associate with books for children. She reads "We had a conversation about genital mutilation" in exactly the voice one would expect for "Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy talked about Christmas." Moreover, she characterizes the voices inconsistently. The protagonist's boyfriend is sometimes from Brooklyn, sometimes from the deep South, and sometimes just gravelly. It's not so bad that I won't finish the book, but it's disappointing as heck.
What a bitter disappointment: I cannot listen to this reader for 20+ hours. I couldn't even listen to her for 20+ minutes. She over-pronounces nearly every word, pauses dramatically at most punctuation, and takes a short sharp intake of breath every couple of phrases. It's the voice of a babysitter (one who's short of breath) reading aloud to not-very-bright children. I gave up after less than half an hour. A shame to waste the money on the book, but life is just too short to waste time on a reading this bad.
I'm a big Josephine Tey fan, and I'm picky about narrators. This was my first Carole Boyd listen, and now I'm hooked. She's just great. Enough variations in voicing to keep the characters identifiable, but no stagey acting to distract from Tey's precise and wonderful story. If you like British mysteries and good narrators, you can't go wrong here.
I've listened to this book twice and will listen again after a while. I'd be happy to hear Eleanor Bron read the dictionary aloud: to hear her read Edith Wharton is pure bliss.
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