Since John Rowe hasn't gotten past the second volume of "Remembrance" (which makes me so very, very sad), I decided to give Neville Jason a try. But as I listened to this book, I kept thinking, "This is like Proust: The Screenplay." It's entertaining, and Neville is an excellent reader, but for me it was like Moby Dick with the whale descriptions cut out. (Yeah, I did love those whale descriptions. And the passages about spermaceti.) The society exploits of the unpleasant, self-serving Guermantes family members are not all that interesting to me: it's Prousts' musings and digressions that I find the most deep, lyrical, and satisfying, and they're missing here. I did listen to both parts of this book (and yes, Jason is truly terrific as the icky Charlus having a tantrum), but I will be trying again to finish the series in hard copy rather than continuing with the abridged version.
I finally realized why I don't enjoy the talented and accomplished Simon Vance as a narrator: his voice strikes me as chilly, even though I realize he might in real life be the warmest-hearted person I could ever hope to meet. But what this meant for my "Bring Up the Bodies" listen is that I was left wondering if Hilary Mantel was telling the story of a man (Cromwell) corrupted by power, who had lost some of his human qualities—or if it was just that Simon Slater (for Book One of the series) was better able to express Cromwell's tenderness and regrets. I couldn't tell if Cromwell had changed, or if I was just confused by the change in narrator. Also, while "Wolf Hall" chronicles the rise of the plucky Cromwell and equally plucky Anne Boleyn, and it's the icky Thomas More who loses his head, in "BUtB" it's the demure (and less fascinating) Jane Seymour whose star is rising, and it's hard not to feel sorry for the innocent and/or naive courtiers who end up paying the ultimate price when Cromwell starts calling in accounts. Despite the excellent writing and narration, I didn't enjoy this audiobook as much as its predecessor.
I love Simon Slater's voice so much, I want to marry it. I even considered buying one of the "Dummies" books so that I could listen to him read some more.
I found this book enormously engaging, because every statement--whether the narrator's or his accounts of what other characters have said--must be weighed for degrees of truth: each person has his or her own self-interests to rationalize and justify. Ralph Cosham's voice perfectly expresses the appropriate nuances of self-doubt, puzzlement, and regret. I liked Cosham's work here so much that I subsequently chose him as my narrator for Conrad's "Heart of Darkness," and noticed that while his voice sounded younger and fuller for HoD, for TGS he seemed more a master of the meaningful pause, making his reading of this devastating story all the more powerful.
It's like a cross between a sitcom and a costume drama (though I can't say I got a lot of period flavor in this "Regency" story--the historic details felt more like sci-fi, as if these characters were living in a parallel universe). Oh, and some romance novel thrown in, too. This may sound like a terrible combination, but the writing is clever, and Davina Porter's performance is superlative: overall, great fun. My one disappointment is that I had been looking forward to seeing how M.C. resolved some of the situations she'd set up (what happens to the forged necklace? what was the origin of the mysterious fire?) but apparently she was saving the answers for the next volume of the six-volume series.
Though most of the factory girls who make our clothes are now overseas, Dreiser's themes of social inequality, evangelical Christianity, the death penalty, and access to birth control and abortion are disquietingly familiar today. Dreiser (who partied with anarchist Emma Goldman) is sensitive and unsparing in his exploration of these issues. Protagonist Clyde Griffiths would probably make the list of "fifty boyfriends worse than yours," but narrator Dan John Miller gives him the necessary charm to make his story credible. The book drags a bit near the end, but is memorable overall.
I don't know when I've spent 14 hours with such unpleasant characters (probably not since I listened to Zola's _Nana_, q.v.). It took me halfway through the first part to get used to Kandinsky's style. Though I appreciated that he has the vocal range to do women's voices expressively, his rendition of McTeague reminded me of Ed Brown of Flumdiddle fame. The book picks up with a change of scene halfway through the second (last) part, and I hadn't expected the gut-wrenching ending, so Norris gets points there both for structure and emotion. (I was walking the dog as I listened to the end, and I do believe it made me "vociferate" aloud.) I live in the San Francisco bay area, so I enjoyed the description of the dogs sleeping on the sanded floor of the Cliff House while McTeague and Marcus enjoy their beers, and I could picture Trina taking a break from housework, leaning out the bay window of her flat to talk to a neighbor on Polk Street below. BTW, this is NOT a bedtime book, and as I listened, I thought "*this* will never be a screenplay," but I've since learned that Erich von Stroheim adapted the book for his 1924 "Greed," starring Gibson Gowland and Zasu Pitts, one of the most famous "lost films" of cinematic history.
Jill Masters was born to read the part of Bathsheba Everdene. I couldn't imagine a more felicitous conjuction than that of John Rowe and Marcel Proust...but now I'm thinking that Jill Masters and Thomas Hardy are another match made in heaven.
Pamela Garelick is wonderfully vivacious as Lucetta, and she sings, to boot--a plus for any Hardy narrator, since he often uses music to bring another dimension to a story. However, like many women, she doesn't have the vocal range to read mens' voices with real expression, and "Scotchman" Donald Farfrae's voice reminded me of a handpuppet's. The book has its haunting moments, and its funny ones to boot (often in the most painful settings, like one of those busy Brueghel paintings where everything is happening at once)--it's not like Hardy was off his game. But I was a bit disappointed in this audiobook, and I don't know if it's because the narration didn't work for me, or if I just wasn't captivated by these particular characters and their conflicts.
Everyone says this book is "so sad"...and it is...but I didn't realize it would also be so disquieting, and so beautiful. Jill Masters' narration has the depth and complexity to do Tess justice, and her ravishing voice is perfect for the character. I regret that the recording itself sounds old and funky, but I'd listen to Jill Masters read underwater--she's got the goods.
I'm new to Hardy, and loved his descriptions and strange romantic sensibility, though I had to listen to the first couple chapters more than once to get a feel for the scene and characters. I am a big fan of Jill Masters--I love her throaty, musical voice. She is a reader rather than a dramatist, allowing the author's work to take precedence over the performance. That said, her recordings are generally not good quality. If this bothers you in the sample audio, you will not enjoy listening to hours of it.
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