On first listen the first ten minutes or the antiquely ornate language put me off and made me think the book might be tedious. Another twenty minutes or so and I was hooked, eventually even by the language itself, which in part carries the spirit of the story, which plays heavily on the romanticism of honor.
A reviewer below seems to say that the French culture depicted was amoral and even degenerate, and there may be some truth to it, but I'd say rather that the characters get their appeal exactly from their having such a lofty sense of "morality", or ethics, or honor - only very different from what we're used to. Strange maybe to us that having a married mistress would be considered honorable, and that it's less whether you kill someone (or are killed) than how you kill or are killed, and for what cause. But despite its weaknesses, it's not weak: it's fun and lively and full-blooded - really living. In our culture, where it feels like lives are thrown away for no reason, while others live lives that risk and mean nothing, it's so terribly appealing to read about people living life on a high and courageous and adventurous edge - heroic. It's not that they don't value life - when I finished the book, after all, I was filled with such a desire that my life could be worth as much as theirs - but life to them is worth so much exactly because they value honor and integrity so much more than life itself. The book puts you in touch with nobility of spirit; it got me seriously thinking how to live in greater adventure.
But beyond this response to that review, I gained an enormous respect for Dumas' storytelling abilities - his way of milking every last bit of pleasure and excitement out of the plot. He makes you eager to know what's going to happen, but you don't want it to happen any faster because you're enjoying the telling so much - in particular the company of the characters (and in particular Athos!). Extremely fun to listen to - and affected me deeply.
Fantastic book. The intelligence behind the insights into why we act as we do offers a great deal of hope for the stuck. The reader unfortunately has one of these cheesy Hallmark Channel movie trailer voices that undercuts the common sense and inventive energy of the book. Malcolm Gladwell's own voice, for example, reading his own books, seems perfect, where this seems cheesy, and especially like the narrator doesn't actually understand the words he's saying -- is just acting them rather.
I've tried listening to this several times. The translation, though is in an archaic form of English, and that combined with the narrator's form of reading -- which works well with other books I've heard, like Three Musketeers -- renders the language almost impossible to follow.
I haven't read it myself, just listened to the audiobook. I do like Le Carre - the Spy Who Came in from the Cold made me hungry for more Smiley. I remember that book as ingeniously plotted but character-driven all the same, and both aspects were completely satisfying.
I had a harder time listening to this book, though. Is it because I listened instead of read? The plot largely consists of Smiley going around to various characters who provide him with pieces. by the end I didn't have as much admiration for his brilliance - it's more that Smiley finds out important info through relentless conversations than that he hatches a masterful plan. One senses Le Carre diving fully into characterization for its own sake; it's more or less a parade of characters - and I wonder if this would work better when read; I had such trouble continuing to listen because the character work seemed more gratuitous, if that makes sense, rich as it is, without a plot to pull me through. When we learn the last bit of info that Smiley needs, the end seems obvious - not a function of Smiley's strategy, just his persistence in hunting down characters who tell him bits.
sad that these two people's negative reviews get factored in to the rating of this great novel. (recently I saw a review of War and Peace that called it a stupid book.) It's unconventional but I can't tell you how many people I know who have read it and found that it stayed with them for years, dealing with the ideas in one way or another - whether you agree with him or not. He's fascinating, able to draw vivid characters that you believe in and care about while at the same time analyzing them and how he invented them and what ideas they represent. Both aspects of the novel are intoxicating. with such clear language he provokes so much thought.
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