The 4 star rating in this case is only for the 2005 Penguin Audio audiobook edition of Robert Fagles' 1996 translation of Homer's The Odyssey. This is not a reflection on Fagles' translation or Ian McKellen's narration which are both 5 stars. The lower rating is only due to a few chapter/verse timing issues and the occasional distraction due to the ambience of different recording sessions combined into one audiobook. The recording is from the pre-digital download era and the audio chapters are based on approximate 30 minute timings (1 side of a cassette tape?), regardless of the actual Homeric verses. So the 24 Chapter starts are only occasionally equal to the beginnings of the 24 Verses of the Odyssey. This may or may not be a distraction for some. It is probably not a major issue if you are following along with a print edition.
One segment, Chapters 9 to 12 in the audiobook, middle of Verse 10 to the end of Verse 12 in Homer, has a significant audio issue. The speed of McKellen's reading drops to a deep bass voice at a seemingly slowed down audiospeed, as if the tape slowed down or McKellen was suffering from a serious cold on the day of the recording. This is enormously distracting when compared to the sound of the voice before and after this segment. Again, this is not a deal breaker but listeners should at least be forewarned of this fault.
The audiobook also excludes Bernard Knox's introduction that is available in the Penguin print edition.
Naomi Wood singlehandedly leaps over the competition with a sequel to The Paris Wife (which was by Paula McLain) that also covers the other wives of Ernest Hemingway although in a shorter format by dedicating roughly ¼ of the book each to Hadley Richardson, Pauline Pfeiffer, Martha Gellhorn and Mary Welsh.
The book is told in succeeding first-person accounts by each of the women, usually at the time of the end of each of their marriages (in Mary Welsh's case after Hemingway's passing) with flashbacks to earlier happier times. Naomi Wood does a great job at capturing the main character of each woman and Kate Reading does an equally fine job at narrating for each of them. Martha Gellhorn comes across as perhaps a bit softer toned than she was reputed to be in real life and Mary Welsh's section is light on the difficulties of the final years, but that just leaves room for future historical fiction accounts. There is at least one completely fictional character that is used to slightly tie the 4 stories together - a book collector / profiteer named Harry Cuzzemano makes cameo appearances throughout while seeking rare Hemingway editions or manuscripts. Perhaps this is a commentary on the greater Hemingway industry which seems to be never ending with the ongoing publication of 20 volumes of letters and new "restored" editions of each of the writer's own works being slowly released as well (A Farewell to Arms & A Moveable Feast so far, and The Sun Also Rises this summer 2014).
There does now seem to be a whole new burgeoning genre of Hemingway inspired historical fiction, whether it is macho stuff like Dan Simmons "The Crook Factory" or the more romance inclined Erika Robuck's "Hemingway's Girl" (where 2nd wife Pauline Pfeiffer plays a large role). As a Hemingway nut I can only say the more the merrier.
This one just wasn't for me but I did finish it.
I listened to the audiobook edition and a lot of the problem was the narrator who over-exaggerated the accents of various characters making them all unlikeable. The narration was performed in an overly dramatized way that was simply tiresome to listen to for extended periods. The audiobook edition is almost 20 hours long, but the story content didn't seem to merit that length.
The story was dragged out and didn't really grab hold until about halfway through when a prime suspect became evident. There was some excitement during a sideshow investigation trip to Texas and then at the very end.
I'll admit that I was taken in by the promo for this one that promised a protagonist of the calibre of Lisbeth Salander (of the Girl With The Dragon Tattoo series) and Arkady Renko (of the Gorky Park Soviet & Post-Soviet Russia series). Sky Stone was nowhere near as interesting or compelling as the kick-ass aspy character of Salander or the solitary moral detective vs. a totalitarian realm of Renko. So don't be taken in by that sort of promo like I was.
This might be ok for those who like a drawn out book, but the thrills were few and far between.
I'm not a big fan of F. Scott Fitzgerald's short fiction so I originally purchased this to help me get through reading a print copy. I did manage to finish both the Penguin Classics paperback edition (which includes both of Fitzgerald's 1st and 2nd short story collections "Flappers and Philosophers" and "Tales of the Jazz Age") and this audiobook edition which includes only the 2nd book.
I'm still interested to read and/or listen to the rest of F. Scott Fitzgerald for my general reading knowledge, but not with any particular enthusiasm.
The performance was quite stiff with very little attempt to give a voice performance. The stories "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" and "O Russet Witch!" were some of the few exceptions with their minimal efforts at elderly voices. None of the other stories had a very dramatized reading. I noticed that a reference to Oscar Wilde's "The Ballad of Reading Gaol" was pronounced as "The Ballad of Reading Goal" i.e. as in football goal, so obviously no research was done to learn that "gaol" is an antiquated spelling of the word "jail".
At $1.95 for the member's price, this is definitely a bargain for a 10+ hour book. You get what you pay for though.
I noticed that, compared to the print edition, the sentence "It's very white of you." is censored to say "It's very nice of you." in the "O Russet Witch!" story. That seemed a bit odd in a book where the whole racist Shangri-La story of "The Diamond as Big as the Ritz" is included verbatim.
Would recommend to fans of Vince Flynn's Mitch Rapp series as Will Robie is a similar character
I'll just say that because this adheres to Roger Ebert's Law of the Economy of Characters the ending was predictable to a great degree. Sometimes it is actually enjoyable though when you can predict the ending so some may not see this as a fault.
The actual voice performances by the two narrators were fine. The recording ambiance around the voices changed periodically which was a bit distracting. The use of sound effects and electro-music during the action scenes was especially distracting, though you learn to tune it out.
Even though it was predictable, I still found it a compelling listen and finished it only a few days.
I'll certainly listen to the 2nd Will Robie book "The Hit" expected in 2013.
This is a great reading by Stacy Keach of Hemingway's first book. Audible is listing this as Abridged (as of March 2011, they may correct it later) but it is actually complete with all of the 16 short stories and the 16 vignettes as in the printed Scribner editions.
This psychic cinematographer turned hallucinogenic detective story was a total treat. A burnt out ex-Hollywood film-maker Eric Shaw is down on his luck and back home in Chicago making slide-show movies for funeral/memorial tributes. He has a mostly un-tapped psychic instinct that draws rich society woman Alyssa Bradford to hire him to do a film about her mysterious father-in-law Campbell Bradford and her only clue is that he was from the resort towns of French Lick and West Baden in Indiana and she gives Shaw an antique bottle of the local mineral water called Pluto Water which has an unnatural ability to stay freezing cold at whatever outside temperature. When Shaw sneaks a drink and finds his instinctive psychic abilities enhanced into seeing characters who are no longer alive the story is kick-started and you cannot stop reading/listening to it. Narrator Robert Petkoff is just terrific at handling several character voices lending each of them a distinctive identifiable sound. Highly recommended!
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